Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Monday Night Football

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Four thoughts on the Vikings loss to the Bears, because it didn't deserve five.

play calling
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

1. I have rarely seen such poor play calling from an NFL team.

I’m usually the last to criticize NFL coaching. There’s so much going on that the average observer is unaware of (especially from watching a TV broadcast), it’s hard to say what they should be doing. We all have our ideas for what would make the offense work better, but without a full knowledge of why they’re calling it the way they are—and what the coaches are seeing that’s preventing them from doing the seemingly obvious—it’s hard to really say we know better than the guys running things.

And indeed, it seems I’m one of the last holdouts in Norv Turner criticism, but I’ve finally gotten there. The “Fire Norv” calls first came well before the 2016 season, but the Vikings fan base has grown increasingly agitated with Turner’s unimaginative play calling. It’s almost as if we were sold a bill of goods; here was this man who was spoken of as an offensive savant, someone who—while not ideally cast as a head coach—was perfectly suited to design the scheme and call the plays. There were promises of exotic sets and deep passes. Instead, what we’ve largely gotten—save for a few bright spots here and there—has been a rigid scheme that does not adapt to its personnel and an almost religious commitment to running on first down. The national media seem to still be buying the old narrative; even ESPN designed a graphic Monday night touting the “unpredictability” of a Norv Turner offense, and Jon Gruden rhapsodized the man’s offensive mind, while Vikings fans were left shaking their heads.

Erin Henderson watched Blair Walsh kick a 36 yard field goal to tie the game at 10 all against the Greenbay Packers on Monday night. With 5:09 left in the 2nd quarter, Henderson trotted out on the field to direct the defense in a critical junction of the game. Greenbay started the drive on their own 20 yard line. On 1st and 10 Eddy Lacy took the hand off from Aaron Rodgers and was tackled for a 2 yard loss on a great play by Henderson. Rodgers then dumped the ball off to Lacy on 2nd and 12 as Henderson fought through a block from guard Josh Sitton and held the play to a short gain. It was 3rd and long when Greenbay broke the game wide-open. The Vikings were in a nickle formation, which they had used for most of the game, Henderson and Marcus Sherels both blitzed while Everson Griffen dropped back into coverage from his DT position. Rodgers read it perfectly and hit Jordy Nelsen with a quick pass over the middle just outside of Chad Greenway’s coverage. Greenway, Everson Griffen and Andrew Sendejo all struggled to make the tackle as Nelson raced 76 yards for the score.

On the previous defensive series, Henderson, the Vikings leading tackler, had nice stops on 2nd and short and also on 3rd and short. Henderson finished the game with 7 tackles and 7 assists to lead the way for the Vikings.

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