NGSC Sports

Vikings At Lions

Teddy Bridgewater and the Minnesota offense was off to a hot start as they quickly built a 14 point lead only to see it dwindle come the fourth quarter to a 16-14 deficit with 3 minutes to go. The Vikings had two solid opportunities to end the game on a two minute drill but the giant in the room (working with a rookie quarterback) decided to speak up again, something that the Vikings have been on both sides of this year. With poor clock management and a head set malfunction, the Vikings were forced to let struggling third year kicker Blair Walsh come out to attempt a 68 yard field goal with 3 seconds left only to see fall short and wide left. However, the Vikings proved that they are going to be a team to contend for the remainder of the season and for 2015. Here are my 6 takeaways from the Vikings performance against Detroit

1. Teddy proves his worth
The growth that Teddy Bridgewater has shown over the season has been substantial. Week in and week out he continues to prove that the Vikings made the right choice for moving up to 32 to draft him this year. The place that Teddy has made the biggest stride this season has come in his ability to read the defense. Some of the big plays that the Vikings have had come from Bridgewater’s ability to recognize the always moving alignment of the defense to help place the foundation of what could be potentially a big play. A prime example of that is the 9 yard swing pass to Matt Asiata early in the first quarter.

With the Vikings coming out in a spread formation with trips to the wide side of the field, the defense showed double high safety but instead of both playing on the hashes, the field safety was lined up between the top of the numbers and the hash while the boundary safety showed his alignment right on the hashes. This is a pre cursor to typical cover two coverage. Sure enough, the lone receiver split out wide to the right has his safety back off providing ample space. What helps set this play is that when Bridgewater calls for the ball, the receiver to the right, who has a free release, runs a five yard curl and sits right on the hash. With no other threat in the area, the off corner who was Darius Slay, drives on the curl route leaving the sideline wide open for Asiata out of the backfield. Seeing this, Bridgewater easily gets the ball to Asiata and he takes it for 9 before the corner can recover and push him out of bounds. It was a huge bright spot for Bridgewater as he has tried to force the ball at times instead of dumping off to a check down and living to play another snap.

2. Emergence of Kyle Rudolph

After missing a huge chunk of the season with his hernia injury, Kyle Rudolph has helped provide a spark to a Vikings passing game that is struggling to find their true number one receiver. In his fourth game back, Rudolph has helped change the perplexity of the Vikings passing game. No example is better than his 21 yard catch in the first quarter.

On this first down play early in the first quarter, the Vikings came up in a spread “Bunch” look, something that was a facet for the Vikings offense on Sunday. With Rudolph split out on the right hash, and two other receivers flanking him, it gave Teddy the opportunity to show off his pre snap recognition.  The Lions showed true cover two alignment with each safety playing their respective hash. Bridgewater, knowing that the play calls for 4 verticals, notices that with Rudolph turning his into a post mid route gives him a great one on one opportunity with a linebacker. He has great protection for him to get into the “flow” and drive the ball to a streaking Rudolph, whose defender is trailing by 4 yards for a huge completion down the field.

3. Still have troubled waters

In a game that saw Teddy Bridgewater only miss 10 throws and throw for over 300 yards, there was still evidence that he is still learning under fire. He had two huge interceptions that led to a 13 point swing late in the second quarter. One pick came off an overthrow into double coverage, and the second being a ball that was behind an open Jennings on the sidelines that allowed for Slay to jump it and rip off a huge return. The big no-no moment for Teddy was the final two minute drive. It was a classic case of poor clock management and of course the headset not working on a two minute drill plays a lot into it.

4. Paths turn to Rhodes

The big play of Xavier Rhodes on Calvin Johnson was a huge reason why the passing game was in flux for the Lions. Time and time again, Rhodes was in the hip pocket of Johnson and the stat line shows. Johnson was targeted 6 times, only catching 4 balls for 53 yards, one being a 23 yarder but ZERO touchdowns. However, Rhodes wasn’t just solid in Coverage but was a mainstay in run support and the screen game.

With Detroit offense sputtering late into the second quarter, the Lions attempted to hit the Vikings aggressive defense with a reverse to Golden Tate. Tate was split wide right in this spread look. Stafford hands the ball to Bell who flips it backwards to Tate who was coming across the formation from behind. Instead of getting over zealous and attempting to pursue the run action from the backside, Rhodes sits and reads the flow of the offense. Seeing Tate, Rhode quickly fires into the backfield to stop the play for a one yard loss. Rhodes sitting instead of pursuing shows that the second year player is starting to show the level of IQ he has for the game.

5. Purple Haze

Rhodes wasn’t the only player who showed up against the run. The entire Vikings front seven played extremely stout against a rushing attack that was averaging 100+ yards in their last three games. The Vikings held 5 Lions running backs to 80 yards rushing on 22 attempts. The big reason the run defense was so dominant in the game was largely due to the play in the front seven but the defensive line in particular. The Vikings defensive line did a great job in reestablishing the line of scrimmage in the backfield. They all played with violent hands and within the interior, did a fantastic job of eating double teams that allowed for Brinkley, Greenway and Hodges to be untouched when firing within the gap. Another reason the run game wasn’t working was because the Vikings knew it was coming, which allows me to give huge props to the pass defense (Something you can’t give their defense every week). The defense held Stafford to only 153 yards passing for the afternoon. So the Lions were virtually forced to try and run the football.

6. Hodges Podges

Gerald Hodges, the second year player out of Penn State, has been outstanding in providing solid play while star rookie Anthony Barr is out for the rest of the season. Hodges has flashed his sideline to sideline speed snap and snap since he’s been in the lineup. The trait that really makes me enjoy Hodges to watch is his instincts. He may not be the fastest but he is certainly the smartest and one from Sunday stands out.

The Lions come out in a spread Ace formation. The back is set to the right of Stafford and there is one wide receiver and a tightend to the right. The Vikings show their traditional 4-3 defense with a cover two shell out of the safeties. Stafford calls for the TE to motion, changing the formation to a Bunch look to the left. Hodges, seeing that the tightend motioned and is now split out, widens his alignment from 5 yards off the center to 5 yards off the left guard. At the snap, the two receivers out of the bunch immediately fire out as if they are to block. Hodges recognizes this and fires on Tate, who was set up to receive a quick screen from Stafford. Hodges arrives just after the ball is caught and stops Tate for a short gain of 2. Hodges play over the last couple weeks is helping him make a case to see the field more often and is allowing him to be used in coverage packages.

 

The Vikings have a short week as they will travel to Miami to face the Dolphins on Sunday. A Vikings win will help them finish their road finale with a win and could help spoil the Dolphins playoff chances.

Author Profile

Joshua Zimmer

Josh is the Big Ten analyst for NGSC Sports. With his extensive knowledge of the game, he will be keeping an eye on some of the conference’s top NFL Draft prospects while also serving as the Gophers analyst. He also covers the NHL.


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