Relentless Vikings pound Miami 41-17 at U.S. Bank Stadium

December 16, 2018

Six days after they came perilously close to a shutout in Seattle, and five after they executed a change at offensive coordinator that had seemed weeks in the making, the Vikings returned home to U.S. Bank Stadium, badly in need of a win against a 7-6 Dolphins team that harbored slim playoff hopes after an improbable win over New England a week ago.

The Vikings 41-17 win over the Dolphins was their first of the season over a team with a winning record, though it came against a curious team that had been outscored by 55 points this season. The Vikings did what they usually do to such opponents at U.S. Bank Stadium, and though they set a season high in points by running for 220 yards, the win delivered something less than the kind of punch required to fit an all-is-well narrative.

At 7-6-1, though, the Vikings remain in control of their playoff destiny, with a road game against Detroit and a home matchup with the Bears all that stands between them and a third trip to the playoffs in four years. The win over Miami, at the very least, meant the Vikings still have a good chance at more opportunities to prove their mettle.

The Bears win over the Green Bay Packers, which gave Chicago its first NFC North title since 2010, means the Vikings only path into the playoffs is as a wild card, where any kind of a playoff run would hinge on the road victories they havent been able to get against good teams this season. They will have just one more game this season at U.S. Bank Stadium, coming Dec. 30 against a Bears team that might have little to play for and could be resting starters by then.

The Vikings decision to fire offensive coordinator John DeFilippo -- timed between the teams third road loss in four weeks to a likely playoff team and a home matchup against Miamis porous defense -- created a favorable runway for interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who called plays for the first time in the NFL on Sunday against a Dolphins team that had won just once on the road this season.

And as the Vikings raced out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead behind 97 rushing yards from Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray against the Dolphins 29th-ranked run defense, everything appeared aligned to vindicate the move.

After connecting on all seven of his passes in the first quarter for 102 yards and a touchdown, though, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw short for Stefon Diggs on a 3rd-and-15 after a pair of offensive line penalties. Dolphins cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick stepped in front of the route, racing 52 yards for a score that gave opponents their third interception return touchdown against the Vikings this season.

A Jason Sanders field goal just before halftime made it 21-10, and on the Dolphins first play of the third quarter, they devoted three blockers to Linval Joseph and created a traffic jam that stalled Anthony Barr as Kalen Ballage raced 75 yards down the right sideline to make it 21-17.

But when the Vikings needed a response, they got one from the kind of complementary football theyve often failed to play at key moments this season.

Marcus Sherels brought a Matt Haack punt back 69 yards, putting the Vikings on the Dolphins 22 and setting up a Dan Bailey field goal after two runs and an incomplete pass to Stefon Diggs netted four yards. The Dolphins next four drives would all lose yards, with three of them ending in sacks.

For the day, the Vikings tallied nine sacks, with Anthony Barr posting the first multi-sack game of his career. Ryan Tannehill threw for only 108 yards, completing 11 of his 24 passes.

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