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Vikings vs. Packers - Notes

Some notes and stats following the Vikings win over the Packers to open US Bank stadium and take sole possession of first place in the NFC North

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Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

It was a big win for the Vikings, even if it was sloppy at times and came at some expense with the injury to Adrian Peterson.

It was also a remarkable game in many way statistically.  Here are a few noteworthy stats:

Sam Bradford

It may have been his best game of his career- or at least one of them.  Bradford finished 22/31 (71% completions) for 286 yards and 2 TDs, no INTs, although he was sacked 4 times.  That translates into a 121 passer rating and an adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) of 8.40.  His PFF rating was 87.2.  I did a write-up on Bradford last week outlining how he could improve as a Viking.  His first game looks very promising.

Aaron Rodgers

Had his lowest graded game by PFF in his entire career, with a 35.3 rating.  His 70.7 passer rating was also on the low-end of the scale for Rodgers, who hasn't had a passer rating over 100 for 14 straight games now.  Rodgers finished 20/36 (55%) for 213 yards 1 TD (he rushed for another), 1 INT, 3 fumbles,1 lost.  He was also sacked 5 times.   His ANY/A for the game was just 3.78.

Stefon Diggs

Diggs is currently the leading receiver in the NFL, with 285 receiving yards in two games with two different QBs.  He's also the highest rated by PFF with a 91 rating.   He's averaged 17.8 yards per reception and 142.5 yards a game so far.

Damarious Randall

Randall was the highest-rated CB in the NFL by PFF in week one.  He was the lowest rated (lower than Waynes) in week two covering mostly Stefon Diggs.  He had a 22.1 rating for the game, the worst rating of any player at any position on Sunday.

Vikings Running Game

After two weeks, the Vikings rank dead last in the league in rushing, with just a 47.5 yard average.  Next weeks opponent, Carolina, ranks first with a 166.5 yard average.

Packers Passing Game

Aaron Rodgers and Company currently own the 3rd worst passing game in the NFL, averaging 189.5 yards/game.

Packers Run Defense

After two weeks, the Packers have the best run defense in football, allowing an average of 39 yards/game.

Vikings Defense

The Vikings defense is now where it left off last year- ranked #5 in points allowed (15/game) and yards allowed (289.5).   And while there is room for improvement in both run defense and coverage, the Vikings defense has reached a level where it is beginning to produce more turnovers, with 6 takeaways in two games - tied for 2nd in the league.  While it's early, that rate is twice the rate of takeaways the Vikings produced last year.

Vikings Offensive Line

While last week against the Titans was encouraging for the Vikings offensive line- at least pass protection- this week against the Packers erased that completely.  Not only did they continue to struggle in run blocking, but they took a big step backward in pass protection as well, except for Boone and to some degree Berger.  PFF did a write-up today on how the Vikings offensive line could derail their Super Bowl hopes if it doesn't improve.

Against the Packers the offensive line gave up pressures on almost half (48.6%) of Bradford's drop-backs.  This is not a recipe to keep Bradford, who has missed just over 2 years worth of games in his first six years due to injury, on the field for the Vikings.  Bradford took 10 hits against the Packers, and 4 sacks, injuring his left hand in the process.

Three of the Vikings offensive linemen rank in the bottom five in their position, according to PFF.-  Matt Kalil (36.9 rating),  Andre Smith (40.0) and Brandon Fusco (38.1).   Even Alex Boone isn't that much better at 54.2 overall, but his pass protection (83.5) has been good.  And while Joe Berger is the highest rated offensive linemen overall for the Vikings (75.5 overall- which is average), that is also a considerable drop from the 88.0 he had last year.

All this does not reflect well on new offensive line coach Tony Sparano, who at this point doesn't look to have made any difference in improving this group's performance.  If anything it looks worse as run blocking has deteriorated while pass protection has not improved.  I would also note that Sparano was the one behind drafting Willie Beavers in the Fourth round too.

One hope for improvement is the prospect of getting Mike Harris back at RG, who has been out due to a mystery illness.  He did a much better job last year at the position than Fusco is currently.  Indeed, Fusco looks as bad at his old position of RG as he did last year at LG.

One other possibility, given the poor play of Matt Kalil, which may be in part due to injury, and Andre Smith, is to give TJ Clemmings a shot at one of those positions- LT preferably.  Obviously he was not a big success being thrown in last year at RT as a rookie, but on the other hand, he did better than both Kalil and Smith are doing now.  Perhaps he will show improvement and provide at least a modest upgrade.  Something needs to be done.

Adrian Peterson Injury

While the Vikings had a big win against the Packers, they also suffered a big loss as Adrian Peterson went down with an apparent knee injury.  From what I heard last night, he had an x-ray which was negative, and coach Zimmer said the injury had calmed-down, so maybe it was not as bad as initially it looked.  An MRI is scheduled for today.   It has been reported that AP avoided a major injury, and may be back as soon as a couple games.

Still, that leaves the currently last-ranked Vikings running game without its key player for at least a couple games.  I'm not sure that is going to negatively impact the Vikings run game much, if at all.  It may even result in an improvement.  Here's why:

Opposing defenses have studied AP and his running plays enough to read and key on them very well.  They can read an AP running play pre-snap almost all the time, and react accordingly.  This makes it more difficult for the offensive line to effectively run block- the defensive front knows what's coming, and can get the jump on them, leading to the generally poor results for AP so far.

When AP was suspended, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon combined to produce a very effective run game that year- 2014- with over 1,100 yards combined and a combined average yards per carry around 4.0.  But more than that, defenses don't have the pre-snap read on these RBs, and so are not able to get a jump on them to the degree they are with AP.    And with now the #1 WR in the league to worry about, and an experienced QB running the show, there may not be 8 men in the box to defend the run as much as when AP was the feature back.  Food for thought.

Key Metrics

Turnovers:  The Vikings won the turnover battle 3-1 technically as the first quarter fumble recovery and loss by Sendejo gave the Vikings their first turnover of the year.

Vikings offense red zone/TD production:  Vikings offense produced 2 TDs and was 1/1 in the red zone.

Vikings defense 3rd down conversions allowed:  the Packers converted on 46% of their 3rd downs, despite starting 1/5.  The Vikings offense converted only 28% of their 3rd downs, as sacks, TFLs,  and penalties took their toll.

It may have been the 4th down conversions that were the most important, as the Vikings converted on one near the red zone which led to a TD, while the Packers failed to convert theirs near the red zone in the 3rd quarter, which made a big difference in the game.

Overall, the Vikings winning the turnover battle and scoring at least 2 TDs and being over 40% in the red zone was enough to get the win.  But still a lot of room for improvement, particularly on 3rd down, penalties, and the offensive line generally.