Sunday, September 14, 2014

Notebook: Sloppy play and turnovers lead to a 30-7 Vikings loss

A poor showing from quarterback Matt Cassel, paired with a sloppy day on both sides of the ball, led to the Vikings 30-7 loss in the 2014 home opener. 

Updated: September 14th, 2014 5:55pm

By: Daniel House

A lackluster performance by the Vikings offense and a poor day on special teams all led to the Vikings 30-7 loss against the New England Patriots. Minnesota opened the day with an 8-play 80-yard drive capped by a Matt Asiata touchdown reception, but failed to score the rest of the game. Matt Cassel threw four interceptions and the defense was working with a short field for a majority of the game. The Vikings special teams effort was a huge issue as well and led to a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown late in the first half. This turned the tide of the game and resulted in a seven point swing. If the Vikings execute the field goal, they enter halftime down just 17-10, rather than 24-7. Nonetheless, the Minnesota offense couldn’t move the ball, the Vikings were beat up front, and penalties added to the mess. I complied all the notes and let you step foot in my game notebook.

Cassel can’t get it done

Matt Cassel finished the day 19-for-36 with 202 yards, a touchdown, and four interceptions. He consistently couldn’t find the open receiver and on four occasions missed wide open targets down the field. He tried to place some balls in highly contested places and as a result, was intercepted on a frequent basis. Following the first drive of the game, Cassel couldn’t execute the offense and constantly couldn’t make a swift decision when releasing the ball. His arm angle was low on several occasions and the ball didn’t leave his hand quick enough. Cassel was pressured on a consistent basis because the offensive line couldn’t hold blocks, but he still had instances where he could have found the open receiver and failed to make the right decision. Fans were starting to chant for rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the second half and the frustration was high for many. At this point, it seems too early for these calls and Mike Zimmer announced following the game that Matt Cassel will start next week as the Vikings travel to New Orleans.

Asiata sure handed as a pass catcher 

Matt Asiata hauled in five receptions for 48 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown reception. He was called to run the arrow route and was a safety valve during many situations. He only rushed for 36 yards on the ground, but his role in the passing game was one of the few bright spots in today’s game. Jerick McKinnon witnessed limited reps in today’s game, which is very surprising, considering Adrian Peterson was deactivated for this contest. Maybe with the potential of being without Peterson next week, the coaching staff will gameplan to utilize the rookie more next week.

Patterson leads receivers 

The Vikings offense wasn’t able to move the ball up the field, but when they did, Cordarrelle Patterson hauled in some big catches to move the chains. ‘Flash’ notched four catches for 56 yards, but he never got the chance to erupt for a big play. The more perplexing part of the game for Patterson was how he was used this week. The coaching staff didn’t utilize Patterson out of the backfield in Adrian Peterson’s absence and only placed him as a decoy on two occasions. It was very surprising to see Patterson not used as a runner, which was a huge part of the team’s success last week.

Rudolph performs well when given the chance

Kyle Rudolph performed at a high level during several moments of today’s game. The coaching staff was using him on drags and crossing routes in the middle of the field. Rudolph was moving the chains and was a nice target when found on the field by Matt Cassel. He did add a dropped pass late in the contest, but by that point, the game was far from reach. Cassel missed Rudolph in the red zone on a throw to the seam, which led to the blocked field goal and was later a turning point in the game. Rudolph had his man beaten, but Cassel missed the mark and overthrew the pass.

Offensive Line fails to succeed

The Vikings offensive line allowed plenty of pressures early in the first half and did more of the same over the duration of today’s game versus New England. Matt Kalil was beaten on several occasions, along with Phil Loadholt off the edge. Penalties littered this group and during one point led to the offense backing up three times deep into their own territory on the second drive of the game. These types of mishaps up front make it difficult for the offense and are areas of emphasis that need to be addressed. The discipline wasn’t there and it seems like the offensive line has taken a few steps back early in the season.

Defensive Line can’t pressure Brady

As I discussed in my game preview post, one of the keys to this game was applying pressure to Tom Brady early and often. That didn’t happen today and he was sacked just one time. The Pats didn’t pass the ball very much and attempted just 22 throws in the air. The defense didn’t give up an extensive amount of yards (292) and were asked to play for a high volume of time. They were set up with a short field, but allowed too many rushing yards (152). The Vikings front-seven couldn’t handle the vision of running backs Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and Brandon Bolden. New England game planned to run hard against the Vikings while using plenty of power sets. They didn’t need to run the ball and with a short field, handing off the football was about the only alternative.

Rhodes has a rough day

Xavier Rhodes was beaten on several occasions, was called for a critical pass interference penalty, and just couldn’t close on the plays today. He is in the correct position about 50% of the time and he doesn’t have the balls skills right now. Rhodes was getting a bit too grabby with receivers and it led to him being beaten a couple times down the field by wide receiver Julian Edelman. Again, the Patriots didn’t slash the Vikings secondary in the passing game, but a short field combated with a couple big plays, was enough in the full scope of work.

Special Teams is ugly

Are the Vikings really missing special teams coordinator Mike Priefer this much? Honestly, they probably are and will need to work without him one more week according to head coach Mike Zimmer. The turning point in the game was a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown just before halftime. The Vikings punt team allowed a 16.5 yards per return average and continually caused room for concern this week.

Injury Report

Safety Harrison Smith was down on the field with an undisclosed injury, but later returned. The same story occurred with Brandon Fusco and he entered later, as well. No other notable injuries took place, but we will know more when the injury report is released next week.

What’s Next? 

The Vikings will travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints next Sunday at noon. This is the first trip back to New Orleans for Minnesota since losing the NFC Championship Game at the Superdome in 2009.

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