Saturday, September 26, 2015

Vikings vs. Chargers Preview

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The Vikings will continue their home slate as the square off with the San Diego Chargers at TCF Bank Stadium. Daniel House previews the game and provides his five keys to victory. 

Updated: September 26th, 2015 10:38pm

By: Daniel House

The Vikings are looking to continue gaining momentum after a 26-16 win over Detroit last week. It won't be an easy task as they square off with a San Diego Chargers team that has a fair share of weapons. Phillip Rivers is an efficient quarterback and has options like Keenan Allen and Malcolm Floyd in the passing game. The Vikings defense will be on their heels and must win several critical battles in this contest. Not to mention, the offense is going to need the same sense of rhythm they displayed last week. San Diego shredded Detroit in week one, but struggled to get anything going as they lost 24-19 to Cincinnati. The Vikings will need to perform well in several aspects of the game if they want to knock off the Chargers at TCF Bank Stadium.

Here are my five keys to a Vikings victory:

Putting pressure on Phillip Rivers

When Phillip Rivers has time, he is a quarterback that can carve up opposing defenses. Through the first two weeks of play, Rivers has completed over 80% of his passes. San Diego runs a massive amount of no-huddle and if the defense can't get to Rivers, he'll pick them apart. Last week, Cincinnati dominated San Diego in the interior. Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph were a big reason why the Vikings defense performed so well last week. They need to do more of the same against San Diego. Rivers isn't a major threat to extend the play, so if the interior can force him to stay in the pocket, the Chargers passing game will be impacted. If Rivers and the offense get into a rhythm, the Vikings will have a difficult time stopping them. However, if the defense can disrupt the flow, they'll control the ball, while keeping San Diego's offense off balance.

Handling the screen pass

According to Pro Football Focus, no team has accumulated more yardage (171) off screen passes than the Chargers offense. It will be important for the Vikings defense to handle Danny Woodhead out of the backfield. He has been a threat via screen passes and can do great work in space. The Vikings linebackers need to make open field tackles, while covering ground from sideline to sideline. Screen passes are another way San Diego gets their offense rolling. If they can consistently gain yardage off these plays and convert on third down, they'll wear down the Vikings defense. Not to mention,  Melvin Gordon is a player that will need to be handled in the running game. If both of these areas are executed well, the defense can have a performance similar to last week's.

Protecting Bridgewater is important

The offensive line needs to show that last week's solid performance wasn't a mirage. The Chargers like to run many pre-snap stunts and will consistently blitz off the edge/interior gaps. Communication will be a key among all the players on the Vikings offensive line. Brandon Fusco suffered a concussion and his status is in doubt for the game. If he can't play, Jeremiah Sirles will likely start against his former team. Even with this change, the offensive line needs to keep the pocket clean for Teddy Bridgewater. When he can step in the pocket and make throws, he is a totally different quarterback. Handling movement with stunts is challenging and the offensive line will need to show they can pick up all their assignments.

Using the running game to establish the pass

Last week, Adrian Peterson set the tone and ran the ball extremely well throughout the game. Peterson carried the ball 29 times, while gaining 192 yards on the ground and through the air. The Chargers have allowed the 12th-most total rushing yards through two games and Giovanni Bernard had great success against them in week two. Running the ball well on the ground opens up the passing game in this offense. If Peterson can get off to a good start, the play action can be used to set up the vertical throw. When you have a rhythm through the air and on the ground, the offense can move down the field and control the time of possession. I mean in case you didn't already know via Twitter, Peterson set the single-game rushing yard record last time the Chargers came to Minnesota.

Special teams play can be the difference

Last week, Blair Walsh made each of his field goal attempts, but missed one extra point. There hasn't been one game where there hasn't been a falter from him. This game has the chance to be very close and a missed kick could be the difference. Also, all the special teams units need to continue performing well. Marcus Sherels made some great plays as a returner and on the coverage team. Winning in all three phases of the game is critical in this league. For the most part that hasn't been an issue this year, but Walsh's inconsistencies have certainly put a damper on the entire package.

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