The Vikings offensive line is emphasizing pass protection this week at practice. The group gave up seven sacks against the Denver defense in Week 4 and has allowed 13 through four games this season.
They’ll need to clean things up against Kansas City, which runs a 3-4 defensive scheme like the Broncos and relies on the pass rush to disrupt the quarterback.
“We haven’t done the best job protecting,” starting guard Brandon Fusco said. “We strive to get better each week and I think it’s really an emphasis this week to protect Teddy and give him as much time as possible. We know when we do that, he can make plays. So that’s our focus.”
Bridgewater has been under pressure on 57 of his 136 dropbacks this season according to Pro Football Focus. Denver secured a 23-20 victory and spoiled the Vikings’ bid for upset by sacking and stripping Bridgewater in the final minute of the game. Bridgewater isn’t willing to place the blame on his linemen, though.
The second-year quarterback took responsibility by saying “We caused that upon ourselves … I was sacked seven times, you don’t want to get hit that many times, but our [offensive linemen] work extremely hard.”
Fusco agreed that it’s more than just the O-line at fault when protection breaks down, but appreciated the nod of confidence from his quarterback and in return credited Bridgewater’s ability to get rid of the ball considering the circumstances. The guard is more concerned about the team’s communication on the road.
Thirteen of the 14 sacks allowed were outside of TCF Bank Stadium — five at San Francisco and seven at Denver. Bridgewater’s protection at home has been much better, but expect the Chiefs to keep edge-rushers Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dee Ford busy on Sunday.
“Teddy is a true pro. Words like that are pretty nice of him,” Fusco said. “Protection really is a group effort, so he knows it’s on the quarterback, the offensive line, tight end and running back to block up protection. You can’t put it all on the offensive line.”
Guard Mike Harris said the team can better protect Bridgewater by staying on blocks and communicating. The bye week provided more meeting time and Harris is convinced the extra days to study will help fill the holes.
“As a line, I feel like we’re doing a good job,” Harris said. “We just really have to improve on protection. … I know coach has a good plan for us getting the ball out quick. As an offensive line, we just got to hold our guys up.
“Once game time comes, each down, each play, it’s gotta be perfect. We can’t beat ourselves.”