Vikings

Minnesota Vikings wide receivers Stefon Diggs, left, and Adam Thielen celebrate after a touchdown against the New York Giants Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. Adam Hunger / AP Photo

EAGAN, Minn. — Mike Zimmer has been the Minnesota Vikings’ coach for six years, and he’s never had such a productive two-game offensive stretch like this one.

The Vikings have rolled up 937 yards in their first two games of October, their most productive two-game output since 2013, when the offense had a two-game stretch of 943 yards (featuring back-to-back overtime games that added 28 extra minutes of playing time).

“It was helpful to get a rhythm going these last couple weeks,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said Wednesday. “I think when the season starts, you’re kind of learning what you are and what works well and you’re figuring that out early in the year.”

The Vikings (4-2) installed a new offensive system during the offseason, so it’s understandable that it took some time to get going, especially in the passing game. In the first four games, Minnesota averaged 21.0 points and 324.3 yards total offense.

In the past two games, a 28-10 road win over the New York Giants on Oct. 6 and a 38-20 home victory last Sunday over Philadelphia, the Vikings averaged 31.5 points.

In the first four games, the Vikings averaged 169 yards passing and 155.3 rushing. In the past two games, with offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski loosening up with his play calling, they averaged 302 yards passing and 166.5 rushing.

“I think it was a good confidence boost the last couple weeks to have games where we felt like we found a little bit of an identity, in addition to our run game, which we saw earlier in the year,” Cousins said. “Hopefully, we can keep that going.”

Trying to stop that from happening Sunday at Ford Field will be the Detroit Lions (2-2-1), whose coach Matt Patricia knows what he’s facing.

“You see the improvement or see some of the new kind of nuances they’ve added as the season has gone along, and you’re building an offense, you’re trying to install different features to it,” Patricia said. “You see how (Minnesota’s) offense is getting more comfortable with the operations of that. Certainly, you see that maturation level of a quarterback just doing a great job of controlling things at the line of scrimmage.”

One big difference the past two weeks has been with play action. In a 16-6 loss at Chicago in Week 4, Cousins missed opportunities on play action. One was overthrowing Adam Thielen when he was open for a possible 47-yard touchdown pass.

“After the Bears game, I felt there were a lot of questions about our lack of effectiveness,” Cousins said. “I said, ‘Honestly, it boils down to we’ve missed a couple of shots in our play-action game.’ I said, ‘If we had hit those, we’d be feeling a lot differently.’ ”

The Vikings have fixed things since then. Last week against the Eagles, Cousins completed 22 of 29 passes for 333 yards and tied his career high with four touchdowns.

Cousins threw three of those TD to Stefon Diggs, included second-quarter heaves of 62 and 51 yards on play action.

“We’ve had some success the past couple weeks throwing the ball,” Diggs said. “We look forward to building on that because if you can run the ball and throw the ball efficiently … and play good defense, you’ll be playing a lot of football.”

As in: the playoffs.

For now, running back Dalvin Cook believes the Vikings are just getting started when it comes to their new offensive system paying dividends.

“It hasn’t come together yet,” he said. “We’re still trying to be what we can be. … We know the type of group we can be. I just think wherever we want to go, we can go.”

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