Monday, November 24, 2014

Notebook: Vikings can't play complete game, lose to Packers

Daniel House analyzes where the Vikings fell short in their 24-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers. 

Updated: November 24th, 2014 11:38am

By: Daniel House

A valiant effort in all three phases of the game wasn't enough to close out an upset against the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings dropped their fourth consecutive divisional contest by a score of 24-21. As a whole, the defense did a great job containing Aaron Rodgers, but they were unable to stop Eddie Lacy when necessary. Lacy rushed for 125 yards on 25 carries and the Packers definitely wanted to work a heavy load of him into their gameplan. He now has six touchdowns in four games against the Vikings, including two 100-yard performances. The bigger issue was that Minnesota was flagged seven times for 77 yards and they were able to convert on third down just 38% of the time. This is a young squad that needs a few more playmakers on both sides of the ball to finish some off these close contests. You have to play perfect football against top-tier opponents in all three phases of the game and this Vikings squad isn't at that point yet.

Bridgewater accuracy and mechanics concerning

Teddy Bridgewater couldn't settle in at the beginning of the game and his accuracy was again a struggle for him. He still managed to finish 21-for-37 for 210 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Bridgewater did overthrow three wide-open receivers, which has been a reoccurring theme over his starts at quarterback this season. Bridgewater admitted he may have let excitement stand in his way in the first half and it contributed to his performance. More importantly, he threw an interception to Micah Hyde where he completely disregarded him mechanics. Nonetheless, he led the Vikings on a 69-yard touchdown drive at the end of the game and he has proven to perform his best late in the game. Now, he needs to learn how to put together the complete package from the start of the contest. To those who are critical of Bridgewater: he is a rookie quarterback who shouldn't be on the field right now. Give him time to mature and I'm almost certain his strong work ethic will allow him to make the strides necessary to grow as a quarterback for this team. He just needs to put together the complete package.

Banyard runs with a head of steam

Joe Banyard could arguably be considered the Vikings preseason MVP over the last two seasons. Yesterday, Matt Asiata missed the game with a concussion and Banyard finally witnessed some carries. He rushed five times for 26 yards and was averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He has a great center of balance and is able cut smoothly to find the hole. You can definitely see he has fresh legs and I would like to see the Vikings give him more carries down the stretch. On a side note, Jerick McKinnon carried the ball 15 times for 54 yards and he still managed almost 4 yards per carry. Both of these running backs might be a better combination than many would have anticipated. Newly claimed running back Ben Tate didn't see any action and he may not see any if the Vikings like what they have between McKinnon and Banyard.

Johnson getting open

Follow the new internet nickname craze and call Charles Johnson, 'Chucky.' It's the right thing to do. Anyways, Johnson has quickly evolved as Teddy Bridgewater's favorite target and it appears he is one of the few receivers who can gain separation. He did drop some critical passes that would have moved the chains, but he still managed to make some big catches, including a 22-yard touchdown from Teddy Bridgewater. He finished the game with three catches for 52 yards, but he was targeted a whopping 11 times. As for other wide receivers, Greg Jennings added a 5-yard touchdown near the goal-line and he continues to run smooth routes down the field. Cordarrelle Patterson notched just two catches and left the game with a knee and ankle injury. He continues to disappoint early in the season and many are wondering if Patterson is still behind the learning curve.

Rudolph starting to get adjusted

Kyle Rudolph is slowly returning from a sports hernia injury that sidelined him for nearly half of the season. He made some critical catches that helped move the chains on 3rd down. He hauled in three catches for 50 yards, including a 23-yard reception. He still looks to be a step slow and it may take him awhile to get the Cadillac wheels rolling down the street. However, it is encouraging to see him more involved in the offense as one of the Vikings' leading receivers yesterday. Rudolph has star potential, but he needs to bite the injury bug and play extended games within the Norv Turner offense.

Kalil continues to perform poorly

Matt Kalil picked up three critical penalties that stalled drives and resulted in the Vikings offense being unable to sustain them. His play has been so frustrating and he continues to be one of the liabilities among the Vikings offensive line. The pocket hasn't been clean and this group's inconsistency has led to more issues among the Vikings offense. Every member of the offensive line struggled and dabbled into the pot of poor play. This initially was a strong group among this Vikings squad, but pressures, sacks, and huge penalties bring this offense down like a snowball rolling in an avalanche. The Vikings will be looking for offensive line help in the offseason and will need to formulate a better mix if they want to win football games.

Defensive Line not getting their best push

The Vikings did add one sack in this game and they did seem to moderately contain Aaron Rodgers. However, this all can be a little skewed when you look at how well the Vikings secondary performed in this game. Rodgers had time to make decisions, but there was nothing open down the field about 80% of the time. My bigger concern comes in run defense and the Vikings inability to stay in their gaps and get a good push in the interior. You could definitely see this group was really missing Sharrif Floyd in this avenue and many haven't realized how well he has played in the interior of the defensive line. The defensive line wasn't winning the battle against the Packers offensive line in the second half and it resulted in Eddie Lacy closing out the game for the Green Bay offense.

Barr hitting the. rookie wall

Anthony Barr has been missing more tackles over the last two games and it appears he may be hitting the proverbial rookie wall. He wasn't in his gaps on several plays and his run support tackling hasn't been as great over the last few weeks of play. As a whole, the Vikings defense hasn't been making the tough tackles and it has resulted in a massive amount of yards after contact for opposing running backs. Jasper Brinkley has seen a decline in his snaps and the Vikings appear to be unhappy with what they see out of him in the base defense. He has been out position a few times, but he hasn't been significantly missing a high volume of tackles. I just haven't seen consistency out of this group over the last few weeks and it hasn't helped the Vikings ability to defend the running game.

Rhodes and the secondary are impressive

My hat is tipped to the Vikings secondary for a great performance against Aaron Rodgers yesterday. Cornerback Xaiver Rhodes played a major role in this and was lined up with Jordy Nelson for the majority of the game. He held him to just 69 yards and kept him out of the end zone, which is something that has been difficult for opposing defenses this season. Arguably, this might have been one of his best performances at the professional level. He was in position and contested every throw with intense physicality. As for Josh Robinson, he was much improved, but he still has moments where he reverts back to old habits. Captain Munnerlyn made some tough tackles in space and he has held down the fort in the slot. As a whole, the Vikings secondary gave the team a chance to win and and this is the last thing many thought would happen. They were physical, in position, and more importantly, they didn't allow Aaron Rodgers to carve their Thanksgiving turkey early.

Walsh knocks them down, Locke takes a step forward

Blair Walsh knocked down field goal tries from 39 and 51 yards, respectively. He continues to show his dominance as a kicker in this league and it appears he is transitioning well to kicking outdoors. Jeff Locke deserves a little praise for his performance and he managed to average 45 yards on four punts, including a 54-yard boot. He has kicked both of his best games against Green Bay and now he needs to continue to kick the ball and shift the field position battle.

What's Next?

The Vikings will continue their season at TCF Bank Stadium next Sunday at noon against the Carolina Panthers.

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