The Vikings entered Week 5 under the cloud of drama and turmoil in their passing game (on and off the field). They appeared to have picked up where they left off in 2018, struggling to get much going during the first 4 weeks through the air. On Sunday against the Giants, however, Minnesota did a tremendous job of manufacturing big plays in the passing game using boot action and misdirection.
The below play-action running back screen on their first drive went for 22 yards and set up the first points of the day. It looked like Kirk Cousins had the option to throw to his tight end in the flat on the boot side or throw back to running back Dalvin Cook. Both the run fake and the boot action helped spread the defense thin from sideline to sideline.
Another play-action boot on Minnesota’s second drive went for 23 yards. You can see that the run fake, along with the 3-level stretch route concept, created quite an opening at the intermediate level.
The Vikings would score a touchdown on this drive.
In the 2nd quarter, the Vikings worked off of their previous boot plays by utilizing a play-action boot-stop. This gave Giants defenders in coverage a different look, where the routes went to the same side as the run fake instead of to the boot side. This is a great way to influence defenders. Set up tendencies and then break them. Here, the run fake also created good flow to the outside and sucked Giants linebackers up towards the line of scrimmage. The result was a clean “pocket” for Kirk Cousins and a huge void at the intermediate level.
Again, the 3-level stretch route concept helped create space in the secondary as well. This drive resulted in another 3 points for the Vikings.
Later in the 2nd quarter, the Vikings went back to the play-action boot, springing Adam Thielen for 44 yards. He was also aided by some poor tackling by Antoine Bethea (#41).
These 4 completions alone resulted in 117 yards and were the big plays on drives that led to 13 points (It would have been more but Dalvin Cook fumbled near the goal line after Thielen’s 44-yard reception).
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski did a great job of using misdirection and play-action to take advantage of a Giants Defense that has had communication/coverage discipline issues throughout the season. The use of multiple play-action boot looks, all of which played off of each other, was a much-needed aid to a struggling passing game. The approach enabled Kirk Cousins to have a huge day, going 22-27 for 306 yards and 2 touchdowns.
This is the type of play-calling that needs to be mixed in on a weekly basis to help Cousins and the Minnesota passing game start gaining traction.
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