Much like I did with the Week One loss to the Detroit Lions, I'm going to take a stab at looking a bit more closely at the Minnesota Vikings' loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday with the help of the grading system from Pro Football Focus. While attempting not to divulge too much. . .because, hey, this stuff is part of PFF's "Premium" package and, really, they deserve the coin for it. . .you can see that the team as a whole played significantly better in Week Two than they did in Week One.
For starters, as was pointed out in last week's article, against the Lions the Vikings had eight players "in the red" on offense and six players "in the red" on defense, while only having three players "in the green" on each side of the ball. In the game against the Bears, the trend was almost completely reversed. The team had a total of eleven players in the green, meaning that they played an above-average game overall, and just two players in the red. . .both on offense.
And one of those two guys was none other than Adrian Peterson.
Yes, Peterson. . .who had a decent game statistically with 100 yards on the ground, managed to garner a grade of -1.9 overall for the game against the Bears. Only five running backs across the NFL garnered a lower grade in Week 2. AD had some pretty illustrious company at the bottom of that list. . .some of the guys below him were Darren McFadden, Chris Johnson, and Ray Rice. . .but that's what the grades for this week say.
Now, before we get the pitchforks, torches, tar and feathers out, understand what PFF's grading system does. To borrow from their "How We Grade" page. . .
For example, a raw stat might tell you a tackle conceded a sack. However, how long did he protect the QB for before he gave it up? Additionally, when did he give it up? If it was within the last two minutes on a potentially game-tying drive, it may be rather more important than when his team is running out the clock in a 30-point blowout.
The average grade, or what we would typically expect of the average player, is therefore defined as zero. In reality, the vast majority of grades on each individual play are zero and what we are grading are the exceptions to this.
So, as they grade each individual play, I'm assuming that the bulk of Peterson's negative grade comes from two things. The first one would be the fumble that he had with the score tied near midfield with the Vikings trailing by a 24-21 score early in the third quarter. The other one would be the play where he lost 13 yards on 1st-and-10 from the Chicago 14-yard line midway through the fourth quarter of a 24-24 game. Those were negative plays in every sense of the word and, again, likely where the majority of Peterson's low grade for this one came from.
Incidentally, the only other player on the team that graded "in the red" was offensive lineman Charlie Johnson. In a bit of a strange reversal from last week, the four Vikings' offensive linemen that graded "in the red" against Detroit all found themselves "in the green" against Chicago. How much better was the line play this week? Against the Lions, the offensive line was credited with allowing two sacks, two quarterback hits, and sixteen quarterback hurries. Against the Bears? One sack, two hits, six hurries.
Incidentally, after getting smacked around pretty good by Julius Peppers in their meetings last year, Kalil dominated Peppers this time around. Peppers was credited with just one tackle and one quarterback hurry on the afternoon. In fact, all of Chicago's starting front four on defense graded well into the red in this one.
And isn't it weird that when Christian Ponder didn't have the sense that he was going to get murder death killed on every snap, he played significantly better football? Ponder actually graded out at a +0.7 this week. . .higher than Jay Cutler, incidentally (+0.5). . .and a far cry from his -2.8 rating from last week because he made a lot of positive plays when the Vikings needed them towards the end of the game. Yes, he had the pick-six that everyone remembers, but in the second half, the Vikings put together a lot of long drives, and Ponder played a significant role in those.
The guys that graded in the green, on offense, were as follows (in order of grade):
Brandon Fusco (the guy that graded out the lowest last week)
The defense was led by the guys that led the way last week. . .defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison. Allen graded out just slightly higher than Robison, registering a sack, a hit, and four pressures to go with a hit and five pressures for Robison. Only one other player on defense wound up in the green for Minnesota. . .and it was not safety Harrison Smith. Rather, it was rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who graded out at a +1.9 on the afternoon. I'm not sure how many times he was targeted on the afternoon, but the folks at PFF must have liked what they saw to give him a grade like that.
Again, you can see that the pressure that the Vikings brought on Jay Cutler was significantly better than what they brought against Matthew Stafford the previous week. Against the Lions, the Vikings' defense was credited with no sacks, three hits, and ten hurries. Against the Bears, they wound up with one sack, three hits, and sixteen hurries.
The linebacker play was still not great, as we all saw for ourselves, but it wasn't disastrous on the level that it was in Detroit, according to the PFF grades. Granted, "not disastrous" is not really the level you want one of your position groups to be performing at, but it's still a bit of a step up from "holy crap, what was that," which is what the Vikings' linebackers graded out at against Detroit.
The lowest grades on defense went to safety Jamarca Sanford, which isn't a surprise, and linebacker Desmond Bishop. That one is a bit of a surprise because. . .well, Bishop was only on the field for two defensive snaps. I'll be completely honest with you. . .I'm not even sure which two snaps Bishop was on the field for, but those two snaps were enough for him to be credited with a missed tackle, the biggest contributor to his low mark.
That's what Pro Football Focus has for the stats this week. Considering the difference in the marks that the team received in Week One compared to Week Two and the quality of the product we saw on the field, I think the guys at PFF are really onto something here. If you'd like more detail on what you see here, head on over to their site and have a look at their premium stuff.