VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData, Arif Hasan of Vikings Territory, Aj Mansour, who hosts Minnesota Vikings Overtime on KFAN, and Joe Oberle a long-time Minnesota based writer. The VikesCentric crew crunches numbers, watches video and isn't shy about saying what's on their minds.
The NFL has never been more pass-friendly. However, on Sunday in Tampa the worst passing offense in the NFL will square off with the worst pass defense in the NFL. It’s the movable object vs. the resistible force and (you guessed it) something’s gotta give!
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were on bye this past weekend. This presumably gave them a little extra time to, among other things, review film from their 48-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6 – a game in which Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco gashed their defense for five touchdown passes before halftime.
Yes, before halftime.
In other words, Flacco – a fairly pedestrian quarterback statistically speaking by today’s NFL standards – had more touchdown passes against the Buccaneers in the first 30 minutes of that game than Vikings quarterbacks have had all season.
Yes, all season.
The Vikings’ passing game has been that bad… and the Buccaneers’ pass defense has been just as bad. On Sunday at Raymond James Stadium we’ll find out which is worse.
In the purple corner: the Vikings passing game
Thus far this season, the Vikings rank 32nd in pass offense (a.k.a. dead last) with an average of 184 yards per game. Astonishingly, they have thrown just four touchdown passes. No other team has fewer than seven.
The 184 yards per game rate is fairly awful, but not historically awful. There are examples in recent seasons of teams who have averaged less than that. In fact, just last year both the Jets and Buccaneers averaged fewer passing yards per game. Of course, both of those teams at least reached double digits in touchdown passes.
The Vikings are currently on a pace to finish the season with 2,944 yards passing and nine touchdown passes. Nine. Touchdown. Passes. Heck, Joe Kapp once threw seven touchdown passes in a single game for the Vikings back in 1969.
Nine would be bad. Really bad. It would tie the franchise record for fewest touchdown passes in a season set by the 1971 Vikings. Gary Cuozzo led that team with six touchdown passes. Bob Lee had two and Norm Snead had one. Cuozzo, Lee and Snead is not the company Bridgewater, Ponder and Cassel want to join. Speaking of Cassel, the last NFL team to have a full season with passing stats as bad as the Vikings’ are projected to be was the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs, who finished with 2,937 yards and eight touchdown passes – led by Cassel, who threw for 1,796 yards and six touchdowns.
Fortunately for Vikings fans, I’m optimistic they’ll break the 10 touchdown-plateau this season. As Arif Hasan adroitly suggested yesterday, patience is needed with Teddy Bridgewater. He’ll become more acclimated as the season goes on and start producing better numbers.
Maybe even this week.
In the pewter corner: the Buccaneers pass defense
The Buccaneers rank 32nd in pass defense, allowing 295 yards per game. They have allowed 15 touchdown passes, which ties them for next-to-last in the NFL. Only the Jets have allowed more scoring passes (18). Of course, the Jets haven’t had a bye week yet, so technically the Bucs are right there with them in terms of ineptitude.
The Buccaneers are also allowing the highest completion percentage (71.6) and quarterback rating (111.8) in the NFL. Their 8.4 yards per attempt allowed ranks 31st.
Sacks have not been a specialty of the Buccaneers this season, either. They only have nine in six games, which has to be a little encouraging for the depleted and ineffective Vikings offensive line.
Injuries have been part of the problem. The Buccaneers lost starting right cornerback Mike Jenkins in Week 1 to a torn pectoral. His replacement, Johnthan Banks missed the game against the Ravens in Week 6 due to a neck injury. Banks could play against the Vikings – not that it would be a bad thing for the Vikings since Banks ranks 99th overall out of 106 cornerbacks graded by ProFootballFocus.com.
Look for the Vikings to target Banks, if he plays, more often than left corner Alterraun Verner, who’s actually playing pretty well this season after signing a four-year deal with the Bucs in May.
Scheme might be the other problem. Leslie Frazier, who oversaw the Vikings’ 31st-ranked pass defense last season has taken his Tampa 2 scheme to Tampa as the Buccaneers defensive coordinator. It could be the Tampa 2 defense is on its last legs as a base NFL defense, as many others have suggested.
And the winner is…
The resistible force will come out on top against the movable object. This isn’t necessarily a prediction for a Vikings win, but it is a favorable outlook for the Vikings’ passing game as a whole, assuming head coach Mike Zimmer can find enough healthy bodies to block ‘em up front.
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell
That the Vikings fell down 32 points is not just a referendum on Christian Ponder as a quarterback, as he would have you believe, but an issue with the entire team.
Naturally, the play of Christian Ponder is the first thing to point to. Though early on he had one or two moments where he's looked like a starting-caliber quarterback, his accuracy has been terrible throughout the game. Perhaps not to blame for the first interception (Luther Robinson, newly signed by the Packers, came through the line and hit his arm), the second interception was a terrible misread.
If there was much question about the issue of Bill Musgrave causing Ponder's struggles, perhaps this game can put that to rest. Ponder’s accuracy is well represented by his 50 percent completion rate, and though drops are not entirely his fault, the bad ball placement always increases the likelihood of those plays.
That said, against the Packers’ second-string defense, Ponder looked much sharper, especially on his last two drives. That doesn’t mean much, but it would be incomplete to ignore it. Ponder had more time on these throws, but he also had some plays where he escaped pressure smartly and made the play.
Of course, Ponder was still terrible. Let’s not get away from that. Averaging 5.0 yards per attempt when excluding sacks, touchdowns and interceptions (and 1.96 adjusted net yards per attempt when taking those into account).
It's difficult to really evaluate the wide receivers, as Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright and Cordarrelle Patterson have streaked open without targets. Patterson has had more issues than Wright or Jennings in getting open, but there's definitely a legitimate concern about the Vikings working away from "manufacturing" his touches—even if he can't do as good a job getting open on traditional pass plays, the Vikings need a spark and aren't getting one with the traditional offense.
Jarius Wright did drop one of the few excellent passes from Ponder, but for the most part has had done well with what he's been asked to do—he can't control his targets.
Jennings had six targets and only two receptions, something he and Ponder can both share blame for. Jennings didn’t look particularly interested in the game, but Ponder wasn’t doing him many favors with ball placement. There’s a good question over how many of those balls were truly catchable.
Interestingly, after the game was well and done, Adam Thielen had a good game and made the most of his targets. He wasn't asked to do anything extraordinary, but had consistently good play on his targets. Whether or not he was open because of the plays and defensive calls is to be determined later, but for now it's an encouraging outing.
Charles Johnson even got a few plays, though should have done more with a great deep ball late in the game. His other play was not executed with a high degree of skill, though Johnson is graded on a curve because of his late arrival to the team. That curve in mind, he still should have done better, but at least he ended with a reception.
Chase Ford has looked good at tight end, and so has Rhett Ellison, with Ellison providing some additional support in the running game. Though Ellison hasn’t been as good of a run-blocker this year as he has been in the past two years, nothing stood out in this game as particularly bad or good. For a blocker, that’s fine. Ford ended up grabbing some late conversions and can move the ball; he’s certainly looking like more than a standard undrafted free agent, and if MarQueis Gray develops as the season goes on (and he had a nice catch late in the game), the Vikings may be in an interesting spot in regards to their tight end depth chart next season.
As runners, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon have been somewhat disappointing, but Asiata's fumble was his only real issue; his success rate as a runner tonight has been fairly astonishing in all honesty. He grabbed good yards when the blocking was sustained for him and people may be surprised to learn he finished with 4.8 yards a carry. His blocking was on-point for most of the game, but he had some big mistakes there, including a penalty, in a short succession of plays before being pulled out.
McKinnon, though not entirely at fault for his poor targets, needs to make the most of his ability in the open field. He hasn't pushed with the explosion he's flashed in other games and the offseason and is limiting his opportunities. Further, his runback on the Peppers interception was a little baffling. McKinnon’s vision is fine, as is his patience—he simply didn’t flash the burst he’s known to have.
It may be easy to forget the contributions of players like Jerome Felton and though I admit I wasn’t watching for him on many plays, the ones I did see were excellent. He’s a solid blocker that has left his average 2012 behind him. Where earlier, there was questions about Felton’s role on the squad because of Ellison’s proficiency there, Felton is proving his worth on the team and is showing up as a better lead blocker.
The offensive line has been a mess, and though Ponder can't be blamed for the majority of the pressure he's received, though with more open rushers, he may be somewhat responsible for the free blitzers or extra pressures by calling poor protections.
On the other hand, Phil Loadholt should not be excused for his poor play on the day. Not only did he give up a number of pressures and play on his heels for much of the game (against a number of different rushers, including Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Mike Neal), his added penalties didn’t help. Loadholt had been playing well in the previous two years, but he hasn’t looked like it in the past two games. He’ll need to find that form again.
On the other side of the line, Matt Kalil had a very up-and-down game, starting off with an excellent stretch of play to be followed by several more breakdowns in the middle of the game that gave rise to some of the questions he was attempting to stave off with his solid effort in the last game.
Kalil finished the game off fine, but that middle stretch of play is still enough to drive serious concerns, because there were some pretty big mistakes. That the end of the game was against backups may be relevant.
The interior of the line is difficult to evaluate in particular because of questions regarding the protection call—which head coach Mike Zimmer reinforced in the presser after the game by pointing out how involved the quarterback is in protection—where free rushers seemed more common than usual. Regardless, it looked like Charlie Johnson didn’t play with awareness—one of his strong points despite his maligned career.
It was difficult to tell if John Sullivan was at fault for the protection breakdowns, but he is likely not blameless, particularly with so much interior pressure. Christian Ponder was hit 16 times in the game, much of it up the middle. The only particular pressure I identified that was a result of a slipped block from Sullivan was an early Letroy Guion pressure (embarrassing), but it’s difficult to believe that it didn’t happen more often, given how many times Mike Daniels, Mike Neal and AJ Hawk were seen in the back field. On the other hand, it doesn’t look like Sullivan lost any ground as a road grader.
There was some dispositively poor play from Vlad Ducasse, but it wasn’t as clear as it was for Loadholt, who was likely the worst offensive lineman. Ducasse definitely didn’t sustain as many clear blocks. For as many issues Charlie Johnson had, Johnson at least looked like a better run blocker (with his own gaffes), while Ducasse seemed mixed at best in the same skill.
The defense was certainly up-and-down compared to the consistently anemic offense. Though Aaron Rodgers averaged 9.2 yards an attempt (10.6 adjusted net yards per attempt), there were good moments from the passing defense, including some highlight plays from Xavier Rhodes and consistently good play from Josh Robinson.
Though Rhodes has been out of position at times, he’s the kind of player that can make up for it if given the opportunity and did so against Nelson, though the ball was uncharacteristically underthrown from Rodgers. Despite some issues at the beginning of the game, Rhodes was able to finish well. Josh Robinson had a generally very good day, and though he drew a critical pass interference penalty, it was probably a good play and unfairly called. In the future, I imagine the Vikings coaches will ask him to play the same play similarly.
Captain Munnerlyn looked out of sorts in coverage, though wasn’t a bad run defender. Unfortunately, that’s not where his priorities should lie, and the touchdown Randall Cobb grabbed against him reminded Vikings fans of the Julian Edelman touchdown just weeks ago. Munnerlyn’s consistent issues in coverage need to be a talking point in the coaches’ meeting rooms, because it certainly is one outside of them. He hasn’t had a good game yet, and quite a few bad ones.
Jabari Price entered in for a few snaps with Xavier Rhodes out and played well for what it’s worth.
Behind them were Anthony Barr and Gerald Hodges, and though both had some good plays of note (more Barr than Hodges), they largely had some issues. Barr’s can be excused and don’t be surprised if he ends up positively graded by the Vikings and Pro Football Focus, with some great work in the run game, against a screen and looping for quick pressure. He also had some issues finishing tackles and staying disciplined.
Though the bigger issue with gap discipline was from Hodges, who was out of his gap for at least one play and potentially another on the two biggest Eddie Lacy runs. Beyond that, he too missed several tackles and took a poor angles on at least one run. He couldn’t get off of his blocks quickly enough. On the defensive side of the ball, there’s a good argument to be had that Hodges had the worst game of anybody, including Munnerlyn and Blanton.
If the question is about Eddie Lacy runs, the finger may more easily point to Robert Blanton, whose angles and tackling have been an issue for some time, and his coverage has not made up for this fact. In this game, the standout Eddie Lacy tackle has excited national media about Lacy’s ability to power in runs, but just reminds Vikings fans of the poor strength and technique Blanton plays with.
He’s been blown out of plays, dragged by runners and pushed off the ballcarrier. He doesn’t play with awareness of other defenders and diminishes the strength of swarm tackling by playing without discipline. There’s also a question about his role in the Nelson touchdown that turned Harrison Smith around, though it seems likely the call was on both Munnerlyn and Smith to stop.
And though Smith should have had more help than he did, he’s not blameless in the touchdown dime to Nelson from Rodgers. Smith bit on the play action, then played flat-footed against one of the better receivers in the NFL. Luckily, Harrison made up for it after that (though before that he did have a bad missed tackle), even before the Packers decided to play the backups. Once again, Smith was called up on in a variety of roles, including as a pass-rusher, man coverage defender (though not as often), strong safety and free safety, and in particular showed up in the run as the force player and had a well-timed interception, even if it was of Matt Flynn.
Up front, backups like Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen outperformed starters Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd. Johnson didn’t just have the best presence in the run game with some key tackles, he brought pressure through the A and B gaps, as well as complicated blocking schemes. He caused issues for center Corey Linsley, right tackle Bryan Bulaga and even guards T.J. Lang Josh Sitton at times. Though Stephen didn’t do anything of particular note, he also didn’t give up the bigger gains that Joseph did, though Joseph had two legitimately good opportunities early on that he couldn’t close for reasons that weren’t his fault, but were borderline penalties (though a good ref wouldn’t call either of them).
Floyd saw his gap gashed in the run game at times and couldn’t produce positive plays to balance his play, and his ability to put pressure on the quarterback is questionable at best at this moment in his career. Though Floyd finished with a sack, it was the result of pressure from Harrison Smith, Gerald Hodges and Brian Robison.
With them were the defensive ends who couldn’t get much done. Everson Griffen sandwiched his best play of the night with two offsides calls, and those will overshadow any pressure he got (minimal, honestly) otherwise. Brian Robison was better about pressure but had several plays with very poor run defense, either pushed out of a play or left leaping for a missed tackle.
Despite individual issues from the majority of the defense, there's a good argument that the defense as a whole played better than advertised. Naturally, the Packers scored many points, but when accounting for field position, things don't look entirely awful.
A field-adjusted metric like Drive Success Rate—which measures how often a defense gives up first downs per opportunity—marks the play as a general success, by keeping the Packers to conversion on 70% of opportunities when Rodgers, not Flynn, had the ball (for context, if a team did that the whole year, they would generally rank as the 20th-best in the NFL).
On the other hand, the Packers scored 35 offensive points, when their field position would dictate an expected points outcome of 21 total points with Rodgers on the field (an average offense against an average defense), meaning that the Vikings defense were two scores worse than an average team in the same situation.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. The Vikings, for the most part, played with a decent rate of success (there were more plays that were defensive successes than you may recall—the Packers punted on five of their ten non-Flynn drives and were two of seven on third down with Rodgers playing).
But the high success rate was counter-balanced by the sheer magnitude of the failures. If the failures were as impactful as the successes, the Vikings would have kept the game close, but the failures were so big that the Packers were able to put points on the board.
All around, it was a poor showing by the Vikings on offense and defense, and the abysmal special teams play of Jeff Locke shouldn’t be ignored either. Marcus Sherels was also confusing, as he fielded punts he should have let go, and let go of punts he should have fielded. The problem started with Christian Ponder, but it definitely did not end with him.
There should be no question that a lot of the sloppiness of the game can be attributed to the fact that it was a Thursday Night Football game on wet grass, but the Packers dealt with the same conditions and did better. Whether or not the team played sluggishly because they “didn’t have confidence in Christian Ponder,” or because they were left with low preparation time, the individual duties they were asked to perform were executed poorly, even from some of their best players.
It’s been a rough few weeks for the Minnesota Vikings. A tough opening schedule combined with some pretty heavy off the field distractions and The Purple find themselves 1-2 with one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL heading into TCF Bank Stadium this weekend.
Oh, did I mention that three starters went under the knife this week as well?
The Atlanta Falcons come to Minnesota this weekend with a record of 2-1 on the season. Having scored a league best 103 points through the first three weeks, the Falcons high powered offense is led by and unshaken quarterback Matt Ryan and their über talented wide receiver Julio Jones.
Ryan enters Week 4 with the second most passing yards in the league (965) and the third most touchdown passes this season (7). With passer rating of 105.1, Matt’s on field play helped lead the Falcons to a blowout 56-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers one week ago.
With confidence riding high, the guy they call “Matty Ice” strolls into Minnesota to face a defense that is surprisingly ranked in the top half of the league already. But you don’t get a nickname like Matt Ice for no reason. Ryan’s cool, calm and collected persona has aided the Falcons on many occasions throughout his career and his late game heroics have made him a man of legend in Atlanta.
Pressure situations don’t get to Matt Ryan. Throughout his career, he has led the Falcons on 24 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. His 22 game winning drives between 2008 and 2012 were the most by a quarterback in his first five seasons since 1966.
Ryan’s situational records speak for themselves as well. Ryan has led the Falcons to a 36-2 record when he records a passer rating of 100-or-better. He has the team at 20-1 when he throws three-or-more touchdowns.
As the franchise records continue to stack up for Ryan within the Falcons organization, it’s increasingly clear that containing Matt Ryan and trying to fluster Matty Ice will be one of the keys for the Vikings if they want to win on Sunday.
Aiding Ryan along the way has been superstar wide receiver Julio Jones. Like Ryan, Jones is coming off of a gigantic game last week against the Bucs (9 catches, 161 yards and 2TDs).
Looking back at some of Jones’ career numbers, it becomes incredibly clear why Julio is playing with such a high level of confidence.
Throughout the span of his three-year NFL career, Jones is averaging 83.8 yards and 5.3 receptions PER GAME! His 15.7 yards per catch average ranks him at fifth among receivers with at least 175 catches since 2011. And he’s at it again this year with 23 catches and a league leading 365 yards.
The interesting thing to note about the Jones/Ryan connection is that they look for each other often in first down situations. Already this season, Ryan has looked to jump start the offense and catch a defense off guard by hitting Jones early on first down 16 times through three games.
A deep threat with dynamic open field moves, Jones is a perfect compliment to Ryan at quarterback and, when healthy, the duo is one of the most dangerous in the league.
I don’t mean to act like this is a secret family recipe to beating the Falcons, but stopping Matt Ryan and Julio Jones is a great place to start. It’s unlikely that you will completely stop them, so start with slowing them down and then take advantage of a Falcons secondary that is very susceptible to yielding points of their own and you’re off to a good start.
The Vikings finished out one of the most depressing weekends in recent franchise history with an embarrassing showing against a New England Patriots team that looked as good this week as the Vikings did last week.
It’s difficult to properly characterize the game, but there were failure in all three phases of the game. While it might be intuitive to argue that the defense was not as bad as their field positioning made them, it’s important not to overcorrect and recognize how, after the first quarter, New England was extremely efficient at moving the ball.
On offense, Minnesota had a promising first drive that was washed away almost entirely by the subsequent drives, plagued by turnovers and bad decisionmaking.
Like most offenses, it starts and stops with the quarterback. While not having Adrian Peterson may be a blow, Cassel’s inclination to hold on to the ball for too long, lock on to receivers or make bad decisions isn’t because of Peterson. While it may be the case that Peterson affects coverage—an effect that is likely overstated—31 other teams don’t have Peterson and their quarterbacks do not tend to throw four interceptions.
It may be pedantic to point out that not every interception was his fault—indeed, he shared blame with Asiata and Jennings for two of his interceptions—it would be missing the point to emphasize the nuances. Cassel had little feel for the pocket, missed open receivers and was effectively blistered by New England’s different defensive looks.
As for the running backs, the Vikings couldn’t get much done on the ground. The Vikings’ longest run was 13 yards, picked up not on a designed run, but a Cassel scramble. The second-longest was a seven-yard direct snap to Matt Asiata, more the function of a trick play than genuine running ability.
This isn’t as much because of the offensive line or blocking as it is the talent of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon. Because McKinnon didn’t get much play, most of the offensive running woes can be lain at the feet of Asiata, who averaged only 2.8 yards a carry. His vision and decisionmaking at the line was good, but there were more than a few times that his limited burst really hurt him, especially on runs to the outside.
On the other hand, Asiata is excellent in the passing game, both as a pass-catcher and as a pass blocker. While Asiata doesn’t have an extraordinary skills resume when it comes to route running and so on, he has very good hands and can move around in zones to find open spaces.
As for the offensive line itself, there was not much interior pressure given up by Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan or Brandon Fusco, though all three could have done more to create better alleys in the running game, largely putting together an average run blocking night. Penalties on Sullivan and Fusco could make Johnson the better look lineman of the three, although they ran behind Johnson less than they did the other two.
On the outside, Matt Kalil was abysmal. Giving up several sacks and pressure, Kalil had perhaps the worst game of his career. Typically not a sustained worry if a tackle happens to have a bad game, this continues the trend of subpar play since his rookie year, which is increasingly long ago. He perhaps put in the worst performance of the day.
On the other side of the line, Phil Loadholt had some good stretches of play, punctuated with occasional lapses, both as a pass protector and run blocker. Though this is how you would characterize most average offensive linemen, it’s significant to point out that his highs were higher than most offensive tackles.
The receivers were not a lot of help. Greg Jennings is a very, very good receiver, but he’s not good enough to consistently beat Darrelle Revis, who’s cobbling together his resume to resurge as the league’s best cornerback. With Revis on Jennings almost all night, there wasn’t much Jennings could do to get open. The interception Revis grabbed was in part due to Jennings pulling up mid-route, too.
Cordarrelle Patterson had his share of wins and losses in the passing game, losing out against Logan Ryan twice after a good gain for a first down against the very same. He had a spectacular run after catch, as he’s due to have at least one a game, but his impact was largely marginal and that in part has to do with the fact that he still has a lot of trouble with receiver fundamentals.
Jarius Wright, aside from a baffling run near the beginning of the game, was alright, but still had a lot of mistakes. He was certainly open far more than he was targeted, but his targets did not produce particularly rich outcomes.
Kyle Rudolph started out with a fantastic game, but three drops (though I imagine that total will be different for different people, given how involved defenders were on some of them) and though I have consistently argued that Rudolph’s hands are more inconsistent than he’s given credit for (his drop rate is league average; he makes up for his spectacular catches with routine drops at times), this was extremely uncharacteristic for him, and he even seemed rattled.
Both Rudolph and Ellison had good games as blockers as far as I could tell. Marqueis Gray received a few snaps, but not enough to really evaluate.
The defense will be penalized in the box score more than is fair, but that doesn’t mean they did well. ESPN 1500's Andrew Krammer did do a good job, however, of contextualizing the importance that field positions and turnovers played by pointing out the Vikings only gave up six points on drives started by punts or the kickoff, and gave up 24 points on drives from turnovers.
Still, field position is interdependent, and the defense giving up bad field position to the offense will lead to a bad field position on the following drive for the defense. In this case, the defense, outside of the first quarter, was particularly scary. Tom Brady ended with a passer rating of 102.3, and an adjusted net yards per attempt of 7.0. Compared to his former backup, Matt Cassel, the difference is stark (39.1, 0.1). For context, the league average last year was 5.9.
Despite abysmal play by the interior offensive line last week from the Patriots, the Vikings couldn’t find ways to create pressure with their front four. Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph were both quiet in the game, and it wasn’t until Tom Johnson arrived that interior pressure manifested itself, not just with a sack but with pressure. Linval Joseph couldn’t get off his blocks as quickly as he did last week and Floyd was quiet.
On the edge, both Robison and Griffen let high-profile edge runs get by them, though Robison in general was the better of the two—he produced more pressure and needed to be manipulated more by his opposing tackle than Griffen, who had not just a bad game against the run, but a silent game against the pass, with very few pressures if any at all.
Chad Greenway had a good game. Aside from a high-profile pass deflection, he racked up smart play and generally solid tackles (though again it would behoove analysts not to simply count up his tackles as a few were downfield). With a quarterback hit and a tackle for loss, Greenway’s all-around game was better than his peers around him.
Jasper Brinkley didn’t take too many snaps after the first drives, but still played very well against the run without having to worry too much about being targeted in the passing game. Anthony Barr on the other hand, had a much worse game, especially early on. The Patriots were finding ways to target him by either scheming receivers into his zone or willing to gamble that Gronkowski was the better player than him with the ball in the air. The Patriots were often right.
When Gerald Hodges entered, he couldn’t do as much as his specialty would demand in terms of making sure that players like Gronkowski were obviated from the game.
In the secondary, things were a bit more iffy. On the positive side of things, Josh Robinson and Harrison Smith clearly had very good games, with Robinson virtually absent of targets while Harrison Smith only looked questionable when in man coverage against Edelman in the slot. Harrison did a very good job against the run, with two highlight stops and eight overall tackles. He was difficult to run against.
Robert Blanton was better than worse, and performed a myriad of roles well, bracketing Gronkowski at times, while at other times carrying individual receivers. He was a pass-rusher, deep safety and in-the-box defender, depending on the play, and performed well enough if not spectacularly.
On the other hand, corners Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn were liabilities. Munnerlyn gave up a few receptions, spotlighted by a touchdown, and had some issues working off the edge to make a presence in the run game. Rhodes had more problems in pass coverage, and though at least one of his three penalties was perhaps poorly called, there’s no question that the aggregate of the play was dismal.
Aside from being massively out of position or playing with surprisingly poor recovery speed, he missed tackles and allowed some fairly large gains on the ground for receivers.
All in all, the good defensive players could not make up for the anemic performance from the rest of the corps, and despite the fact that the Patriots scored almost entirely off of turnovers, it would be wrong to call that acceptable play from the defense.
While it normally is a rather perfunctory note, special teams played a big role in the Vikings loss, with a few of Jeff Locke's punts, a 57-yard boomer aside, causing issues in the field position battle.
With that, Ellison (my bad, it was Matt Kalil, which is appropriate)—despite his good blocking in plays from scrimmage—was the one who gave up Jones' unreal block, scoop and score on the field goal try. In one punt return attempt, the Vikings only had nine men on the field.
It was a disaster.
Yesterday morning we all woke up with Adrian Peterson as one of our “favorite” football players. Sure he has his personal issues off the field, just as we all do, but on the field, he was the man. Then the news breaks yesterday afternoon and terms like “reckless negligence” and “child abuse” begin to be thrown around pretty loosely. By the end of the night, when the actual story starts to form, we’re left with a perplexing situation, a couple of them in fact.
What’s your stance on corporal punishment? What should the government’s stance on corporal punishment be? How does the NFL react to something like this? How do fans react to something like this?
There are many specific questions that all lead towards one that envelopes them all. Where do we go from here?
What a difference a day can make. Since the news of alleged child abuse broke yesterday afternoon, Adrian has gone from scheming a way to beat the Patriots on the field to long phone calls with his lawyer attempting to avoid potential jail time. The least of his worries may be coming from a league that, amidst one of their worst weeks in history, is ready to throw down the hammer on offenders if only just to prove a point.
On the heels of the Ray Rice situation the NFL has enacted and put into place a more strict, cut and dry policy against domestic abuse. The policy states that a player could be subject to six games without pay after a first offense and that mitigating circumstances could push the penalty longer.
In its infancy, the focus of this policy has been directed towards violence against women. The video release of Ray Rice’s elevator tirade made it all the more real and incredibly necessary this week. But to a person with some semblance of common sense, child abuse would likely fall under the umbrella of domestic abuse as well which means that, pending the outcome of the investigation, Adrian could be facing a six game penalty from the league.
For this week, the Vikings did the right thing and on their own volition deactivated Peterson from their game against the Patriots.
At least the NFL doesn’t have a whole lot on their plate right now.
We all know that’s actually not the case and Peterson’s situation likely rounded out what will forever go down as one of the worst week’s in the history of the league.
With Goodell’s feet firmly placed against the fire already, he will be forced to act on this Peterson case and the fallout will likely pin Adrian as his sacrificial lamb.
But the new NFL policy was not developed for this sort of a situation. It was put in place to protect women from an epidemic of domestic abuse that was and is running through a league of overly empowered, testosterone driven men. But if the policy protects adult women from the men in their lives, it would only make sense that it also protects young children, four-year-old boys, from those same men.
There is still a lot that we have to learn about this case as it goes through court system. Peterson, who turned himself in to Houston police last night, has an uphill battle to fight against not only the prosecutors but a society enraged by violence and empowerment from professional athletes.
Corporal punishment has long been a hot button topic of conversation in this country. Generations of past were raised with spankings, belts and paddles as a regular part of their childhood. It was simply part of life. But it might be time for our country, as a nation, to instill some level of federal distinction on what is and what isn’t considered child abuse.
No matter your view on spanking, when yesterday’s news broke about Adrian beating his 4-year old son with a tree branch, how did it make you feel?
If you’re anything like me, your eyebrows were raised. If you’re from the south, where punishment via switch is a little more common, it may have seemed like nothing to you…at least until the pictures came out. When those photos depicting the wounds left on the poor 4-year old boy came out, I hope that the opinion changed for everybody. There’s no way you will convince me that it wasn’t too far and we all should have jumped up and been outraged. Red backsides were present in my Minnesota childhood, but bruises and lacerations are when you’ve crossed the line.
As a boy who witnessed my own parents mentally struggle with their own corporal punishment dilemma, and saw first hand the shift from spankings, away from “hitting” their kids and towards other forms of punishment, isn’t it time that America puts some sort of standard together?
I’m not calling for the outlawing of spankings, but when part of the country thinks it’s okay to hit your child with a stick and the other is outraged by it, truly how united are we?
As I mentioned above, there’s a lot more to this story that will play out and answer some of these questions for us. By all accounts, Adrian is cooperating with authorities in Houston as we speak. He’s not running from the situation and he’s not denying that the wounds in question were left there by him. But as this continues to play out, as Adrian re-assesses his actions, as the NFL attempts to handle the situation and as the court system determines the difference between corporal punishment and child abuse, I hope that we as a society are paying attention. I hope that conversations are being had about all of these situations. We are a nation that has long since learned from the mistakes of our past and unfortunately for them, the mistakes of celebrities play out in the public far too often. I hope that we can learn from this, change the way we operate, if only a little, and stand up tall on the other side better people, better families and a better nation.
It’s been equated before that the New England Patriots are to football what the New York Yankees have been to baseball. The dominant team of their era, led by their captain who is so cool, so calm, that winning almost seems to a part of his biological makeup. They’re the evil empire that looms over top the league for years at a time, forming a dynasty and having their way with almost every foe that stands in their way.
While the Yankees did so primarily through a loophole in the salary cap/luxury tax relationship, the Patriots did it on the backs of a duo, so daunted, so unparalleled that the artists might already be in the early stages of molding each of their bronze busts in Canton, Ohio.
Even if it is only because of their grandiose success, many refer to the Patriots as the NFL’s “Evil Empire.” Breaking it one step deeper, giving them this Star Wars themed nickname makes a bit more sense, and it also gives me an excuse to completely nerd out on too of my favorite things, the NFL and Star Wars. It then immediately becomes clear to me that if New England is the Evil Empire, then Bill Belichik is the scheming and powerful Darth Sidious while Tom Brady is his pimped out, über talented Sith Lord (insert Darth Vader here).
On the matter of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, you have a man who is sitting on the cusp of history as he enters TCF Bank Stadium this weekend. With 199 regular season wins in his pocket, Belichick is looking to become the sixth NFL coach to hit the milestone (Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry, Curly Lambeau and Marty Schottenheimer).
In 14 seasons as the head coach of the Patriots Belichick has accounted for thirteen winning seasons (2001-2013). One of only three coaches with 100 more wins than losses over his career, he has three Super Bowl rings and an undefeated season under his belt as well.
Recently, Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning had this to say about Belichick. “Coach Belichick is the best coach that I’ve ever competed against. I think it’s safe to say he’ll go down as the greatest NFL coach of all-time. His teams are always well-coached, always well-disciplined, and you know it’s going to be a 60-minute fight. To me, that speaks to his coaching.”
As Peyton said, Belichick coached teams are always disciplined and tough. One other thing that they are, at least during his time in New England, is Bill Belichick teams have always been led by their Darth Maul, their Darth Vader…Tom Brady.
Outside of three attempted pass during a 2000 fill-in job, their careers have almost completely overlapped in New England. With Belichick taking over as coach in 2001 and Brady taking over as starting quarterback the same year, two of the best the game has ever seen teamed up to form a dynasty that will always be remembered as one of the league’s most dominant.
Brady has lead the Patriots to 148 victories in 192 regular season starts since 2001, compiling a .771 winning percentage and giving him the best record of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). Leading his teams to all three of the New England Super Bowls under Belichick, Brady sits on the verge of crossing the 50,000 yards passing mark (602 away) and becoming just the sixth quarterback in NFL history to join that club.
Lethal, yet stunning, Brady finds ways to silence his opponents in a way that only he can. With four 30 touchdown seasons, six 4,000 yard passing seasons and 19 career 4-TD games, Brady is a dangerous combination of attitude and athleticism and he brings it onto the football field on a weekly basis.
Together, Darth Sidious and Darth Vader, er Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have put together one of the most potent offensive attacks in the history of the league. Calculated and precise, they pick apart defenses on the legs of Bill’s defensive genius (the force) and the precision of Tom Brady’s arm (a sick, red colored light saber).
In fact, the duo of Belichick/Brady are the winningest tandem of head coach/starting quarterback since the 1970 merger. Their 148 wins tops Dan Marino and Don Shula (116) for the most victories while their .771 winning percentage tops Ken Stabler and John Madden (.756) as well. With 192 starts and counting under Belichick’s tutelage, Brady looks to extend his all-time marks against the Vikings this weekend.
While it would be easy to sit back and roll over for the Evil Empire this weekend at The Bank, the Vikings need check the blueprints and fly along the Death Star’s trench this week to exploit any and all weaknesses in the super weapon’s armor that they can find.
With Matt Cassel (Obi Wan Kenobi) under center, Adrian Peterson (Luke Skywalker), Greg Jennings (Han Solo) and Cordarrelle Patterson (Yoda, because of all the cool flips and stuff) led by head coach Mike Zimmer (Admiral Ackbar), the galaxy has never before been more convinced that the Vikings may very well be equipped to battle the Empire this weekend in a Galaxy far, far away (aka, TCF Bank Stadium).
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