Notes, Quotes

The Sports Xchange

October 25, 2018 at 12:12 am.

–Quarterback Kirk Cousins is the biggest change for Minnesota since the playoff meeting last year with New Orleans and Cousins is one of the league’s top passers in his first year with the Vikings. He’s throwing for 1,921 yards this season, the second-highest total in the NFL. Cousins is one of four passers (along with Jared Goff, Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan) to place in the top 10 in the league in completion percentage, passing yards and passing touchdowns. In two career games against New Orleans, Cousins has averaged 323 passing yards a game with seven total touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 150.3 passer rating.

“I don’t know that I had a lot of expectations,” Cousins said of expecting to pass as much early this season. “I think I kept an open mind, and I just try to run the plays that are called, and I don’t try to map out how things are going to play out. I just try to take it one day at a time and just learn in April in the installs and the OTAs and just try to piece it together. I think every game calls for a different approach as well.”

–This will be the eighth meeting between the two teams, including twice in the playoffs, in the past 10 seasons. New Orleans has won four of the games.

–Without Dalvin Cook in the lineup, Minnesota’s running game has gotten on track the past two games with Latavius Murray leading the way. Murray has run for 224 yards and three touchdowns the past two weeks. He has eight rushing touchdowns in the past eight home games.

–Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is catching plenty of passes in addition to fellow wideout Adam Thielen, who has an NFL record 67 catches through the first seven games of a season. Diggs has 48 receptions this season, which is seventh in the NFL. Diggs and Thielen are the only wide receiver duo to each be in the top 15 in catches in the NFL this season. Diggs has become more of an option in the short passing game for Minnesota. Over the past five games, Diggs has 36 catches, but they’ve gone for just 297 yards (8.25 yards per catch). Diggs has 13 catches for 230 yards and three touchdowns in two career games against the Saints.

–Two areas Minnesota will be looking to improve on offensively is in the red zone and on third down. The Vikings were 2 of 15 on third downs against the New York Jets last week and have converted 37.62 percent of their chances this season, 22nd in the NFL.

“Anytime you have, I believe it was, eight third-and-11 pluses and then four more that were third-and-7 to 10, you have 12 plays that really aren’t third-and-medium or less,” Cousins said. “I think that’s the starting point, so they were effective on first and second downs to make third downs very difficult. From there, I think they did a good job of doubling some receivers and just taking away the concepts that we have, so I think that’s where it started.”

Minnesota was also 1 for 3 in scoring touchdowns in the red zone, an 11-yard touchdown by Latavius Murray. The Vikings have a 50-percent rate in the red zone this season, tied for 19th in the league.

“I mean, it’s a point of emphasis for us,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “We have to do better in the red zone when we get in there. We’d like to be 100 percent, but we’ve been fairly good defensively in the red zone. So that’s one of our areas that we’re always working on with the entire football team, the offensive touchdown percentage and third-down conversions in the red zone and consequently with the defense as well.”

–Safety Harrison Smith had an interception last week and now has seven interceptions and 4.5 sacks since the start of the 2017 season. He’s the only player in the NFL to have at least five interceptions and three sacks in that span.

–Defensive end Danielle Hunter combined with Jaleel Johnson for a sack last week to keep his streak intact. Hunter is the only player in the NFL to post at least a half-sack in every game this season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 100 – A historic start to the season for Minnesota receiver Adam Thielen can take on added significance on Sunday if he can replicate his streak of 100-yard receiving days. Thielen tied the NFL record last week by tallying 100 receiving yards in his seventh straight game to start the season. He tied the record set by Charley Hennigan in 1961. Another 100-yard day would give Thielen the record by himself and also tie the NFL record for most consecutive games with 100 yards receiving in a season. Calvin Johnson had eight straight games with 100 yards receiving, the record for any point in a season, in 2012. With his eighth game, Thielen would also tie Randy Moss for the most 100-yard receiving games in a season by a Vikings receiver. Moss twice hit the mark, but not consecutively, in 2000 and 2003.