On Sunday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings' defense played their tails off for most of the afternoon. Yes, they were facing a Detroit Lions' team without receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush, but after a rough opening drive, the Vikings did what a defense should do to a team in that situation. . .they put the clamps on the Lions' offense. Here's a summary of the Lions' drives on the afternoon.
|2:40||5||23||Missed Field Goal|
|4:47||8||26||Missed Field Goal|
Yes, between that first drive of the game and the drive that put the game away in the fourth quarter, the Vikings' defense didn't allow the Lions to gain more than 26 yards on a drive. They also limited the Lions to just 1 third down conversion in 13 attempts. So, how can a team put up a defensive performance like that and wind up losing by two touchdowns?
They do it by putting together a set of drives on offense that look like this:
|0:07||1||-1||End of Half|
|0:59||4||-6||Turnover on Downs|
|1:52||6||32||End of Game|
The Vikings didn't gain more than 45 yards on a single offensive possession all game. They had one play longer than 20 yards all game, a reverse to Jarius Wright that went for 21. They allowed their quarterback to be sacked eight times, five of which came when they only sent four pass rushers (according to Ben Goessling of ESPN.com). As a team, they ran for just 69 yards and averaged less than four yards per carry. . .take away the 21-yarder by Wright, and they averaged less than three yards per carry. Their leading receiver was running back Jerick McKinnon, who had 42 yards on six catches.
The biggest cause for this, by far, is a unit that was supposed to be one of the Vikings' strengths going into this season. . .the offensive line. I'm curious to see the Pro Football Focus grades for the offensive line after this game, because I'm anxious to see if there's a limit to just how far into the negative the Vikings' offensive line can go.
No member of the Vikings' offensive line was exempted from the cavalcade of crappiness that was on display at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon. I don't care what any of the local media types or whoever else has to say. . .Matt Kalil is absolutely awful. I know that he was a #4 overall pick and all that, but seriously, the guy has spent the majority of this season getting utterly destroyed. We've heard the excuses, but seriously, enough is enough. Give Mike Adams a shot at the job. Lord knows he isn't going to be any worse at this point. Maybe some time on the bench will help to wake him up or something, I don't know.
David Yankey, the Vikings' fifth-round pick in this year's NFL Draft, continues to be a healthy scratch week after week. Yes, I know that he started out a bit behind the curve after missing OTAs and all of that, but honestly. . .is anyone going to look me in the eye and tell me that he's that much worse than Charlie Johnson or Vlad Ducasse at this point? Because I'd find that awfully hard to believe. Hell, throw Austin Wentworth out there at this point, too. There has to be some combination of offensive linemen that can perform at something that even remotely resembles an NFL level, because the guys that are out there now certainly aren't doing it.
I understand that Teddy Bridgewater had a rough outing today. That's going to happen. . .this was his second NFL start, after all. And I understand that this isn't your father's Detroit Lions' defense any more. . .hell, it isn't even your older brother's Detroit Lions' defense. But this offensive line absolutely can not continue putting together performances like the one we saw today. Bridgewater is supposed to be this team's quarterback for the next ten years. . .if the offensive line doesn't get it together, he isn't going to make it through the next ten games.
The Vikings aren't going to see a lot of defenses as good as Detroit, if any, this season. But teams have the blueprint for what they have to do against the Vikings. . .stifle the run game and make Bridgewater convert a lot of long third downs. And until the Vikings do something to stop it, the sort of thing we saw today is going to continue. . .it won't make any difference if it's Bridgewater or Christian Ponder or Chandler Harnish or whoever else at quarterback.
Mike Zimmer has said that he's continuing to evaluate this team and make changes as he sees necessary. I certainly hope that one of the groups he has his eyes on is the group that's supposed to keep the Teddy Bridgewaters and Jerick McKinnons and Matt Asiatas of the world from getting crushed. . .and failing miserably at it.
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