NGSC Sports

Vikings At Dolphins

 

By: JZimmer_

Coach Zimmer had the Minnesota Vikings off to another fast start in the game Sunday against the Dolphins, jumping out to a 17-7 halftime lead only to again see a win slip away in the closing moments of the game.

It featured bizarre moments like the Vikings scoring twice in 11 seconds to the Dolphins blocking a punt with 45 seconds left to seal the fate of the Vikings. In the 37-35 loss, there were moments in the loss to Miami that have come to light in the aftermath.

Here are my 5 takeaways from Sunday:

1. Teddy is the future

The play of Teddy Bridgewater not only this past Sunday but throughout the season has helped strengthen the decision of Vikings front office personnel to trade up back into the first round in May. He is the future for the Minnesota Vikings organization. Sunday against Miami he provided yet another glimpse of what the future holds for not only himself but for the Minnesota offense. In the loss, Teddy was very efficient with the football, going 19-26 for 259 yards and a touchdown. Though he did have one interception however the cause of that pick was not due to poor judgment but rather a tipped ball by running back Matt Asiata. He has gone through the growing pains of learning when and when not to throw the ball, even sometimes holding the ball too long. The biggest improvement he has shown this season and particularly in the Miami game was acknowledging potential blitzes in his pre snap reads and taking what the defense is giving him when going through his progression. One underrated trait he also showed improvement on is his deep ball accuracy. On his lone touchdown pass of the afternoon, Bridgewater recognizes the 1v1 corner coverage with Jennings. He not only showed good anticipation by waiting for Jennings to break his route but the accuracy to throw it in stride and toward the pylon. The Vikings may have lost the game but Teddy has proven his worth to Vikings fans across the country.

2. Jennings becoming Ol’ Reliable

The emergence of Greg Jennings down the stretch has been a long awaited one as he has two touchdowns in as many games. However, it not just the touchdowns receptions where Jennings has emerged but also as a key safety blanket for Teddy when a crucial catch is needed. Other than his NFL experience, the trait that Jennings possesses that the younger Vikings receivers do not is his crisp route running. The lone touchdown reception alone showed below is a prime example.

On this touchdown reception by Jennings, the Vikings come out in a Bear Gun Weak* formation. Charles Johnson and Jarius Wright are split left with Wright in the Slot while Jennings is the lone receiver to the right with Chase Ford off the line of scrimmage and into the formation. Miami matches Minnesota pass look with a cover 3 look from a single high safety. To the Left, Johnson and Wright run a “Levels” passing concept**. (See Photo). On the play side of the formation, Ford will run a delayed arrow to the flats while Jennings will run a post-corner out wide. The 20 yard dig by Johnson entices the single high safety to stay over the top of the route.  Now, what helps sets up Jennings double move is the cushion that the corner is giving. Normally once a receiver plants and drive to cut his route a corner that is playing off will drive on top of the route, however, Jennings giving him the quick double cut allows for him to create more separation. Bridgewater shows great anticipation as mentioned earlier to wait for Jennings to break out of the second move before firing a strike to help get the Vikings on the board early.

3. Offense line struggles

The offensive line continues to be the major issue of the Vikings offense. With 3 starters being out, the Vikings have been forced to show just how much depth or their lack of again this weekend in Miami. The biggest issue with the offensive line in the Miami game was the protection in the passing game. Yes, there were times that the offensive line were sound up front to allow Bridgewater to stand tall a read his progressions, However, in the crucial moments of the game the lack of experience showed. The two photos of a particular snap below are perfect examples of how they struggled.

 

On this snap early in the second quarter, the Vikings showed Max protection with both the TE/H Back Rhett Ellison and RB Matt Asiata staying in to help. The Dolphins showed their nickel defense with Jimmy Wilson blitzing from his alignment in the slot. The Defensive line shows an angle or slant technique, meaning that they are moving away from the blitz. There are three problems that occur. The first being right tackle Mike Harris slamming down hard into the B gap to help with Cameron Wake. The second problem is that Rhett Ellison does not stick to the hip and drive Dion Jordan out of the play after doing a good job of initially closing the door on him. The third problem is with Matt Asiata. He does a good job of staying square to the blitzing Wilson but does not come up to help create a little space between him and Bridgewater. He does do a good job of taking away Wilson, however, at the depth he was at and the incomplete pick up by Ellison, it does not allow for Teddy to cleanly step up into the pocket. The result of all these issues allow for Jordan to tally a sack and the defense to get into a prime 3 and long situation.

4. Harrison Smith’s Versatility

In Harrison Smith’s rookie season, we saw his ability to play in space and his cover skills with flashes of his great play making ability. In Season two however, we have had the chance to see just how Mike Zimmer will use the stellar safety. From playing in the slot to rushing off the edge, there haven’t been many snaps where the Vikings keep Smith in one spot. In the loss against Miami, Smith showed just how versatile he is with his athletic interception of Ryan Tannehill early in the second quarter to go along with his 5 tackles. Here is a closer look at Smith’s interception.

Splice Back

 

The Dolphins tried to hit them with a play known a ” Splice Back” that had great success the few times they previously ran it. Now what that means is that a receiver (Normally the slot) will motion either across the formation to the opposite side pre snap or as the case in this play, will motion into the line as a wing. Once the ball is snapped, the offensive line will show flow to the side that the receiver motioned from, in this case they show flow to the left hash. This allows for Landry, who was the slot receiver, to cut across the formation hoping to catch a soft spot in the zone.

This is where Harrison Smith comes in. Smith, who was rolled down off the edge pre snap, understands that he is going to have outside help by the corner because there is no threat lined out wide to the right. This allows Smith to fire on Tannehill. Just as the ball is released from the quarterback’s hands, he times his jump perfectly to try and swat the pass only to swat it into his body to come up with the interception. Smith’s interception didn’t happen from luck. It happened because a young player understood the concept of what his defense was running. 

5. Success in the Pass Rush

The most improved part of the Vikings defense this season is the success that is coming from the pass rush. Now the Vikings only tallied one sack on the afternoon against the Phins, but the key was that they were able to get home and rattle Tannehill with the pressure they were bringing. This snap early in the first quarter shows just why it is so difficult to pick up a Vikings Blitz.

As you can see on this snap, Coach Zimmer loves to bring pressure and from everywhere. On this third down, the Vikings come out with a nickel look with four down lineman. Now this is where it gets interesting. As you see, right at the snap, Robison peels off  and drops into coverage with Sharif Floyd taking over the contain rush by taking a contain step to get outside the tackle. On the front side of the pressure, you have Tom Johnson taking a pinch step to A gap to influence the center, allowing for Hodges to fire through B gap. The decision man is the left tackle. With the Dolphins showing a Man/Zone protection, there is going to be a free man on the blitz side. The rule is that he is to take the most dangerous man which is normally the end man on the line of scrimmage. However, the left tackle engages Smith blitzing from the slot, leaving Vikings sack leader Everson Griffen a free rush to Tannehill. The aggressive and exotic style of Zimmer’s blitz packages have been a big reason why the Vikings have been able to account for 41 sacks this season.

Overall, the Vikings played a very sound game and were able to capitalize on turnovers. In the end, it was inability to finish the game – an occurrence that has served as Minnesota’s Achilles heel –that gave the Vikings their ninth overall and final road loss of the 2014 season.

The Vikings will finish the 2014 season back at TCF Bank Stadium in Snowy Minnesota against their division rival in the Chicago Bears, in hopes of securing their first division win of the season.

Key

*(Bear= 2 WR to each side, Weak because RB is set away from the TE).

** The Levels concept means they will run almost identical routes within the same zone at different levels of the defense, hoping to create a mismatch or find a window in the defense.

 

 

 

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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