Brian Flores Shouldn’t Hit the Panic Button

Purple Baker
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The Minnesota Vikings lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers mostly because they made too many mistakes. Losing the turnover battle by three and giving up costly penalties is too much to overcome and deserves a zero in the win column. While the defense didn’t play perfectly, they limited Tampa Bay to average performance at best.

Brian Flores Shouldn’t Hit the Panic Button

Baker Mayfield replaced Tom Brady as the organization’s starting quarterback, a considerable downgrade. Still, he did enough to beat the Vikings, although one could argue that the Vikings beat themselves. Mayfield made plays when he had to and played a much more conservative style of football than he used to, leading to a good start to his stint with the fourth team in his career.

hit the panic
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The Bucs gained 242 yards and scored 20 points, which should result in a Vikings win, whose strength is the offense, while the defense is expected to be suspect. However, the first game of Brian Flores as defensive coordinator didn’t go as smoothly as those numbers indicate, at least according to Buccaneers’ running back Rachaad White, who reported that Mayfield figured out the defensive signals.

I just remember Bake came in the locker room, literally at halftime, he said, ‘I got it. We got all these signals.’ We’re in there talking as an offense and he’s like, ‘I know all these signals. If they do this, they’re going into Cover 2. If they do this, they’re going into Cover 3. Every time I alert this and they do this signal, they’re dropping back to this.’ And I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ . . . I was just listening to him and we were listening to him and we just kind of understood.

NFL quarterbacks are smart guys and understand defenses better than the average person. Peyton Manning is a Hall of Famer not because he had the best arm in the league but because he was always the most intelligent player on the field, diagnosing defenses and changing to the right play to beat the coverage.

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Mayfield isn’t known as a cerebral player at that level, but he is still an NFL quarterback, so he possesses the necessary football smarts and experience to figure out a defense. Indeed, the second half went much better for the Buccaneers offensively, who struggled mightily in the first two quarters. Tampa Bay scored only three points until Mayfield took advantage of a Vikings turnover and led his team on a TD drive inside the final two minutes of the first half.

In the second half, the Bucs scored ten points, still not that concerning, just like the 177 yards. Seven of those points came after the Vikings gifted their opponents a new set of downs on a field goal attempt when rookie Jay Ward was called offsides.

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Mayfield’s group had a worse EPA/Play than the Vikings in the second half, although Minnesota didn’t play a good second half on offense. Mayfield passed for 5.7 yards per attempt in the second half, a subpar number, and the Bucs gained 3.8 yards per play — also way below average.

Brian Flores must go back to the drawing board because other teams obviously watch the game film, and if the signs and audibles are available to everyone, that is a recipe for disaster. Regardless, he shouldn’t overthink things because his defense worked to some extent, especially because nobody expects an elite defense that can shut out opponents like the 2017 squad that Mike Zimmer led.

The next outing for Flores’ unit will be the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, a tough matchup. If he can get the Vikings’ defense to an average level, the team should be good enough to compete for a postseason spot, with the offense expected to perform better than it did in Week 1.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt