Minnesota Vikings’ offense, led by Kirk Cousins and Alexander Mattison, steamroll Seahawks’ defense

The Minnesota Vikings' offense, led by Kirk Cousins and Alexander Mattison, dissected the Seattle Seahawks' defense in Week 3.

For the first time in 21 months, fans packed into U.S. Bank Stadium to watch the Minnesota Vikings’ offense led by Kirk Cousins and Alexander Mattison. Minnesota’s O steamrolled through the Seattle Seahawks’ defense on Sunday. Was it the added layer of energy in the air or the Vikings taking advantage of a weak Seahawks team? Whatever the case, head coach Mike Zimmer called it the best offensive performance that he’s seen in the eight years he’s been in Minnesota.

Kirk Cousins’ confidence continues to grow each week

Stats don’t tell the whole story, but they certainly tell part of it. Through three weeks of the 2021 NFL season, Cousins has a 73.95% completion percentage, has thrown for 8 touchdowns, and is averaging 7.7 yards per reception. Against the Seahawks, he threw for 323 yards, 3 touchdowns, and averaged 8.5 yards per reception.

After much criticism (some of it well-deserved) over the past several years, Cousins is showing signs of looking like a different quarterback in 2021. But it’s not because he suddenly learned how to throw faster or become even more accurate than he already is. He certainly didn’t take a crash course on How to Be a Better QB for Dummies.

Instead, it was a multi-step developmental process in the offseason that focused on intangibles and the mental side of the game. Zimmer noted that developing Cousins’ leadership in the offseason was a priority, and he praised Cousins for doing a great job with it. And with that leadership comes confidence not only in himself but also in those around him, including the offensive line, receivers, and coaching staff.

Cousins gave credit where credit is due

When asked about Minnesota’s explosive offensive performance, Cousins made sure to give credit in all the right places.

“I think it says a lot about our coaches. I think it says a lot about balance as an offense. We’re going to throw to the tight ends, we’re going to throw to the running backs, we’re going to throw to the receivers, we’re going to throw to several different receivers. So I think being a multiple offense, I think, really helps.”

Cousins will look to build off this game in Week 4 when they host the Cleveland Browns. Whether he has running back Dalvin Cook with him in the backfield is another story, but it may not make too much of a difference.

Alexander Mattison and Minnesota’s offense didn’t miss a beat minus Dalvin Cook

Coming into the 2021 season, Alexander Mattison had struggled to fill in for Dalvin Cook. So, it was a pleasant surprise when he accumulated 112 yards on the ground and 59 yards in the receiving game in Week 3. If you took the name out of the box score, you would assume that Cook was playing the whole time.

However, that was not the case. With Cook out due to a sprained right ankle, all Mattison did was have the best day of his career, pulling in 171 yards from scrimmage. Through a variety of screen passes, runs, and excellent blocking from the offensive line, Mattison was able to weave his way in and out of traffic to help the Vikings pick up the victory.

“I was really impressed with what Alex did, not only running the football but in the passing game,” said Cousins.” I was impressed today with the way he runs after contact. He really brings his pads and runs with a lot of forward body lean. It makes him tough to bring down, and he becomes a violent ball carrier, which I love to see. He was really good on screens today and really proud of the way he played.”

Mattison’s production had some consequences

It didn’t come without its lumps, though. Mattison was shown limping around in the second half on the sideline. 32 touches on the day will do that, but Mattison said he wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

“It feels a little tough right now, but it’s one of those things that I love about the game. You feel every single one of those reps, but they all paid off and we were able to come out and get the victory. So that’s all that matters.”

If Cook is out in Week 4, you’d have to believe that the coaching staff feels much more confident in Mattison’s ability to hold down the backfield while Cook fully recovers, especially if the offensive line plays as they did against the Seahawks.

Minnesota’s offensive linemen are the unsung heroes

While the likes of Cousins, Mattison, Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson will see their names in the box score, their production wouldn’t be possible without the play of Minnesota’s offensive line.

Anchored by Garrett Bradbury in the middle, Rashod Hill and Brian O’Neill on the outside, and Ezra Cleveland and Olisaemeka Udoh on the inside, this is a unit that dominated Seattle’s defensive line in all facets of the game. And O’Neill is a big reason why, according to Zimmer.

“I think Brian O’Neill is kind of the guy taking charge in there, and I think he’s helping these guys have confidence. (Garrett) Bradbury is basically a veteran now, too, and that’s helping. Rashod (Hill) did a nice job today, I thought, as far as the things that I saw him do, and (Ezra) Cleveland is a quiet guy that just kind of goes about his business. But I saw him do a really nice job on a pass that he picked up the outside linebacker today as well. They’re doing a good job. They’re working.”

The rest of the team recognize the OL’s stellar play

It wasn’t just Zimmer who was praising the offensive line after the game. As each player got up to the podium, they made sure to let the world know that their success had a lot to do with the line doing the dirty work in the trenches. Whether it was Cousins, Mattison, or even Eric Kendricks on the defensive side, they all had glowing reviews.

If the offensive line can continue to do their part and allow the skill players to play at a high level, this Vikings team will be one to watch in the weeks and months ahead as they look to build upon their first victory of the season.

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