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2023 NFL season, Week 7: What We Learned from Vikings' win over 49ers on Monday night

Minnesota Vikings
2023 · 3-4-0
San Francisco 49ers
2023 · 5-2-0


  1. Give Kirk Cousins his flowers. Cousins has been (often unfairly) maligned as a quarterback who is good enough to give his team a chance to win, but has never been a guy who can go win them a key game. Consider that opinion indefinitely suspended after Monday night. Cousins was fantastic, finishing with a stellar line of 35 of 45, 378 yards, two touchdowns and one interception that was ripped from the grasp of his intended receiver. He routinely found outlets when under pressure, never panicking and avoiding making a crucial mistake. He spread the ball among nine different targets, and even found ways to keep the offense moving when both Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson briefly exited the game due to injury. And because of his play, the Vikings were able to build enough of a lead to keep the 49ers at bay. Cousins probably should have tossed another touchdown or two, but the two he did complete -- plus a handful of Greg Joseph field goals -- were enough to score a massive upset win, and perhaps change the narrative of the Vikings, who have now won three of their last four.
  2. Brock Purdy fails test second time around. A week ago, Purdy was tasked with moving the 49ers down the field and into kicking range in the final minutes of regulation. He came through, and his rookie kicker let him down. This time around, Purdy was the one whose errors doomed the 49ers. Purdy's usual calm and composed nature escaped him in key moments Monday night, especially when he attempted to connect with Ray-Ray McCloud on second-and-10, throwing slightly across his body toward the middle of the field, where Camryn Bynum was waiting to pick him off and end the game. Purdy's first interception was just about as ugly, as he threw to where he thought Jauan Jennings was going to be instead of where he actually was, a throw coach Kyle Shanahan later explained as one Purdy appeared to sail. It's two straight losses for the formerly undefeated Purdy, whose record still stands at 10-2. Unfortunately for him, those two losses sting even more after the fashion in which the 49ers fell Monday night.
  3. No Justin Jefferson? No problem. Jordan Addison arrived in Minnesota as a much-needed running mate to Jefferson, but few could have expected him to step up so significantly in Jefferson's absence. Step up, he did, morphing into Cousins' go-to target and finishing with seven catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He did so in just about every fashion, catching passes over the middle, down the seam and even winning a second wrestling match with Charvarius Ward, ripping another contested pass (one Cousins floated) from the arms of Ward, who wrestled away an interception previously, and taking it to the house for a massive score just before halftime. There's no guarantee Addison will ever come close to matching Jefferson's astronomical production, but a game like Monday night will make Vikings fans feel much better about their chances without Jefferson. Two weeks after folks were ready to bury Minnesota for 2023, the Vikings have won two straight. They can thank their rookie wideout for this one.
  4. Niners headed back to the drawing board. San Francisco didn't play spectacularly last week, but well enough to win. The same can't be said about Monday night. The 49ers only found their offensive mojo once in the prime-time affair, piecing together a 12-play, 75-yard drive that included three third-down conversions and ended in a Christian McCaffrey touchdown. Their other touchdown came via a big play: McCaffrey's 35-yard catch and run for a score. The rest of the game was fraught with frustration: Three turnovers, five penalties, and a total breakdown on third down (allowing the Vikings to convert 8 of 13 attempts), which was San Francisco's strength entering Monday night. After looking like the best team in the NFL through their first five games, the 49ers have taken a step back. Purdy has struggled, San Francisco has missed Deebo Samuel dearly, and their defense is suddenly not nearly as ferocious as we'd thought. The good news is it's still only Week 7. There's plenty of time to fix the operation.
  5. Minnesota is starting to clean it up. The Vikings began the season 0-4 primarily because they couldn't get out of their own way. They were the worst team in football when it came to turnover margin (negative-seven), and after winning a ton of close games last year, they became experts at losing such contests. The tide has started to turn in their favor in the last month, though, and especially in the last couple of weeks. They're plus-four in turnover margin in their last two games, their defense is allowing just 15 points per game in the last two weeks, and Cousins -- who has been good throughout the majority of this season -- is finally getting the support he needs. What is perhaps most impressive (and most important) is how Minnesota is learning to bounce back from mistakes. The Vikings surrendered possession on an early Cousins interception, but recovered a McCaffrey fumble deep in their own territory, then promptly put together their best drive of the season, covering 89 yards on 10 plays and finishing off the fantastic scoring march with a strike down the seam to Addison, setting the tone for the night ahead. This one feels even more monumental because of the opponent, the lack of Jefferson, and the prime-time stage. It could serve as a springboard for a Vikings team that doesn't have the most intimidating slate of opponents ahead of them in the next five weeks.

NFL Research: With 378 passing yards, Kirk Cousins became just the fifth quarterback in NFL history to have 50 career games with 300-plus passing yards in their first 12 seasons.

Next Gen Stat of the game: All six of Jordan Addison's receiving touchdowns have come on targets over 10 air yards, including both of his scoring grabs Monday night.

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