Leading 13-0, the Vikings are looking rusty but hanging on against a Rams team they were inexplicably underdogs to. Regardless, there are some serious issues on both sides of the ball worth digging into, as well as highlights to celebrate.
The Vikings are clearly employing a different method of playcalling that’s opponent-specific instead of one that focuses on the offenses’ own strengths, like many coordinators (Bevell, Musgrave, Roman, Gase/Manning) do. Others, like McDaniels, Whisenhunt and McCoy prefer to mold their offensive looks to the opponent that they have.
That second approach is a much more complex load on an offense, requiring a lot more flexibility and capability from the offense, as well as a larger mental load because of the expanded playbook that that approach requires.
So far it has been inconsistent in result, but flashes from Patterson and Peterson have both been good, though Patterson’s effectiveness has come as a runner more than a receiver. In fact, none of the targets have been consistently good, with so few attempts to give anyone time to shine.
There has been consistent pressure given up by the left side of the line, sometimes a result of mixed looks by the Rams but usually a result of being overpowered. The bigger issue are the consistent penalties on the line.
Despite the low rushing yards, the offensive line was run blocking fairly well early in the half, though there have been some notable miscues in the second quarter that have led to Rams in the backfield or a bottled up runner. More often than not, it’s been good, even outside the nontraditional sweep plays.
Adrian himself has been better than his statistics would indicate, but hasn’t been given the sliver of room he needs to break off consistent gains.
Cassel has been who he is, which is to say some flashes of consistently solid play and good throws, but large stretches of questionable play that aren’t necessarily covered by his good play. He hasn’t handled pressure particularly well, but there has been too much pressure to lay the blame at his feet.
Highlighted by a late interception by Robinson, it still probably more fortuitous than a sign of skill that the Vikings are shutting out the Rams. Still, good play on third down has propelled the Vikings to shutting out the Rams—unique play design on third and long in particular has given the Vikings that advantage, forcing the Rams to be 33% on third downs.
A big part of the play has been the interior line, with Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph and even Tom Johnson flashing solid and consistently good play. Though the defensive ends haven’t been as reliable in generating pressure, the pressure they have produced has clearly had an effect.
Anthony Barr is the only linebacker to consistently show up with good play, but that doesn’t mean that Chad Greenway, Jasper Brinkley or Gerald Hodges—in on nickel downs—have been bad, as they haven’t been exploited in coverage nor responsible for significant gains on the ground (the Rams are averaging 2.8 yards per carry on the ground). Jasper has flashed, too, so there are more signs of positivity from a questionable corps.
The secondary has been a little suspect, however, and despite the fact that Harrison Smith has been excellent on his pass rushes (and untargeted; a good thing), the corners have been wanting. Though Robinson finished out the half with an excellent interception, the penalties and yards gained by receivers through the air point to some problems the Vikings need to solve. Still, it was good to see Blanton do a good job against Tavon Austin on what would have been a deadly run and Shaun Hill reduced to 6.2 yards per attempt.
Second half incoming. Live score updates here.