Analysis

Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs: First Half Quick Reaction

Without the Kansas City Chiefs scoring an offensive point, the Vikings defense looks to be in good form, and the offense has had some splash plays, highlighted by a 53-yard catch from Cordarrelle Patterson on a well-designed play, executed fantastically by the playmakers. Though excitement waned from there, there have been good signs from both sides of the ball, though the defense tailed off in the second quarter.

Offense

After the first touchdown, the offense stalled in part because of Matt Cassel. Though it wasn’t until the final minutes that he showed some spotty play. In this game, he seemed a lot more prone to pressure than the previous games, and that’s an issue given the pressure given up on the edges by all three tackles early on, with Austin Wentworth taking snaps from Phil Loadholt as he was being examined in the locker room for a leg injury. Without that drive, it would be fair to call him accurate, and he even threaded the needle on a tough pass that was marked as an incompletion because Greg Jennings didn’t tap his toes on the sideline.

The final drive was a bigger issue—a near pick six from Ron Parker, followed by an actual interception from him on a deep ball to Jerome Simpson, who wasn’t open. Generally speaking, his ball placement has been good and his decisionmaking continues a good trend. That said, he has to answer for staring down Jennings on the near-interception and throwing to Simpson when double-covered. The last drive is not really his fault, as he was the subject of two drops, one from Matt Asiata and one from Patterson.

Cordarrelle Patterson is still progressing well as a route-runner. He still hasn’t shown nearly any signs of precision and could get out of breaks even better than he does, but he’s been maintaining separation with leverage and strength, something he didn’t do last year. He’s getting better off the line of scrimmage, too. Those improvements so far have manifested well, and led to Patterson’s deep touchdown, as well as some good catches later on. The drop on third down at the end of the half is bad, but not part of a consistent pattern.

Of the other receivers, Greg Jennings continues to find ways to create space, but he’s been asked to run routes into  crowded areas of the field to open up other areas of the field. A good performance, except for the incompletion on the deep throw from Cassel, but not something that will show up readily. Jerome Simpson has been neither impressive nor disappointing. It will be up to the review on afterwards to really determine how well the receivers did.

On the offensive line, the interior has held up well. John Sullivan is holding up extremely well (with help from either guard) against a premier nose tackle. Brandon Fusco has driven well, and I haven’t noted many mistakes. The same is true of Charlie Johnson thus far.

On the edge, Phil Loadholt had a few struggles, but nothing too frequent or worth noting. His replacement when he was in the locker room was Austin Wentworth, and his very brief time was disastrous, giving up a safety. Matt Kalil needs to turn it around soon, because he has been pretty bad, even considering the caliber of player he’s up against. Giving up pressure often, Kalil’s play has forced Minnesota to focus more than one blocker on the edge, even in pass plays.

At running back, Matt Asiata has been extremely impressive, and has shown much more quickness and agility than he’s been given credit for. Smart reading and deceptive play has given him quite a few good gains, and if not for a slip in the backfield that lead to a tackle for loss, it was nearly a flawless game. There has been very little of Jerick McKinnon

Defense

The defense has held up extremely well, though teams are doing a pretty good job of figuring out where the Vikings are weak: tight ends and shifty running backs. The defensive line can be said to be the star of the night, as Everson Griffen has been excellent and has put a lot of pressure on Alex Smith, while Brian Robison has done the same on the other side. Both have shown an array of moves while maintaining fundamental soundness, both with their positioning and leverage. Griffen has clearly expanded his game from two years ago and seems technically refined. Backup defensive ends Scott Crichton and Corey Wootton haven’t had a lot of looks and have been less impressive.

The defensive tackles have contributed to the fact that 23 of Kansas City’s 39 plays were for three yards or fewer (or were sacks or turnovers). Sharrif Floyd has been playing his gap well with quickness, but he’s being overshadowed by backup nose tackle Fred Evans, who is playing instead of Linval Joseph, who is still out. Evans has been shooting gaps with burst and speed, playing his gaps well, getting off of blocks with alacrity and reading the play very quickly. Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen have been good as well, and Johnson got in on a sack with Everson Griffen. Stephen has held up well against double teams and is performing well in his role as a nickel-package rusher.

There’s been a lot of linebacker rotation. Chad Greenway has been playing excellently, and his interception highlights solid play that also includes smart tackling and excellent positioning. He did make way for other linebackers, like Michael Mauti and Audie Cole, neither of whom have shown a lot yet. Mauti has been silent, but Audie has made at least two significant mistakes that look bad on film, even if one of them is because it’s difficult to find any linebackers who can cover De’Anthony Thomas.

Anthony Barr has looked extremely good, either lined up at defensive end or at linebacker. Aside from one mistake against a scramble, he’s been aligned intelligently and has played not just with discipline, but with quick decisionmaking and smart instincts. He’s put pressure on the quarterback, covered better than the other linebackers and has played the run and scramble very well. Jasper Brinkley has even shown good signs, with some plays in the backfield help his case.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes has shown top-level play. Aside from putting himself in the right position with few technique mistakes, he’s doing a good job of reacting to the ball in the air and harassing defenders without running afoul of the officials. On the other side of the field, Captain Munnerlyn has an interception on his resume, which might make up f0r his play in the previous game. Josh Robinson may be notable for a deep pass interference play, but neither he nor Marcus Sherels have been egregious in coverage.

Harrison Smith hasn’t been tested much. While indicative of good play, it might also mean that Robert Blanton and Chris Crocker seem easier to exploit. For the most part, it seemed like Crocker was well-positioned, but Blanton, just recently returned from injury, is still learning his assignments, as he may have been responsible for more than one play in the middle.

Overall, the first half of this game might provide a truer test of their talent than the previous game, though the Kansas City offensive line may be just as bad as Arizona’s. The team looks sharp in their responsibilities, but there are clear issues that will crop up consistently in the season.

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10 Comments

  1. I would submit that Barr still needs work getting off blocks. I made a point to watch him tonight, and he can make plays, but there are times where he gets tied up and completely taken out of the play.

    I thought Floyd looked good. Very consistent.

    Griffen and Patterson are so close to bursting into superstardom. It might be next year for CP84, as his technical skills are still developing, but oh my you can see it coming. Everson is so disruptive and seems to be just missing multiple sacks.

  2. It was nice to see Patterson make a big play. I was hoping he’d make one this game. Asiata looks a lot better than I thought he was capable of. I’m shocked to see how much better he looks now than he did last. Kalil looks bad. I don’t know what’s happened, but he seems slow to get into position against outside speed guys this week and last week. The Rams line will eat him up if things don’t change. The team looks pretty good, especially on offense. Cole and Mauti both look like weak links at LB. Ideally someone gets cut/waived and we’re able to build up our LBs that way otherwise we wait until April (Ihope the drafts in April). Compared to where we were at this time last year I’m happy with the progress. SKOL!

  3. tonight we spanked a team in the third, and most important, preseason game. it was cool to see. i liked it. i thought kc was a pretty good team and would be a good test tonight, 11 wins is good, but after the game i wondered if tonight we saw the kc team that won 9 in a row, or lost 5 of their last 7, so i looked it up and found that it doesn’t matter. they’re not that good. kc won 9 straight to open their season last year, but then lost 6 of 8, including a playoff loss, and those first 9 wins were against weak opponents, so i’m happy for tonight’s win, but my joy is tempered, and i’m really worried about kalil

  4. BJ Raji out for season with torn triceps.Sam Bradford limped off in first half with knee injury.MRI scheduled Sunday.The Rams also had 3 other starter leave the field in the first half through injury.
    While it’s nice to win in pre season,getting through the game injury free is more important.

  5. Had to see who was writing the article because there was an “excellent” by a “greenway” and I had to check.

    Evans has really had a few good plays. I’ve noticed Johnson in on some of them as well.

    We’ve gotten a whole years worth of interceptions in the preseason so I’m hopefull!

    Plugging up the holes so the run game doesn’t get 6 yards on first down really seems to make life easier on D. A lot of the runs last night were for 1-2 yards or none. That was sweet. Also, really demoralizing for chiefs fans. We think they played a tough game and need some practice but they think they got schooled by the 32nd defense in the Nfl.

  6. Mixed results. It’s early, but there has been a lot of blown tackles, poor pursuit angles, and poor decision making on a reasonably talented defense. The line has been active, dominating at times, stoned at others, but they aren’t finishing plays consistently. They moved the ball against us but a good defense comes up in the red zone, multiple turnovers there are better than gold. Offensively it’s really hard to judge. Obvious skill position talent, and either the backup line is very good or we have guys that aren’t going to make the team that are talented enough to. The starting line has looked average, but that is a solid rush they played. St. Louis will be better. Both sides may be holding a lot back schematically, but the offense is also missing Adrian. As much as I prefer parts of Bridgewaters game, he is inconsistent enough to hold off.

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