Sunday, December 14, 2014

Notebook: Vikings waste opportunities, lose 16-14

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The Vikings wasted plenty of opportunities in a 16-14 loss to Detroit, but Daniel House tells you why the growth from this team was more important. 

Updated: December 14th, 2014 7:35pm

By: Daniel House

The Vikings wasted plenty of opportunities and were unable grab the game out of the grasp of the Detroit Lions. Minnesota jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, but the Lions quickly marched back after registering two interceptions. They scored 10 points off of turnovers and that was definitely the difference in the game. A blocked field goal and a missed try from 53 yards out proved to be critical mistakes when you evaluate the full scope of work. The Lions didn't dominate the Vikings up front and they certainly didn't make enough plays to win the game. Turnover differential and the inability to execute in certain situations plagued the Vikings today. Minnesota played a very good team on the road with injuries to four key starters. The fact that they had a chance to win is very encouraging. They need to learn how to win within the division and more importantly, finish games. All of this is to be expected with a young squad and it appears the organization is heading in the right direction.

Bridgewater efficient, yet inconsistent

Teddy Bridgewater finished the day 31-for-41 with 315 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. He was very efficient in the first half, until he threw two interceptions that slowly turned the tide of the game and allowed Detroit to creep back into the game. Bridgewater only had one critical overthrow on an out pattern intended for Jarius Wright. He continues to struggle throwing this pass over 20+ yards down the field, but he is showing flashes of ability to fix the issue. You have to like his poise and command, but he still needs more time to grow in certain aspects of the game. This will all come with time and the mistakes that he made today will rise above the plays he made in between some of those poor decisions. Just remain calm.

Asiata redeems himself

Matt Asiata continues to get the tough yards and he redeemed himself after a lackluster performance last week. He carried the ball 11 times for 36 yards, but the more impressive aspect of his game came through the air. Asiata hauled in seven catches for 50 yards and the tough yards he gained through these plays was very impressive. He runs with a head of steam to gain every yard he can possibly stretch out of the defense. His fight and determination are what make him the player he is. He may not have insane athletic ability, but he can battle for yards. He saw the majority of the snaps today and you can tell the coaching staff has vested an immense amount of trust in Asiata at running back.

Johnson and Jennings continue to perform well

Charles Johnson hauled in five catches for 72 yards, including a 50-yard reception late in the first half. He continues to show he has the ability to get open in the second level of the defense. Johnson runs fluid routes to gain great separation from the secondary. He did add one drop, but he continues to make the plays necessary to be a successful wide receiver. The same can be said for Greg Jennings, who has caught three touchdowns in his last four contests. He is becoming a threat in the red zone and he added an insane circus catch in the first half. Finally, Cordarelle Patterson saw some action and added three catches after Jarius Wright left with an injury. He notched two catches for 16 yards and was bumped on a play that may have had some extra contact. He didn't see a big amount of action, but he was heavily used when he did.

Offensive Line performs better than anticipated 

The offensive line played much better than anticipated and only allowed four sacks. Two of which were the result of Teddy Bridgewater holding the ball too long. Otherwise, they did an impressive job of not allowing the Lions defensive line to control the game. The pocket still isn't perfectly clean, but it isn't expected with this patchwork offensive line. They weren't the reason the Vikings lost the game and if it wasn't for a few penalties, this group would have performed even better. Hats off to the offensive line for stepping up and playing better.

Defensive Line doesn't pressure well

The Vikings did not sack Matthew Stafford in this game, but they were able to apply some pressures and quarterback hits that kept him honest in the pocket. The Vikings weren't getting great leverage in the middle, but the pressure off the edge continues to be impressive. It wasn't to the point of being dominating, but the pocket was collapsed enough to force Stafford to make split second decisions. He only passed for 153 yards and he didn't have any big runs outside of the pocket. I would like to see this group reach the quarterback more, but they ultimately played well enough to win the game.

Johnson held relatively quiet

The Vikings secondary managed to hold Calvin Johnson to 53 yards receiving on just six total targets.   They were shadowing Johnson with Xavier Rhodes and he continues to live up to the hype over the last four weeks of play. Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson didn't allow any explosive plays and the scores the Lions had were with a short field. The defensive backs continue to grow every week and the plays they are able to make in space are starting to add up. Their physicality held the Lions wide receivers in check and Matthew Stafford only threw for 153 yards. All of this was done without a sack from the Vikings defensive line, as well.

Sendejo flys all over the field

Andrew Sendejo is making the most of his chance to see action next to Harrison Smith. He registered six tackles and was flying all over the field to make plays. Smith and Sendejo are a solid pair in run support and their ability to be physical really adds a nice flair to the backend of the defense. He left for a portion of the game with a thumb injury, but he returned and made an impact in the Vikings secondary. It will be interesting to see if he witnesses more time when Robert Blanton returns from injury.

Walsh continues to struggle 

Blair Walsh continues to be puzzling and after missing three kicks today, the concerns continue to mount. He missed two tries last week and today, there were no excuses for struggles in a dome environment. Walsh missed from 53 yards and his low kick from 26 yards out was blocked. In addition, he tried a long 68-yard attempt and came up short. There is no indication Walsh is injured, but he needs to snap out of his funk. Today, the six points that he missed were the difference in the contest.

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