Audie Cole settles in at MLB, says he learned from Ravens' go-ahead TD
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Minnesota Vikings linebacker Audie Cole stretched about as much of his 6-foot-5-inch frame as he could to deflect Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's game-winning, nine-yard touchdown pass to receiver Marlon Brown.
Brown tiptoed along the back of the endzone for the game's fifth touchdown in the final 2:01 as the Ravens regained the lead with four seconds left in Sunday's win over the Vikings.
"Obviously there's stuff I could've done," Cole said. "They were well-thrown balls, but I could've been tighter on the guy, got a hand in his face."
In three starts since taking over the middle for linebacker Erin Henderson, Cole has a team-high 35 tackles - but learned the hard way on Sunday that a complete game can unravel in the closing minutes.
Cole allowed two passes to Brown in the middle on the Ravens' game-winning drive - one for 35 yards and another for the go-ahead touchdown.
"Just start off a little bit deeper," defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "Not concerned if it's a five-yard or 10-yard play, but just don't give up chunks in the final minute. The [touchdown catch] was maybe get a little deeper, you're tall but not that tall. [Cole] should've got some help from the safety. In that standpoint, between the safety and Audie [Cole], they should be able to make that play."
All of Cole's 259 career defensive snaps have come in the past four weeks - three as a starter - and the second-year linebacker has performed well enough for the coaching staff to not revert back to Henderson, who played just seven snaps on Sunday in his former position as weak-side linebacker.
Coach Leslie Frazier admitted last week that Henderson was not the Vikings' Plan-A at middle linebacker, just a result of "the plight we were in" this offseason with the position. A seventh-round draft pick (210th overall) in 2012, Cole has certainly just started his growing pains at the position - but his rare size (6-foot-5, 239 pounds) could make the adjustments that much easier for Cole.
"I kind of zone turned on the last one and could've man-turned and roll with him on the last one," Cole said. "Just have to learn from that and move on. Just basically stay deeper and tighter to the guy, I gave him a little bit of cushion."
Facing Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy on Sunday - in the Metrodome - will provide Cole his first real test against a dynamic rusher in an indoor track-meet style atmosphere.
The Ravens used a little no-huddle offense on Sunday, but that's a small sample size compared to Eagles coach Chip Kelly's fast-paced style.
"Yeah, it's going to be tough to simulate," Williams said. "What we're doing is trying to simulate the best we can in practice, to have guys off the field and on the field, the substitution part. To not necessarily worry about the type of play that we're getting, but the idea that they're coming fast at you."
So how do you prepare for that particular style of offense that also features the NFL's leading rusher?
"You can't, really," Cole said. "Just hope the scout team is giving you a good look...prepare the best you can and get it done when the game comes."