LOS ANGELES – Anthony Barr was in Sean McVay’s cross hairs.
As the Vikings gave up four first-half passing touchdowns to Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff in Thursday night’s 38-31 loss to the Rams, two were thrown over Barr’s helmet in apparent mismatches created by the scheme of McVay, the reigning Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year. That’s about all Barr could point to after the defense’s dismal performance.
“Just a good scheme,” the Vikings linebacker said. “They caught us in some 1-on-1 coverage and were able to make a good throw and good catch.”
First, running back Todd Gurley sped past Barr out of the backfield for an 8-yard touchdown catch. Then in a cleverly designed play, Los Angeles receiver Cooper Kupp faked a run block on the backside of a play-action pass and took a deep drag route for a 70-yard touchdown past Barr and safety Andrew Sendejo.
It wasn’t the type of play the Vikings expected from Barr when picking up the 2014 first-round draft pick’s fifth-year option worth more than $12 million for this season, even if Thursday’s opponent was arguably the NFL’s best offense.
Barr, individually, is looking to play better in a contract season. After working throughout the offseason on his pass-rushing moves, Barr has yet to register a sack. Overall, the Vikings have reason to panic after surrendering 465 passing yards and five touchdowns to Goff.
“Got to be concerned,” said Barr, who was raised in Los Angeles and went to college at UCLA. “We have to figure something out and get this thing turned around soon.”
Thursday’s defensive meltdown came only four days after the Vikings gave up 27 first-half points to the once-hapless Buffalo Bills, including rookie quarterback Josh Allen beating Barr to the pylon for a 10-yard touchdown run.
Pass coverage, which has been coach Mike Zimmer’s forte in Minnesota, has become Zimmer’s chief concern as the Rams gained chunks of yardage no matter whom they targeted.
What’s the fix?
“At this point, I don’t know,” Zimmer said. “We’ve never been, probably anywhere I’ve ever been, I’ve never been this poor in pass coverage. We’re going to look at everything we’re doing and get back to doing things correctly.”
One of the things Zimmer will need to look at is how McVay was able to isolate Barr in coverage on a couple of touchdowns. Through four games, Barr has 18 tackles (one for a loss) and a pass deflection. He hasn’t yet made the types of plays this season that got him into the past three Pro Bowls, but Barr said he’s not panicking.
“I think last year at this time we were 2-2, now we’re 1-2-1,” Barr said. “We know we can turn it around quickly. It can change week to week, so we’ll continue to play hard and play better.”