For Vikings fans, Sunday marked many firsts. The first Sunday of the NFL season. Kevin O’Connell’s first game as head coach. The first time I wore my new Vikings dri-fit (thanks, Harris!). At the end of it all, the Vikings came away with a 23-7 win over the Packers and have optimism heading into a Monday night Week 2 matchup with the Eagles.
Before viewing the all-22, a few things stuck out for the Vikings.
Shifts and motion can be useful for an offense when used for a purpose. A static picture from the offense allows the defense to declare a strength, align without stress, and minimize pre-snap communication. In contrast, an offense that lines up in one look, changes the strength of the formation, and sends another motion forces a defense to realign, communicate quickly, and adjust their assignments on the fly. Shifts and motions can also help the offense by manipulating matchups, creating numbers advantages quickly, and leveraging the defense before the snap. Defenses want to play fast. The illusion of complexity that O’Connell majors in forces defenders to take an extra split second to think. That split second can be all the offense needs for success.
O’Connell’s first big decision came on a 4th and 1 on the first drive of the game. He used two motions and dialed up a nice one for Justin Jefferson’s first touchdown of the 2022 season:
Really liked how O'Connell used shifts and motion vs. GB, here on the 4th and 1 TD on the opening drive. Force the defense to communicate on the fly, and put your players in positions to succeed pic.twitter.com/ke73QvM4kq— SyedSchemes (@syedschemes) September 12, 2022
Justin Jefferson’s Alignment
There is no praise too great for Justin Jefferson. Aside from being a top receiver, Jefferson has the benefit of playing in an offense that will feature him in different ways. Jefferson lined up in the backfield, slot, out wide, and in bunch throughout the game. Lining up in different spots forces a defense to not only keep track of Jefferson but use various players to cover the superstar. Jefferson’s alignment versatility can also lead to matchup advantages for the offense.
A new game for NFL defensive coordinators: where is 18? O'Connell had Justin Jefferson in multiple alignments, in motion, and in favorable matchups throughout the game pic.twitter.com/9w3D2U8wdb— SyedSchemes (@syedschemes) September 12, 2022
Jefferson finished the game with 9 receptions, 184 yards, and 2 touchdowns on 11 targets. He ran the Choice route early and often.
Za’Darius Smith and an Opportunistic Defense
The Vikings defense had 4 sacks, 2 turnovers on downs in the red zone, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. After an early sigh of relief on a missed big play, the defense came together for a winning performance. The Packers did find some success manipulating Ed Donatell’s defense with quick motion before the snap, sending 4 receivers to one side of the formation (4 strong), and runs that gave the Packers leverage on the Vikings odd front. The all-22 will help us take a look at the secondary, but the Vikings defense made big plays in important situations.
Za'Darius Smith gets a 1 on 1 with the RG on the sack pic.twitter.com/a0CM7UM0mm— SyedSchemes (@syedschemes) September 11, 2022
Another nice one from Za'Darius Smith. DL wins inside and Smith works down the line to stop the TD. I think this was the first snap of PENNY pic.twitter.com/A9McwncuV8— SyedSchemes (@syedschemes) September 11, 2022
This is great playing through the hands from Eric Kendricks on 4th and 1 pic.twitter.com/4gCzwdaP0G— SyedSchemes (@syedschemes) September 11, 2022
The Vikings end the day with a win over a division rival, confidence in both units, and a strong start to the O’Connell era. We will be back later this week for some all-22 film review.