I’m going to take a different approach with “What Went Right” this week and focus my attention on just one positive aspect of last week’s game — play-action passing. While a number of things went right for the Vikings — quarterback pressure, protecting the football, Blair Walsh’s field goal accuracy — none were as encouraging as the explosive passing plays created by the team’s running (or non-running) game.
As Ben Goessling wrote earlier this week, Teddy Bridgewater completed eight-of-nine play-action passes against the Lions for a career-high 142 yards. His quarterback rating of 99.8 on such plays was also a career-high, and what’s more important, seven of those throws traveled ten-plus yards down the field. For the game, Bridgewater completed 7-of-12 passes beyond 10 yards for 147 yards and a touchdown; his best showing this season pushing the ball down the field.
Even though Adrian Peterson struggled to find running room against the Lions, averaging just 1.16 yards per carry outside of a 75-yard scamper, it’s his sudden home run ability that creates opportunities through play-action. Defenses can’t predict whether Peterson will lose yards or break through the second level, and that insecurity forces them to respect the Vikings’ running game. Any play can turn into an explosive gain, keeping defenders aggressive when they see Peterson in the backfield.
On Sunday, Norv Turner exploited the Lions’ commitment to stopping Peterson, and it worked. Teddy Bridgewater finally carried the Vikings offense to victory, with or without a consistent running attack by his side.