Friday, September 30, 2016

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More like the "Dead Zone"

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The NFL Sunday Ticket Red Zone channel is the greatest invention since, well…American football. It takes everything we love about Sunday football — touchdowns, highlights, big plays — and condenses it into one continuous stream so that fans don’t miss any of the action.

Tom Brady threw a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski in the corner of the end zone? Red Zone shows you the play. The Browns fumbled the ball on fourth-and-one from the five? Red Zone takes you straight to the action. The Minnesota Vikings…kick another field goal? Unfortunately, Red Zone cuts to Blair Walsh, kicking yet another field goal from within an opponents’ 20 yard-line.

In most cases, you want the station to cut your team in the red zone — it’s the land of golden opportunity on the gridiron, the area of the field that puts tremendous stress on opposing defenses. But as a Vikings fan, it’s more “Dead Zone” than any of those analogies. Even with a historically successful red zone running back and efficient quarterback, these 2015 Minnesota Vikings are struggling to put points on the board from the 20-in.

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Bacon, red meat and all processed meats cause cancer now. Don’t care.

What I DO care about is a long-form podcast talking Vikings and other Minnesota sports with Tom Schreier of Cold Omaha (with Di out sick this week). I chew the (bacon) fat with Tom about the outlook of the Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings, why the Stefon Diggs-vs-Odell Beckham Jr will be a debate soon, a remembrance of the late Flip Saunders, a beat writer’s take on Torii Hunter, and why the Vikings need to BRING BROCK VEREEN ON THE ACTIVE ROSTER AND START HIM OPPOSITE OF HARRISON.

Warning: This episode is primarily Vikings based but we venture off quite a bit into Wolves and Twins.

All that and other “We started Jim Bob Cooter” nonsense on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint.

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Image courtesy of

The firing of Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and two offensive line coaches Monday needs no explanation; after a game that saw the Minnesota Vikings sack Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford seven times, the writing was on the wall for a staff that’s failed to meet preseason expectations. Their blocking schemes — like asking a center to peel back and blindly cut off Everson Griffen — sent Stafford to the locker room for X-Rays after the game, and eventually led to their dismissal from the team before boarding Detroit’s flight to London.

The Vikings, led by Eric Kendricks and Everson Griffen, made life miserable for Stafford after the first quarter on Sunday. According to ESPN’s Ben Goessling, six of the seven Minnesota sacks came on blitzes, and each came after the first fifteen minutes of play. Kendricks finished the day with two sacks, while Griffen’s lone takedown came on the easiest play of his life — an untouched scamper into the small of Stafford’s back. As you can see from the conveniently composed tweet below, the Lions stood no chance against Mike Zimmer’s aggressive front-seven yesterday:

After Sunday’s win, Griffen leads all Vikings defenders with 4.5 sacks, and that’s after missing last week’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. In a close second? Kendricks, with four sacks, all of which have come on blitzes. Behind them, Tom Johnson, Anthony Barr, and Chad Greenway round out the top five, with two, 1.5, and 1.5 sacks respectively.

Given Mike Zimmer’s penchant for blitzing (he blitzed Stafford on 41.7 percent of his dropbacks Sunday) and the success of his pressure packages, how likely is it that the Vikings crown a new “Sack Daddy” at season’s end?

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Vikings fan invaded Detroit for Sunday's victory.

Last week, it was rookie Stefon Diggs that swiped this heralded (by me) award in his first career start by getting more than 70% of your votes. This week, he might be in for a repeat performance here at VT, but first I want to give a few quick thoughts on my very first game experience at Ford Field in Detroit:

  1. You Vikings fans are awesome! You guys were everywhere! There were scores of Vikings fans tailgating outside of the stadium, filling seats everywhere from the front row all the way to nose bleeds, and showing their pride all day long by sporting that purple and gold. It was great to see how well represented the fan base was on Sunday and a big “Skol!” to those of you VT readers that stopped me to say “hi” (I was rocking a VT shirt).
  2. I’m looking forward to attending my first game at U.S. Bank Stadium and seeing just how better that “fan experience” will be compared to the decade(ish)-old Ford Field. You hear a lot about the “fan experience” in relation to NFL stadiums these days, as fans are finding it far more comfortable and convenient (and cheaper) to stay home and watch the game. With zero cell reception or wi-fi options, minimal updates from other games being played, and underwhelming screens… I mean, it was better than the Metrodome and it was incredibly clean, but I did come away fairly underwhelmed.
  3. I feel bad for the Detroit Lions fan base. They are clearly defeated as a whole and I’ve never been to an NFL game that was so, well… calm. I mean, I was glad to see the fans were classy and considerate compared to their NFC North counterparts in Chicago and Green Bay, but they also seemed void of any excitement about their team at all. Even when the Lions were leading, the reaction was quite tame relative to other games I’ve been to.

Okay, enough about that, onto the nominations for this week’s award.

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