MINNEAPOLIS -- Thursday Night Football games often feel like a total slog. With such a quick turnaround from the previous game preventing players the ability to recover like normal, the expectation of sluggish, sometimes sloppy play is expected.
After a slow start, the Minnesota Vikings rattled off their fourth straight victory, a 19-9 win against the Washington Redskins, in a game where they didn't need to be perfect. The same offense that has been carving up defenses since Week 5 didn't look as explosive as weeks past, but it didn't matter. The unit clicked when it needed to, sparked by another strong performance from wide receiver Stefon Diggs (7 receptions on 7 targets for 143 yards), and took care of business.
The 6-2 Vikings now have 10 days to prepare for the second half of the season, which kicks off in Kansas City in Week 9.
QB breakdown: The offense might have lacked the bootlegs and designed rollouts to get Kirk Cousins in space that were used so heavily in the Vikings' past three wins, but they were able to move the ball effectively enough, sparked by a big second-quarter reception by Dalvin Cook that set up a touchdown and Diggs' third straight game with 140 receiving yards, which ties Randy Moss (2001) for the longest streak in franchise history.
Cousins beat his former team and won a prime-time game on a night when his offensive line struggled at times in pass protection (Cousins was sacked three times). He reached the highest completion percentage of any half of his career (12-of-13 first-half passes) and set a franchise record 88.5% completion percentage (23-of-26 for 285 yards).
The biggest takeaway with Cousins is the change we're seeing these past four games in his willingness to take aggressive shots downfield -- especially when his playmakers are covered. According to NFL Next Gen stats research, the 39-yard pass Cousins threw to Diggs in the third quarter on third-and-9 from the Vikings' 10-yard line had a 24% completion probability, which was the second-most improbable catch of the season for Diggs. A year ago, Cousins probably doesn't make that throw. His confidence during this stretch shows he's willing and able to make these tough plays and spark life into this offense when it needs it most.
Kirk Cousins connected with Stefon Diggs for a 39-yard DIME completion (44.4 air distance & tight window) on 3rd & 9 from their own 10-yard line.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 25, 2019
The pass had just a 24.0% Completion Probability, the 2nd-most improbable catch of the season for Diggs.
📺: #TNFonPrime | #WASvsMIN pic.twitter.com/wVYz7LKYfr
Rhodes open: Something isn't right with Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and it has been this way for a while. Washington came into this game and immediately identified Rhodes as the defender it was going to target and repeatedly went after the 29-year-old, who was beat a handful of times by Terry McLaurin, the NFL's leading rookie receiver. Redskins quarterbacks Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins went a combined 5-for-5 when Rhodes was the closest defender Thursday, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, a trend that's only become uglier as the season has progressed. Aside from a good showing against Julio Jones in Week 1, Rhodes hasn't looked like the Pro Bowl version of himself in awhile. In his first seven games of the season, teams were 31-of-38 with three passing touchdowns when Rhodes was the closest defender. It also might be telling that Rhodes hasn't been tasked with shadowing his opponent's No. 1 receiver as often as he was in the past.
The trade deadline is Tuesday and there hasn't been a ton of rumblings behind the scenes that would indicate the Vikings will be able to move the former first-round pick. With Holton Hill eligible to return from suspension in Week 9, it's possible Minnesota could soon want to make a change in its secondary by replacing Rhodes with the former UDFA.
What's next: Now the real test begins. Minnesota has more than a week to rest, recover and prepare for the second half of the season before hitting the road for a tough two-week road stretch against Kansas City in Week 9 and Dallas in Week 10. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes practiced on a limited basis this week, so it's still too early to predict whether he'll return on Nov. 3 when the Chiefs host the Vikings. If he doesn't play, the Vikings will have a stretch of six straight quarters playing against backup quarterbacks.