Notes, Quotes

The Sports Xchange

November 15, 2018 at 12:24 am.

–Minnesota’s defense is finally playing like the unit that led the league last season. The Vikings are fifth in the NFL in total defense, giving up 322.2 yards per game. Once a question, the unit has come together since a prime-time loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4. Since then, Minnesota has given up just 274.8 yards per game and has 20 sacks in five games, ranking third and second during that stretch, respectively.

“Defensively, we’ve obviously improved in the last five weeks a ton from where we were,” head coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday. “We’re playing much better on the back end, not giving up near as many big plays. The run game, we’ve always been pretty decent against the run. I just think overall in some of the key areas we’ve improved quite a bit.”

–Defensive end Danielle Hunter was named the NFC defensive player of the week after Minnesota’s win against Detroit in Week 9. Hunter had a career-high 3.5 sacks and had a fumble recovery for a touchdown. He is the second player with at least 3.5 sacks and a touchdown in the same game since 1982. Hunter is second in the league with 11.5 sacks. Aaron Donald has 12.5 sacks but has played one more game than Hunter.

“He is a great athlete, No. 1,” Zimmer said. “Great length and size and strength. He is a guy that doesn’t think he’s a superstar. He thinks he is one of the guys. He just tries to get better every single day.”

–Running back Ameer Abdullah was claimed off waivers from the Detroit Lions and could add to Minnesota’s offense. Abdullah is likely behind Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray in the pecking order, but he can bring more speed and possibly will contribute on special teams.

“He is a guy that has great acceleration, quickness, catches the ball well, returner,” Zimmer said. “We’re just hopeful we add another big-play piece to the offense. Another thing that (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) can use. I think similar to what the Bears are doing with adding some of their kind of guys. Maybe we can add a little bit more speed. Maybe we do a little bit more unique things with some of the things we are doing.”

–Running back Dalvin Cook wasn’t listed on the injury report to start the week, showing he’s fully returned from the hamstring injury that caused him to miss five games. Cook had a 70-yard run in the previous game and was recorded as the fastest ball carrier in the NFL this season per NFL Next Gen stats.

–Wide receiver Adam Thielen’s historic pace dropped off after just one game. Thielen had four catches for 22 yards, snapping his record streak of 100-yard receiving days, and then had the bye week. The result was Thielen slipping to third in the league with 947 receiving yards. Atlanta’s Julio Jones (1,040 yards in also nine games) and New Orleans’ Michael Thomas (950 in nine games) pulled ahead of Thielen’s pace. Thomas equaled Thielen’s league-leading 78 receptions. Thomas and Thielen are tied for second in NFL history in catches through the first nine games of a season.

–Quarterback Kirk Cousins is seventh in the NFL with 2,685 passing yards this season. It’s the second-most passing yards through nine games to start a season in team history. Cousins needs 261 yards on Sunday night to set the team’s record for most passing yards through the first 10 games of a season.

–Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson offers some of the most unique quotes from Minnesota’s locker room and it continued on Wednesday when he was asked about Sunday’s game being flexed to Sunday night and featuring two top defenses in a league dominated by offense.

“TV-wise, it’s probably boring,” Richardson said. “Guys don’t want to sit there and watch an 8-7 game, but those games be fun for us. Might not be good for the offense, but they still fun for us.”

BY THE NUMBERS: 31 – After posting a franchise-record 10 sacks against Detroit before the bye, Minnesota has 31 sacks as a team this season. The total is tied for the league lead and represents the Vikings’ highest total through nine games to start a season since Mike Zimmer became head coach in 2014. It’s the sixth-highest total in franchise history through nine games.