Incredible game. I really did not expect to win this game let alone dominate it. One of the real joys on the Zimmer years is knowing the team will play better in the second half. Just a few years ago, it was a struggle looking forward to the second half of a Frazier or Childress or Tice because you know the other team was going to make adjustments or get fired up at half. Now, I have real confidence that if the Vikes are within a score going into half, they have a great chance at winning the game. I really think that these three games, with the injuries, adjustments, etc. have set up the team for long term success.
New England Patriots: Strange topic heading but I have been thinking about the Patriots a lot this past week. There are two things (among many) they are really good at: (a) taking away what the opposing offense does well; and (b) have the players buy into team success over individual success. Yesterday, the Vikes took away Benjamin totally and really limited Newton’s scrambling. The defense really dictated what Carolina was able to do on offense and it obviously caused Newton to hold the ball too long. As for point two, other than Griffen (and a couple fo individual plays), this was assignment football. Players executed their assignments perfectly which resulted in great results without the necessity of great individual plays. I do want to take a second to write about Griffen. As you may recall, he was a 4th round draft pick who fell because of character concerns. Those character concerns seemed justify as he got into trouble a couple of times early in his career. But I give credit to both Frazier and Zimmer in mentoring him and his own growing maturity. I also give the Vikes credit for giving him the contract he currently has. He has grown into a great leader and shows that some risks do pay off especially when you have a good locker room.
Bradford: I just want to highlight one play that further supported my admiration for Bradford. On one play Rudolph ran a simple pattern where he sat down in the zone. Open, Bradford three a simple strike to Rudolph. However, he didn’t throw it straight at Rudolph, but instead a little to the left (Rudolph’s right). This caused Rudolph to turn slightly in that direction which was perfect since the linebacker was flying in from the right (Rudolph’s left). It is the perfect example of throwing someone open – moving Rudolph in the best direction to avoid a front on hit and giving Rudolph an opportunity to make additional yards.
Thielen/Johnson: I will admit I doubted Thielen was going to make the team coming out of spring training. However, he is a revelation. In comparison, I thought Johnson was going to have a great year. However, I have come to the conclusion that Johnson only knows how to catch the ball in one position – jumping up straight. Granted, he is pretty good at that. However, the pass he dropped was more about how he tried to catch the ball rather than the difficult of the catch. It seemed like he didn’t know how to adjust to the ball and made a very awkward jump rather than to run underneath the ball. Right now, I am for moving Thielen to Johnson’s position, and bringing back Wright in the slot.
ProFootball Focus: I like PFF because it offers some insights for me. However, this week’s edition is exceedingly surprising to me. I write about some issues in Vikings PEE below but I was to focus on one example here: Luke Kuechly. PFF rated Luke as the highest rated player in the game at 90 (out of one hundred). He had an 88.6 on run defense and I won’t begrudge him for that grade. PFF doesn’t disclose his pass defense grade but it had to be higher than 90 to average a 90 overall. However, PFF notes that “Kuechly was beaten in coverage for a couple of first downs by TE Kyle Rudolph, but earned a positive coverage grade after allowing six receptions for 56 yards on eight targets, with a pass defended.” Basically, he was beaten on coverage 6 out of 8 times targeted and a couple of first downs but still graded out at over 90 on pass defense – I really don’t get that.
Vikings PEE (Player Exceeding Expectations: Offense: I know PFF rated Clemmings as one of the worse 10 players overall this past Sunday but I thought Clemmings played above average and far exceeded my expectations. I watched him a few times just to see how he was doing and I thought he set up well in pass protection and usually had little help (I saw one chip block on one play). I do like reading PFF as I am just a fan and my opinions are based largely on my gut reaction and the little I have picked up in over 40+ years of watching. However, how PFF could say Clemmings was one of the ten worse players in the entire league this past weekend is amazing to me especially considering the play of our right tackle in the same game. So Clemmings is my Vikings PEE on offense, PFF be damned. On defense, I could go with Waynes (who PFF ranked as the best Viking) but I am going with Tom Johnson – how the Vikes contained Newton was a team effort up front and Johnson was integral to that effort.