Monday, September 26, 2016

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What Went Right, Week 1

Vikings Go Play in Second Half of Titans Victory
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

A comeback victory usually carries talk of halftime adjustments; the winning team did ‘x,’ ‘y,’ and ‘z’ to fix its mistakes and finish on top. Sometimes, the changes are as simple as a shift in coverage. Often times, coaches flip personnel to spark their teams to a ‘W.’

On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings got back to basics. After falling behind 10-0 in the first half, head coach Mike Zimmer scaled his play-calling back, asking his defense to “settle down” and “go play.” The Titans got the best of his unit early, throwing multiple shifts and formations their way, but Zimmer remained confident in his tried-and-true system.

“When they’re giving you a lot of complicated shifts and motions and movements, a shift and a motion and then a play that’s going back, two guys running this way and one guy running that way, the more you add, the more complicated it gets. So, it’s no different. I was giving our guys a lot of calls the first half.” 

For all of Tennessee’s read-option looks, motions, and audibles before the snap, Minnesota had an answer in the second half. And most of the time, the answer was to line up and play sound, technical football. Zimmer didn’t add defensive wrinkles or send extra blitzes at Marcus Mariota; he trusted the talent and discipline of his defense to prevail, even with the simplest of calls.

“Trickery with trickery equals too much trickery,” defensive end Everson Griffen said Monday, per Lindsey Young.

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The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers will face off Sunday night, with both teams aiming to gain a one-game advantage over the other in the early season jockeying for position in the NFC North. The Detroit Lions also started off the season with a victory and look like a team to be reckoned with.

Our beloved Vikings certainly have plenty of things to be discussed this week: Kicker confidence, a struggling running game, and something about a quarterback or two.

Before we go too far down that rabbit hole, however, let’s take a glance around the NFC North in our weekly taking of the temperature to see how our greatest enemies are feeling.

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Vikings' Bumpy Win over Titans
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

It wasn’t easy, but the Minnesota Vikings came away with a Week 1 win over the Tennessee Titans. The road to victory had its share of bumps, with the Vikings falling behind 10-0 in the first half. Tennessee’s formation shifts and personnel changes kept Mike Zimmer’s defense off balance, and combined with Blair Walsh’s spotty kicking, made yesterday’s first two quarters a frustrating affair.

But Zimmer and the coaching staff adjusted at halftime, finishing the game on a 25-6 run that sealed Minnesota’s victory. Outside of a strong defensive showing — two return touchdowns — the Vikings also left Tennessee with few bruises or injuries. At this early point of the week, Xavier Rhodes’s knee is the only major concern; an encouraging development as the team prepares to host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

1. Halftime Adjustments

The difference in the game was halftime adjustments. After a wholly deflating first two quarters in which we saw Blair Walsh miss two field goals left, Shaun Hill overthrow an open Stefon Diggs in the end zone, and the Vikings’ vaunted defensive front get neutralized and misdirected by a nifty Titans offensive gameplan, things looked…bleak. Tennessee went into the half with a 10-0 lead, and it was difficult to imagine how Minnesota would muster enough offense to even close that small margin. It felt a lot like the debacle in San Francisco to open last season. My one source of optimism was that the Vikings’ staff has done quite well with halftime adjustments under Mike Zimmer, and perhaps they could find a way to turn things around.

They did, in a big way, and the team looked completely different in the second half en route to a 25-16 win. I firmly believe what separates an average coach from a good one is the ability to successfully adjust within games, and it’s good to see that continue under the Zimmer regime.

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Danielle Hunter
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Yes! We have a lot of weekly segments here at Vikings Territory during the regular season, but this is by far my favorite, especially following a victory. For those unfamiliar, this is where we nominate individuals and you vote one of them as the Vikings Player of the Game.

The Vikings pulled off a 25-16 victory on the road with Shaun Hill under center in somewhat unusual fashion. Not a single one of my bold predictions came true, and I’m okay with that given the outcome, but nobody could’ve really, truly predicted what would’ve been the deciding factors in this matchup.

Here are your nominees for Week One. Be sure to cast your vote at the bottom of the article and, as always, if you vote “other,” please leave your vote in the comments section.

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