It was a fast start, slow middle and dominating finish for the Vikings as they crushed the Dolphins 41-17 Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Minnesota erupted with 21 points in the first quarter under new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who committed to the running game unlike former offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who was fired on Tuesday.
The first three possessions were perfect for Stefanski and the offense:
- 6 plays, 76 yards: 13-yard TD pass from Kirk Cousins to Stefon Diggs.
- 6 plays, 60 yards: 13-yard TD run by Dalvin Cook.
- 7 plays, 70 yards: 18-yard TD run by Latavius Murray.
The offense then went silent in the second quarter, finished off on a Cousins interception that Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick return 50 yards for a touchdown.
Leading 21-10, the Vikings gave up a 75-yard touchdown run to Kalen Ballage on the opening play of the second half, and the 21-point lead was down to four, 21-17.
Neither team did much the rest of the third quarter, but the Vikings again exploded in the fourth quarter thanks to a 40-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Aldrick Robinson and a gorgeous, 21-yard scamper to the end zone by Cook following a sack on fourth down by the Vikings defense.
Minnesota sacked quarterback Ryan Tannehill nine times in the game, two each for Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter, and one apiece for Eric Kendricks, Everson Griffen, Mackenzie Alexander, Sheldon Richardson and Tom Johnson.
Cousins finished 14-of-21 for 215 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Cook rushed 19 times for 136 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season. Murray added 68 yards as Minnesota ran the ball 38 times for 222 yards.
Bears clinch NFC North
Minnesota's playoff hopes are now focused solely on the wild card as the Bears beat the Packers 24-17 to clinch the NFC North. The Vikings, at 7-6-1, still control the second wild card in the NFC playoff race, just percentage points ahead of Washington (7-7), which upset Jacksonville 16-13.
Philadelphia (6-7) and Carolina (6-7) are yet to play. The Eagles face the Rams on Sunday night and the Panthers host the Saints on Monday night.