Breaking down the tape from the Vikings' loss to the Bears
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Here's the tale of the tape from the Minnesota Vikings' 39-10 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, with grades on a scale of 0 to 5 in parentheses:
On paper, this was an efficient performance from Donovan McNabb (43 snaps), who completed 19 of 24 passes (79.2%) for 177 yards and a 97.4 rating without a turnover. But there were more signs than ever coaches don't trust McNabb to make a play when it counts -- and with good reason. Going fetal in his own end zone was nothing short of gutless. Two of his incompletions came up short and another should have been intercepted by blitzing CB D.J. Moore. Three completions forced receivers to go the ground and several others made them break stride -- none more glaring than a seam throw WR Bernard Berrian might have taken for an 83-yard touchdown if it were on the mark. Instead, it was a 30-yard gain, which still ranks as his second-longest in the air this season. On a day the Bears sold out to stop the run, dropping down a safety 36 times (54.5%), McNabb's only other "explosive" completion of 16 yards or more was an underthrown jump ball TE Kyle Rudolph rescued against SS Major Wright for 18. On third-and-4 at the Chicago 16, the Vikings opted to run a one-read sweep to Joe Webb (three), whose Blazer package remains a waste. On the final play of the first half, the Vikings opted to run a draw play from their 40-yard line. In McNabb's 10 drives, the Vikings failed to get a first down seven times and scored a touchdown only once, thanks to a short field set up by a turnover. One of five sacks was on McNabb for holding the ball too long. The offense just looked faster under rookie Christian Ponder (21), whose knack for feeling pressure and extending plays with his feet is encouraging, especially given the Bears' surprising choice to blitz him six times in a 29-point game. He completed passes of 20 and 23 yards, had an 8-yard scramble, generated five first downs in two drives and was off target six times in 17 pass attempts, including nine completions (52.9%) for 99 yards and a 70.5 passer rating. No doubt, Ponder has a long way to go. But McNabb is just about finished.
Running backs (2)
There wasn't much movement up front to help HB Adrian Peterson (48 snaps), who gained only 16 yards on eight carries in the first half and 39 yards on 12 carries (3.3 average) for the game. Juking MLB Brian Urlacher to finish an 8-yard power toss on third-and-2 was as good as it got. The biggest hole he had was on the 4-yard touchdown. A couple of times, Peterson might have been better off waiting for the front side to open instead of cutting back into the extra man. His only reception went for no gain. Peterson's pass protection was solid again, although he could have done better once DT Stephen Paea slipped through on the safety. HB Toby Gerhart (15) gained 3 yards on his only carry and 7 on two receptions. So much for creating mismatches with HB Lorenzo Booker (three), who lost 3 yards on the draw and didn't touch the ball again. FB Ryan D'Imperio (14) did some nice things leading on WLB Lance Briggs. SLB Nick Roach beat him for a hit on McNabb. Later, D'Imperio chipped LE Israel Idonije to the ground.
Maybe it's the sore rib, but Percy Harvin (29 snaps) is back to being a part-time player again. He had a team-high seven receptions for 78 yards (11.1 average) in nine targets and gained 5 yards on a counter run out of the inverted wishbone. It's just not the same offense when he's on the bench for 56.1% of the snaps. Berrian (39) rebounded from his early third-and-5 drop and played his best game, catching five passes -- three more than he had in 177 previous snaps -- for 54 yards. He had RCB Charles Tillman beat on the 30-yard completion McNabb threw behind him and mugged up Tillman on Peterson's touchdown. Michael Jenkins (46) made a tough catch for 10 on a comeback route, struggled to get out in pattern at times and finished with four receptions for 45 yards (11.3 average). His false start on fourth-and-3 couldn't have come at a worse time. Devin Aromashodu (21) was mostly invisible, playing primarily in the Vikings' three-tight end sets. He probably could have caught the out Ponder threw high and behind him. The 23-yard slant Ponder threaded on third-and-10 late was the first catch for Greg Camarillo (eight) since January.
Tight ends (2)
Visanthe Shiancoe (48) can run every route, but he's sure doing a lot of his work in the flats. He finished with five catches for 45 yards, couldn't handle another McNabb gunned high on third-and-7 early and blocked OK. Chances seem to be increasing for Rudolph (40), who outjumped Wright for the 18-yard catch, went down to catch one in the flat for 2 and still isn't finishing on blocks inline. He's better off with a head start on backside cutoffs. Jimmy Kleinsasser (18) barely saw the field as the Vikings played catchup in the second half. He caught one pass for four yards, got eight of his snaps in the backfield and seemed less stout than usual on his lead blocks. Maybe the elbow is giving him trouble.
Offensive linemen (½)
For all of the progress C John Sullivan (36 snaps) showed in recent weeks, he really got shoved around -- along with just about everyone else in this group. Time and again, NT Anthony Adams held his ground against combo blocks inside. Paea got a piece of the safety after shooting past Sullivan, who always seemed a step behind on screens and sweeps that went nowhere. His day ended when RG Anthony Herrera (66) blocked Briggs into him, yielding a concussion and bringing Joe Berger (30) off the bench for his most extended action. Berger generally was OK but struggled to slide to the second level. Ponder saved one high shotgun snap. Herrera gave up four QB pressures, couldn't get to Tillman on a screen that lost 6 and let Idonije get off on the draw that lost 3. RT Phil Loadholt (33) played the best of the group, although DE Julius Peppers beat him outside to hit McNabb on one of 11 snaps Peppers played on that side. Once Loadholt departed with a knee bruise, Peppers played almost all of his snaps -- 41 of 54 (75.9%) for the game -- against LT Charlie Johnson (66), who got worse as the day went along. Peppers beat him inside for a sack in 2.7 seconds. Two plays later, DT Amobi Okoye came free off a T-E game for a sack in 3.2 seconds. In all, Johnson gave up six QB pressures and had all sorts of trouble in the run game, too. For someone built like a guard, his lower body's just not all that powerful. LG Steve Hutchinson (66) easily slipped off to Urlacher on Peterson's touchdown, took a holding penalty against Paea and had a hand in two QB pressures. OT Patrick Brown (33) replaced Loadholt, gave up a sack to Idonije outside in 2.8 seconds and was flagged for holding. The Bears rushed five or more rushers 16 times in 43 dropbacks (37.2%), while the Vikings kept in extra protection 24 times (55.8%).
Defensive linemen (1½)
RE Jared Allen (54 snaps) made the type of play the Vikings needed to turn the tide, but it wasn't nearly enough. The strip-sack and recovery were pure hustle, with Allen getting off LT J'Marcus Webb's block to knock the ball loose in 3.6 seconds. Allen only got one other lick on QB Jay Cutler, showing increasing desperation as the Bears frustrated him and LE Brian Robison (51) with persistent chips and double teams. In Cutler's 32 dropbacks, the Bears used five-man protection only 10 times (31.3%). The Vikings mostly rushed four (24 times, 75%) and pressured Cutler 11 times, although several of those came after the play was extended. Robison had a hit and a pressure on consecutive plays against RT Lance Louis, but that was it for his pass rush. His best play was taking down HB Matt Forte for no gain on a swing pass after dropping in coverage. Each end had three solo tackles. UT Kevin Williams (52) had five QB pressures but kept getting out of his gap in the run game -- a problem for the whole group as the Bears rushed for 119 yards on 28 carries (4.3 average). Lowering his helmet into Cutler's out of frustration will cost Williams on his next paycheck. NT Remi Ayodele (22) got washed way too often, but never as badly as DT Letroy Guion (29) did against RG Chris Spencer on Forte's 3-yard touchdown. What happened to the Guion who made so many plays in the preseason? DT Fred Evans (13) had a solo tackle and a pressure against Spencer. DL Everson Griffen (12) hit Cutler once in a reduced role. DL Christian Ballard (10) mostly played end in garbage time and had a solo tackle.
MLB E.J. Henderson (55 snaps) sure looked slow in space as he returned to a full-time role. He finished with five tackles (four solo), missed three and didn't get enough depth on the 13-yard touchdown Cutler fired over his head to WR Dane Sanzenbacher. Henderson played better in the second half -- deflecting a pass, saving a touchdown by tripping up Forte and dropping Forte again for a 2-yard loss on a power run. He also was in zone coverage on a seam throw to TE Kellen Davis for 24 and stumbled on a third-and-5 checkdown to Forte that gained 10. WLB Erin Henderson (28) played half as much, forced a fumble, kept shedding blocks and made eight solo tackles. It might be time to at least split the nickel to get little brother on the field. SLB Chad Greenway (55) got home on one of his five blitzes, had eight tackles (seven solo), got wiped by FB Tyler Clutts on Forte's run for 16 and penetrated to stop HB Marion Barber for no gain on second-and-goal. OLBs Larry Dean (six) and Kenny Onatolu (five) played defense for the first time on the final series.
Defensive backs (1)
FS Husain Abdullah (61 snaps) wasn't in position to undercut a dig route to WR Roy Williams for 17, then botched his Cover-1 assignment on Devin Hester's 48-yard touchdown. It was downhill from there. Abdullah missed opportunities to create turnovers on the next two series, rolling over a fumble as he skidded out of bounds and getting only one foot in bounds as he carried a would-be interception through the back of the end zone. He finished with five solo tackles. RCB Cedric Griffin (61) wasn't much better. He had outside coverage on the Williams and Hester catches, didn't break on a 14-yard out to WR Johnny Knox from Cover-3 and wasn't even close in man coverage on a third-and-13 cross to Hester for 23. It's tough to tell whether his reconstructed knees have sapped his explosion or he's just being lazy. LCB Chris Cook (59) missed two snaps after a hard fall in the end zone but covered well again. His tackling seems to be improving, too. Can coaches justify taking him off the field in favor of Griffin when Antoine Winfield returns? Nickel CB Asher Allen (34) was the closest man in zone on a cross to Knox for 17, covered the slot well on several slants and missed two tackles, the latter with a chance to stop Forte after a checkdown on third-and-5. CB Marcus Sherels (two) handled the slot while Cook was out. SS Jamarca Sanford (36) got in on three tackles (two solo) and missed one on Forte's 16-yard run. He couldn't break up the Sanzenbacher touchdown or the seam throw to Davis, the latter of which left him with a concussion when he tried to throw a shoulder. Tyrell Johnson (25) replaced him and had a tough chance for an interception ricochet past him.
The Vikings had success squibbing two kickoffs earlier, so why did they choose a high-leverage moment -- immediately after Allen's strip-sack set up their lone touchdown -- to give Hester a chance? PK Ryan Longwell's boot hung 3.7 seconds to the inside of the left hashes. Griffen got doubled past the play, Dean missed at the 25, Longwell spun out at the 35 and Hester was gone. Hester's 27-yard punt return minutes later was just salt in the wound. Longwell hit a 37-yard field goal and an extra point but hooked a 38-yarder wide left. P Chris Kluwe's five punts grossed 37.2 yards, netted 31.8 and averaged 3.88 seconds of hang time. LS Cullen Loeffler's snap was low on the punt that hung only 3.0 seconds and traveled 28 yards before getting a favorable hop. Sherels' latest puzzling fair catch at the 5 set up the safety. He caught another running out of bounds at the 9. Booker (25.0) and Harvin (23.7 average) each got three kick returns. S Eric Frampton had two special-teams tackles.