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' 40-14 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday, with grades on a scale of 0 to 5 in parentheses:
Balky arm and all, Brett Favre (22 snaps) was on the money early, completing 5 of 7 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Then Bears DE Corey Wootton cleaned his clock, and both Favre and the Vikings were finished. That Favre played at all -- not to mention played well -- with a painful shoulder, a tingly hand and no practice time was remarkable. A 23-yard touchdown to WR Percy Harvin came off a one-step option route behind a designed running play. A tipped-ball interception wasn't really Favre's fault, although he had to know DE Henry Melton might flash into the screen lane -- Chicago ran those stunts on third down all day. Rookie Joe Webb (43) gave himself two options in relief: hit his first read or run. The Bears intercepted him twice and sacked him three times, including two with extra-man pressures DC Rod Marinelli sent on eight of 34 dropbacks (23.5%). Webb's 57.7% completion rate jumped with a bunch of a late checkdowns in front of soft coverage. Of his 15 completions, only one was an "explosive" gain of 16 yards or more -- and that was pure improv on a floater to WR Greg Camarillo for 18 that took 7.3 seconds to develop. He followed it up by throwing late on a slant and nearly getting Camarillo decapitated. Webb is nothing if not mobile. He was at his best on six scrambles for 38 yards (6.3 average), including a 13-yard pylon dash off a naked bootleg. He showed he can take a punch when FS Major Wright stuck a helmet in his jaw, too. But it's going to take a lot of work for Webb to diagnose coverages, adjust protections at the line and throw to spots at the level needed to succeed in the NFL. It won't happen this season, that's for sure.
Running backs (2½)
HB Toby Gerhart (49 snaps) pinballed for 68 yards on 12 carries (5.7 average) before things got out of hand and the Vikings went one-dimensional. More impressive, 54 of those first-half yards (79.4%) came after contact. Gerhart bounced off DE Julius Peppers at the line to gain 9 on third-and-1. He broke S Chris Harris' arm tackle for 21. He finished with 77 yards on 16 carries (4.8 average) and three catches for 18. Getting stripped by SLB Nick Roach off a shovel pass marred Gerhart's day, though -- that's three lost fumbles in 97 touches (3.1%) this season. HB Lorenzo Booker (17) played mostly in garbage time, got flattened on a blitz pickup and coughed up the ball on backup WLB Brian Iwuh's hit after one of his two catches for 14 yards. Twice, Booker chased down Bears players after interceptions. That hustle's worth something. FB Naufahu Tahi (14) let CB Charles Tillman submarine him on third-and-1, forcing Gerhart to leap too early and get stuffed over the top by Harris.
The 23-yard touchdown was all Harvin (36), who caught Favre's quick pass, left Bears CB D.J. Moore flat-footed and broke two tackles before carrying Peppers across the goal line. He's just so good in space. Twenty-one of Harvin's snaps (58.3%) came from the slot in three-wide sets, and Webb put him in a lot of tough spots by throwing late on in-breaking routes. Wright laid the biggest lick on a square in, but Harvin held on for the last of five catches for a team-high 72 yards. He dropped two others and had a false start. The Vikings debuted a Wildcat formation with Harvin taking a direct snap, too, but it went nowhere. Sidney Rice (47) just looked frustrated. The best he could do on three "go" balls was flail his way to a bogus pass interference call, and he finished with all of 23 yards on two receptions. Was Bernard Berrian really on the field for 50 snaps? Webb threw him three balls; two were intercepted and the third could have been, too. It might be time to just go with Camarillo (19), who wanted no part of that late slant into double-coverage. Hank Baskett (nine) turned too late on what looked like a stick route and ended up an interception for Tillman. No surprise, considering no one had thrown Baskett's way since Sept. 26.
Tight ends (2½)
This seems to be the pattern for Visanthe Shiancoe (49 snaps) -- an early penalty (holding), an invisible first half (one catch for 11 yards) and a final line (six catches for 41 yards) that looks a little better because of checkdown cheapies in the desperation offense. Coaches did try to manufacture some touches for him with a screen and routes into the flats, but it didn't make much difference. Shiancoe struggled in run blocking, too -- although it's tough to fault a 250-pound, receive-first tight end too much for getting overpowered when matched against the Bears' stout ends. He could have been nailed for holding at least two other times. Jimmy Kleinsasser (25) did a lot of pass blocking and mostly held up well as the Vikings helped the line on 16 of 40 dropbacks (40%). Not many tight ends can handle DE Israel Idonije one play and run a slant from the slot for a 6-yard gain the next. Jeff Dugan (nine) just worked the backside cutoff game and was OK.
Offensive linemen (½)
LT Bryant McKinnie picked a bad time for a breakdown against Wootton, who got off McKinnie's punch outside and smashed Favre to the turf in 2.7 seconds. It might be the hit that ends Favre's career; it definitely was the one that erased the Vikings' slim chances in this game. McKinnie only gave up on other QB pressure, and that was to the Pro Bowl pass rusher Peppers, who played 36 of his 50 snaps (72%) on McKinnie's side. The split was even in the teams' first meeting on Nov. 14. RT Phil Loadholt gave up another pressure to Peppers and five total, one of them yielding a holding penalty. There also were signficant problems inside, where C John Sullivan and RG Ryan Cook endured brutal days. Sullivan airmailed one shotgun snap over Favre's head, put another into Webb's shins before anyone was set, nearly bounced a third and couldn't move DT Anthony Adams in the run game. Cook gave up four total pressures, including sacks to spinning DT Matt Toeaina in 2.5 seconds and Idonije on a stunt in 3.1. He also had a hand in two runs for loss and false started on third-and-4. Rookie LG Chris DeGeare actually was the best of the interior trio, showing a little more fight than in his first two starts. He still looks slow to the second level, though, and can be beat backside with power. Time to put out the "Help Wanted" sign.
Defensive linemen (2)
Just as they had at Soldier Field, the Vikings put a fair amount of heat on QB Jay Cutler, whose mobility and quick release nonetheless kept the Bears' offense chugging. LE Ray Edwards (52 snaps) had six total QB pressures and the Vikings' only sack against RT J'Marcus Webb, despite appearing somewhat gimpy on his sprained ankle. RE Jared Allen (61) managed only two hits and three total pressures against struggling LT Frank Omiyale, who needed surprisingly little help to snap Allen's six-game sack streak. The Bears did utilize some designed movement to roll Cutler away from Allen's side and chipped or kept in an extra blocker on 12 of 21 dropbacks (57.1%), while the Vikings blitzed only six times (28.6%). But three sacks over two games is an unacceptable number against a Chicago protection unit that has hemorrhaged 48 this season (3.4 per game). Allen also was among the group that failed to finish on HB Matt Forte's bizarre 14-yard backpedal, which boosted the Bears' average to a still-paltry 3.2 per carry. UT Kevin Williams (59) pressured Cutler twice, nearly forced an interception by batting a pass at the line, consistently held up against double teams and dropped HB Garrett Wolfe for a 5-yard loss. Williams played a little recklessly, though, drawing one flag for a helmet-to-helmet hit and another for a late hit that ricocheted Cutler's helmet into Edwards'. He'll probably pay for those. NT Pat Williams (41) got blown out by a couple of doubles and actually did his best work chasing plays down the line. DT Letroy Guion (15) got off C Olin Kreutz to hit Cutler and DL Brian Robison (13) got a free run off the edge to force a third-down misfire. DT Fred Evans (10) reminded coaches why he hasn't been active lately. Rookie DE Everson Griffen tried to enter for the final kneeldown, but Allen waved him off.
A week after one of his worst games, MLB E.J. Henderson (56 snaps) seemed to be playing with a purpose. He got in on eight tackles, including five solo and two impressive stops for loss. He also got fooled once on an option slant, allowing WR Earl Bennett to leak behind him for 23 yards. And though Henderson's coverage was good when Cutler went back to WR Rashied Davis on the identical play, the pass was so perfect he never saw it slip over his left shoulder for a 9-yard touchdown. Henderson and SLB Chad Greenway (62) each got free on a blitz to hit Cutler; they also missed two tackles each. Greenway has been decidedly pedestrian of late, at least compared to his excellent start. WLB Ben Leber (37) had a chance to give the Vikings possession on a short field early, but a would-be interception went through his arms. Near-misses like that are daggers for a team that needs something to get excited about. Backup MLB Jasper Brinkley (two) filled in when Henderson left with a sprained finger and powered through TE Brandon Manumaleuna's lead to muddle a fourth-down run that failed. OLB Erin Henderson (two) played in the goal-line defense.
Defensive backs (1½)
If the Vikings weren't so depleted at safety, this performance might have earned a trip to the bench for FS Madieu Williams (27 snaps), who ended up there anyway with a concussion after Forte ran over him on consecutive plays. Three missed tackles in less than two quarters weren't even Williams' worst offense. His angle and inability to locate the ball on WR Johnny Knox's 67-yard touchdown catch continued a downright disturbing pattern of unawareness for a player who's expected to be the back end's traffic cop. Replacement S Eric Frampton (32) almost immediately gave up a 32-yard touchdown to WR Devin Aromashodu -- it was called back by offsetting penalties -- but had no other glaring errors. SS Husain Abdullah got in on seven tackles (six solo) and missed another. One of CB Antoine Winfield's slot blitzes led to a short-armed throw and an easy interception for CB Asher Allen, who gave up completions on the other four balls thrown at him for 32 yards. Winfield probably could have reacted better on the 23-yard option throw to Bennett. He had two solo tackles and didn't allow a completion in three man-up chances. CB Frank Walker (16 snaps) gave up a 15-yard touchdown on a slant to WR Devin Hester, broke up another at the goal line for Knox and remains the superior nickel option to CB Lito Sheppard (13), who slipped and never got a reroute on Knox's long touchdown.
Hester's two big returns in a 3-minute span to open the second half turned this one into a runaway. PK Ryan Longwell's kickoff hung 3.5 seconds and bounced at the 17-yard line before Hester scooped it up, followed blocks that wiped out Sheppard and Asher Allen at the edge and raced 79 yards until Brinkley somehow caught up. P Chris Kluwe hasn't had many worse punts than a 34-yarder that hung only 3.3 to the numbers. Brinkley overran the play, Greenway whiffed on a dive, Walker got doubled and Erin Henderson was washed all the way into the bench area, giving Hester a freeway escort up the sideline for a 64-yard score. Kluwe otherwise was fine, driving four of his other five punts well out of bounds to finish with averages of 32.7 gross, 21.5 net and 3.8 hang. Longwell hit two extra points and didn't have a field-goal opportunity. LS Cullen Loeffler was steady as usual. Booker got a surprise nod over Harvin on kick returns and might have gone the distance on one of his eight chances (19.6 average, 49 long) if he hadn't tripped over the 50-yard line. Camarillo gained 6 yards on his only punt return.