Though I have a full player review and rant on the coaching staff available at Vikings Journal, the greatest takeaway for me was not whether or not the offensive line did well (they didn’t) or whether there were hidden gems in Teddy Bridgewater’s performance (there sort of was, but it’s irrelevant amidst the bad play) or even if Josh Robinson played poorly (that’s complicated). The Vikings knew what they were up against and didn’t adjust throughout the game.
Though I have massive issues with the offensive playcalling, I saw the defense as more critical to the loss, because it wasn’t the points per game that was the issue, it was the points per drive. And the defensive playcalling and adjustment was the issue.
The biggest issue on the defense wasn’t the individual performance of the players, which when summed was excellent overall, but the use of the players. After learning that Josh Robinson was the alpha and omega of the Bears’ gameplan, the Vikings did exactly nothing. They didn’t bracket over Robinson, they didn’t give him help, they didn’t transition his coverage assignments and they didn’t switch up their approach.
Though the Vikings love to blitz and send additional pass rushers, often necessitating man coverage, the Bears have struggled against zone defenses in general, pitting a defender’s instincts and ability to read the quarterback against Jay Cutler’s decisionmaking. More importantly, they diminished the impact that specific matchups would have and minimize the problems of a smaller defender.
The Vikings have watched enough Bears film to know this to be the case, but entered the game without another plan just in case the height issues would bite them in the first half. After seeing Robinson get toasted time and again, they didn’t give him help. And in critical moments of the game, they changed very little. Sometimes, the Cover-2 defense is the exact appropriate response, despite what Vikings fans are haunted by in previous years.
For those who take stock in Pro Football Focus grades, the Vikings defense only had two players below -1.0 and five above +1.0. The aggregate grade was 11.6. It was a net positive day for the sum of the individual players, but a defense is only as strong as its weakest link, and the Vikings stubbornly didn’t account for that link.
The best players, according to Pro Football Focus were Everson Griffen (+5.4), Sharrif Floyd (+4.3), Captain Munnerlyn (+2.7), Joe Berger (+2.1) and Harrison Smith (+2.0). The worst players were Josh Robinson (-3.3), Corey Wootton (-2.2), Matt Asiata (-2.1), Matt Kalil (-2.1) and Kyle Rudolph (-2.1).
I take exception to Berger’s high grade, because I felt he was playing outside of his assignment on a number of plays and played with confusion in open space. He allowed two quarterback hurries extremely quickly and though helped create lanes in the running game, allowed just as many to collapse.
Phil Loadholt’s low grade is also a bit harsh in my eyes. Though he was responsible for the late Willie Young sack (and it looked bad), I thought his day was largely positive. Their grade for John Sullivan is a little friendlier than I thought it would be because of some miscues on his end, but I’ll not contest it too much.
|Unit||ANYA||YPC||Run Success Rate||Points Per Drive||Drive Success Rate|