A Film Breakdown of the 5-2 Vikings Shows Severe Weakness and Defensive Strength in 2016.
Lion’s Plan for Mr. Hyde
The Minnesota Vikings currently rank as the top team in the NFC North with 5 wins and 2 losses. This has been in large part to a historically stout and physical defense. When the Vikings defense gets rolling they are hard to gain ground against.
Where the Vikings have really excelled on defense this year has been on the line of scrimmage due to player’s skill and schematic prowess. Head Coach Mike Zimmer and George Edwards do a great job putting their players in a position to make plays. They do a great job preparing their players for each week and mixing up play calls to confuse opposing offenses. Combine this with having a top player on every level of their defense and you can see how this unit has been finding such success this year in the NFL.
Before this play even begins outside linebacker Anthony Barr and free safety Harrison Smith are up at the line of scrimmage showing blitz. Giants quarterback Eli Manning recognizes the blitz and audibles the play. The Vikings however, disguise the blitz incredibly well and still create pressure, forcing an interception.
Credit to Edwards for the play call and design as the Vikings show eight players at the line of scrimmage ready to blitz. As the ball is snapped middle linebacker Eric Kendricks drops back into coverage immediately and blankets to the slot receiver on the post route. While the Giants offensive line does a good job on their blocking assignment, the six man rush was too much as outside pressure forces Manning to throw the ball before he is ready. This throw is to Odell Beckham Jr. but cornerback Xavier Rhodes uses his elite physical tools to slow Beckham down and still have have the speed and acceleration to catch up to the overthrown ball.
These are the sorts of plays the Vikings have made all year. The Lions need to do their best to prepare for a team that has dominated the defensive side of the ball at an elite level. However, the main issue for this Viking’s team has been a stagnant offense that hindered this team’s ability to run away with games. Fortunately for the Lions, this stagnation has led the Vikings to their worst two weeks of football leading up to this Sunday’s matchup.
Lion’s Hope to See Dr. Jekyll Sunday
While the Lions need to game plan for the Vikings team that started off 5-0, there is some hope that the two game losing streak continues. This defense has played great on every single level, however there is one fundamental flaw this whole defense has: tackling. This can be incredibly punishing to an aggressive defense. Often you see an opposing offense able to make one guy miss a tackle able to break to a big gain because no one else is around him after the initial defender makes contact.
Upon receiving the hand off, Bears rookie running back Jordan Howard has a huge hole to run through. The whole left side of the Bears line handles the defender across from them. The aggressiveness of the Vikings defense works against them as all of their linebackers are out of position because they over-pursue the play. Removing themselves from the play allows the Bears lineman to get to the 2nd level and forces safety Harrison Smith in a one-on-one tackle situation where he either stops Howard for a 6 yard gain or misses the tackle and allows a huge run. Due to his own over-pursuit, he is too far removed from the play to square up and make a fundamental tackle. Instead, he is forced to lunge at Howard’s legs, which Howards shrugs off easily for a monster gain on the ground.
This play perfectly represents the double edged sword of this defense. The same aggressiveness and play-call that allowed them to make the interception against the Giants, cost them a touchdown scoring drive against the Bears.
As mentioned previously, this Vikings offense has handicapped this team the last two weeks. The main reason for this is the offensive line is playing dreadful as a unit. Right tackle TJ Clemming has been one of the worst tackles in the league. Right guard Fusco has been dominated by defensive players with power. Which is an issue facing interior defensive lineman. Left tackle Jake Long is a shell of his former self. If this offense has any hope of giving often injured quarterback Sam Bradford a chance to win this game, they need to keep him upright.
The Bears defense lines up in their basic nickle package out of their 3-4 scheme. There is no blitz or even a show of blitz. This is as easy a blocking assignment you can ask for in pass protection in the NFL. Upon the snap, right guard Fusco looks to help either his center or his right tackle but winds up looking lost on the play and does not touch a single defensive player. Center Joe Berger gets steamrolled by Bears defensive end Hicks on the bull-rush move and driven back into Sam Bradford. Sam Acho simply lowers his shoulder into left tackle Long, knocking him back right into Bradford’s throwing lane. On top of that, outside linebacker Willie Young beats right tackle Clemmings immediately with a speed rush move and dips inside to create pressure off the edge.
Sam Bradford has had a terrible career versus pressure. With their best offensive lineman left guard Boone out for this game versus Detroit, keeping Bradford upright is a must for the Vikings to win this game. However, this may only get harder for them as this Detroit defensive line is only getting healthier.
Prediction: Lions win 17-13
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