Sunday, December 11, 2016

Notebook: The Vikings hold on for a 25-16 win in Jacksonville


At times it wasn’t pretty, but the Vikings managed to pull out a much-needed victory over the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon. Daniel House takes you inside his post-game notebook for more.

Updated: December 11th, 2016 11:21am

By: Daniel House

At times it wasn’t pretty, but the Vikings managed to pull out a much-needed victory over the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon. A flurry of field goals in the first half kept the game tied at 9 heading into the locker room. The Vikings struggled to finish drives by turning the ball over on downs and fumbling inside the five-yard-line. They left at least 14 points on the field in goal-line situations. Their red zone offense continued to struggle, but their defense managed to hold the Jaguars to just 16 total points. Luckily, the offense managed to put together two touchdown drives in the second half to pick up a 25-16 win, keeping the Vikings’ playoff hopes alive for another week.

Bradford is efficient
Not many people are talking about it, but Sam Bradford is playing at a high level. He completed 24 of his 34 passes for 292 yards and a touchdown. Bradford executed on several throws down the field, including gains of 41 and 44 yards to Kyle Rudolph and Adam Thielen. He has been making the throws in the system and hasn’t made mistakes. Earlier in the game, Bradford did throw a pass to high to Diggs at the first down marker and threw behind Kyle Rudolph. However, he didn’t have many other blemishes in this game. He was particularly solid when he stepped into the pocket and extended plays. The offensive line allowed Bradford to have more time today. He wasn’t sacked and was hit just two times. Aside from T.J. Clemmings, the other offensive lineman held up relatively well in pass protection. Bradford is making good decisions and running the offense to the best of his ability.

The running game continues to struggle in short yardage
If the Vikings could have converted inside the 5-yard-line, they would have won by a wider margin. Matt Asiata was stuffed inside the 5-yard line, leading to a turnover on downs. Later in the game, Asiata reached the ball over the goal-line, but was stripped. Jacksonville recovered in the end zone and the momentum quickly shifted back in the direction of the Jags.

Not to mention, the Vikings settled for field goals far too often in the red zone. They kicked three first half field goals and squandered good field position on a frequent basis. The offensive line struggled to get a good push and the Vikings didn’t have much creativity inside the red zone. They settled for inside runs to Matt Asiata and they weren’t causing the defense to flinch. Entering the game, Jacksonville had one of the better defensive units against the run inside the 5-yard-line. However, the Vikings have continually struggled to be creative and efficient inside the red zone. Matt Asiata did have one rushing play for 21 yards, but aside from that, the running game struggled. They averaged just 2.9 yards per carry and it put a massive strain on the Minnesota offense.

Thielen has another big performance, Patterson with a big first down
Wide receiver Adam Thielen continues to be such a big threat in the Vikings’ offense. He is running fantastic routes and his release off the line of scrimmage has allowed him to gain separation from defensive backs. Thielen had four catches for 101 yards and has become one of Sam Bradford’s favorite targets. The Vikings’ passing game created some big plays up the field in this game, which is something they haven’t done for awhile. They notched big gains of 41, 44, and 45 yards, but couldn’t punch the ball in the end zone until they found the end zone twice in the second half. In addition, the Vikings were just 3-for-11 on third down, which definitely isn’t a positive statistic. The biggest third down conversion came on the final offensive drive of the game. Cordarrelle Patterson’s second effort on 3rd-and-10, gave the Vikings a first down. It led to a 3-yard touchdown by Kyle Rudolph, which extended the Minnesota lead to 25-16 with roughly two minutes to play. The Vikings haven’t created many big plays through the air like they did today and need to sustain drives in order to take advantage of those situations.

The defensive ends have a game
The Vikings’ defensive line has been heating up over the last few games and they performed well again today. Everson Griffen had two sacks, along with Brian Robison and Danielle Hunter, who each had one. The exterior pressure has allowed the pocket to collapse, forcing opposing quarterbacks to release the ball quickly or get sacked. Danielle Hunter is quietly one of the best players on the Minnesota defense. His ability to enter the game in pass rushing situations and cause havoc is so valuable. Not only that, but he can make plays against the run too.

Finally, Brian Robison has been playing very well recently. When he stands up on passing downs in the interior, he has been tough to stop. He puts a strain on the entire offensive line unit because the quarterback is forced to find a way to escape. With the defensive end play the Vikings have been receiving, it allows the defensive backs to settle into coverage and opens up more opportunities for them to make plays. The timely sacks the defensive line notched in this game were huge to keep the momentum in favor of the Vikings.

Anthony Harris fills in for Harrison Smith, Rhodes is fiesty
Safety Anthony Harris filled in for Harrison Smith and did a respectable job. He missed a tackle on a long reception by Marqise Lee, but at first glance, he appeared to hold up relatively well. He had the second-most tackles (7) and had a notable tackle short of the first down marker on 3rd-and-1. He wasn’t significantly tested over the top, but handled the coverage responsibilities to the best of his ability in this game.  

Xavier Rhodes was heated during several moments in this game. In fact, Mike Zimmer had to pull him off the field for a few plays to cool him down. During his absence, Mackensie Alexander was called for a pass interference penalty. Rhodes didn’t have his best day and he was visibly frustrated about it. He needs to maintain his composure in these situations because his absence could have been costly to the Vikings in this game.

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