Thursday, November 26, 2015

matt asiata

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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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After making the Saturday night trip to Detroit, Adrian Peterson was downgraded for Sunday’s Week 7 game against the Lions with an undisclosed illness, per the team’s official website and 1500 ESPN’s Andrew Krammer. The running back, who has 432 yards on 101 carries this season, was listed as probable on the team’s final injury report with a finger injury suffered during the Vikings’ Week 6 win over the Chiefs.

This sudden news marks Peterson’s first reported illness since 2012, when he missed the team’s final two practices before a Week 10 matchup with the Detroit Lions. He returned that Sunday, rushing for 171 yards on 27 carries to lead the Vikings to a 34-24 victory. In the fourth quarter alone, Peterson racked up 120 yards and added to what would become just the seventh 2,000-yard season in NFL history.

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In this weekly series of articles, I’ll be breaking down what went RIGHT or what went WRONG each game for the Minnesota Vikings. This week, the Vikings punished the San Diego Chargers behind a strong running attack and consistent quarterback pressure from the defensive line.

These Minnesota Vikings have the look of a certain team approximately 1,660 miles to the West — the Seattle Seahawks. Before you comment or tweet in outrage, hear me out, because the similarities are too obvious to ignore.

Like their counterparts in the Pacific Northwest, the Vikings are built to succeed through two fundamental concepts; a strong running game and a fast, aggressive defense. General manager Rick Spielman’s draft strategies and recent free agent signings have helped him achieve the look and feel of the Seahawks on both sides of the ball, from the secondary to depth at running back.

That starts with Harrison Smith, who through three games is already considered the league’s best safety, per Pro Football Focus. He’s this team’s Earl Thomas, a “quarterback of the defense” who can cover sideline to sideline and attack the line of scrimmage in run support. At linebacker, Anthony Barr, Gerald Hodges, and Eric Kendricks exemplify many of the same traits that make Seattle’s mid-level defenders so dangerous — speed, versatility to blitz or cover, and instincts.

Beyond those position groups, the Vikings’ greatest defensive strength starts at the line of scrimmage. Everson Griffen is the anchor of the group, a force against the run and an elite edge rusher. He plays a similar role to the Seahawks’ Michael Bennett, who lines up across the defensive line and is by far Seattle’s most consistent rusher, having tallied seven sacks in 2014. Joining Griffen are Brian Robison, Scott Crichton, Justin Trattou, and two of the league’s best interior linemen — Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph.

With a mix of double A-Gap blitzes, suffocating coverage from the secondary, and aggressive play from the front seven, Mike Zimmer’s defense passes the eye test. Like the Seahawks, they fly to the football and are an opportunistic bunch who have forced six turnovers through three games in 2015.

On the offensive side of the football, the Vikings are taking the Marshawn Lynch approach to moving the football, and fortunately, have the running back to do so. Adrian Peterson, the original “Beast Mode,” leads the league with 291 yards on the ground and in the past two games, rushed the ball 49 times. Last season, the Seahawks ran the football 53.63 percent of the time, and this year, the Vikings are on pace to surpass that. They’re rushing on 54.88 percent of their offensive snaps, taking the football out of Teddy Bridgewater’s hands and forcing defenses to commit to the run.

Hopefully, as they did for the Seahawks during their Super Bowl runs, the defense’s loaded boxes open up opportunities in the passing game. Russell Wilson, for example, finished the 2014 season with 3,475 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in an offense tailored to the running game. When we take Teddy Bridgewater’s statistics through three games and extrapolate them to project a 16-game season, we get the following: 2,693 yards, 5 touchdowns, 10 interceptions. Underwhelming, yes, but Bridgewater is operating behind Adrian Peterson in Norv Turner’s offense, and he hasn’t been forced to win games with his arm.

As long as the formula — suffocating defense and a run-heavy offense — are leading to victories, the Vikings should stick to the plan. A similar one took the Seahawks to multiple Super Bowls, and the Vikings have a chance to get there very soon. If last week’s win over the Chargers was any indication, they’ve fully embraced this winning identity.

After the jump, Ill dive deeper into their performance and the building blocks being put into place for a successful playoff run.

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Mike Wallace, sneaky red zone threat

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In the NFL, the red zone can make or break teams. Poor play-calling or a lack of physicality can mean the difference between three or seven points, and in most cases, those lost points can spell doom for unsuccessful offenses — just look at the New Orleans Saints, who went 1-of-4 yesterday and ultimately lost to the Arizona Cardinals.

Last season, the Vikings offense finished the year ranked 15th in red zone touchdown percentage, scoring 21 touchdowns on 39 possessions for a rate of 53.8 percent:

Image courtesy of Pro Football Reference
Image courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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The 2015 Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings preseason is in the books and now we are only 10 long days away from actually FOOTBALL football when the boys in Purple head out to Santa Clara to take on the San Francisco Shells of Their Former Selves next Monday night.

Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) stops in for his weekly spot to touch on the upcoming season, who’s in/out for the final 53 man roster, and we make fun of RG3.

Other “We’re Lucky We Got Kalil Instead of RG3” Talkers Include
• Andy The Yellow
• New Rating System – The #AndySnorkel Rating
• Minnesota State Fair Food PFF Ratings
• The Washington Dumpster Fire
• What has Arif done for a scoop?
• Will RG3 get cut?
• Brady Free. What does this mean for Goodell?
• Movement on the 53 Man Roster projections? (Spoiler: Nah)
• Tyrus Thompson vs David Yankey at backup LT
• Dominique Williams vs Matt Asiata
• Fullback or Taylor Heinicke on the 53???
• Will Matt Kalil & Mike Harris’ decent preseason play translate?
• Arif: Bad signs in Clemmings play
• Robert Blanton is Denny’s… I explain why
• Heinicke love & analysis
• What to expect from Adrian Peterson
ESPN Top 100 Rankings. ONLY ONE VIKING? Who got snubbed?
• Adrian is #11. Too high?
• 2015 Season W/L Predictions Week-By-Week
• Weekly Hypothetical – NFL Players as Presidential Candidates – Who Be Who?
• Donald Trump is Cordarrelle/RG3
• Visit our new sponsor Victiv for Daily Fantasy Sports!
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All that and other “See You In Santa Clara!” nonsense on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint.

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