Breaking down the tape from the Vikings' loss to the Chiefs
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Here's the tale of the tape from the Minnesota Vikings' 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, with grades on a scale of 0 to 5 in parentheses:
Missed opportunities continue to haunt Donovan McNabb (64 snaps), who offset two gorgeous touchdown strikes with an overthrown screen for an interception and couldn't give his receivers a single chance on the final series. He finished 18-of-30 passing (60%) for 202 yards and an 88.5 rating. Five of six uncatchable throws came on third or fourth down, including the last two plays of the game -- a comeback that one-hopped WR Bernard Berrian and a corner for TE Visanthe Shiancoe that sailed out of bounds. The other was a go ball for Berrian that drifted into the sideline. There were plenty of opportunities to hit on that play against RCB Brandon Carr, with the Chiefs playing so much single-safety coverage, and McNabb was on the money for a 34-yard touchdown to WR Devin Aromashodu. Another took WR Percy Harvin out of bounds. On third down, McNabb was 3-for-10 passing for 5 yards with the interception, a 1-yard touchdown and two throwaways. He hit fourth-down passes for 5 and 20 yards before missing Shiancoe at the end. That three teammates walked away rather than help up McNabb after he took a hard shot to the knees on a fourth-quarter sack was disconcerting. Two broken plays and three pre-snap penalties by the offense don't reflect well on the quarterback either. The Vikings just never seem to maintain a rhythm. Joe Webb (two) was a decoy receiver on a pair of bubble screens and still hasn't taken a snap at quarterback since the opener.
Running backs (2½)
HB Adrian Peterson (57 snaps) tried to do too much at times, and it's tough to blame him, considering his blocking was such a mess. The Chiefs accounted for him by playing a safety -- usually Donald Washington, who doubles as a nickel cornerback -- either in the box or on the line against a slot receiver 54 times (84.4%). Peterson had to break LOLB Justin Houston's tackle just beyond the line for his long run of 14 yards. He converted both third-down opportunities with runs of 7 and 1. He had to go down to catch the only ball thrown his way for 3 yards. His 3.5-yard average on 23 carries marked a decline for the third straight week, and he didn't touch the ball on the Vikings' last seven plays. There are diminishing returns to force-feeding any back if he has nowhere to go. HB Toby Gerhart (seven) had little chance to corral McNabb's high screen and was a nonfactor in the running game (two carries, 4 yards).
The Chiefs never figured out how to stop the end-around to Harvin (42 snaps), who took four for 67 yards (16.8 average), including a pair of 23-yarders in the fourth quarter. He got off Washington's jam and carried LCB Brandon Flowers on his ankle to finish a catch-and-run for 22. He took one of the bubble screens for 12, finished with five receptions for 42 yards and could have doubled that if he'd kept his feet in bounds on the go ball against Carr. Harvin keeps fighting as a blocker, too. No other receiver had more than one catch, but each had a key grab. Laying out for the touchdown -- McNabb's longest completion to a receiver this season -- wasn't enough to keep Aromashodu (16) on the field, but he gave coaches something to think about. Flowers had tight coverage on the shallow cross that smoked through Aromashodu's hands. Berrian (45) had a 13-yard catch wiped out by a penalty early, watched two balls sail to the sideline and wasn't seen again until he snared McNabb's bullet over the middle on fourth-and-14. Open or not, two catches is embarrassing when you've played 177 snaps. The illegal shift penalty didn't show up on tape. Michael Jenkins (35) struggled in run blocking and was targeted only once, running the goal line for a 1-yard score against Carr. Coaches pulled him off the field before the failed fourth-and-10.
Tight ends (3)
Visanthe Shiancoe (48 snaps) finally looks to be over his hamstring issues. He settled into the zone on a dig route for 14 yards, dragged for 5 on fourth-and-3, beat Washington on an out for 13 and went to the corner for 15. All six of his catches went for first downs. Another 14-yard catch was wiped out by a penalty. Shiancoe got caught leaning off motion for a false start. Backup FS Sabby Piscitelli kept him from getting a clean release on fourth-and-10. Shiancoe's run blocking always can be better, but he competes. No one had a tougher assignment than Jimmy Kleinsasser (39), who kept getting one-on-ones against ROLB Tamba Hali in protection and lost his share. Hali beat him for a sack in 2.7 seconds and used an inside move for two other hits on McNabb. It could have been much worse, given how Hali was rolling and that Kleinsasser was playing with an injured left elbow. Kleinsasser was at his best sealing the edge on those end-arounds to Harvin. He does so much that goes unnoticed. Shiancoe allowed another pressure to Hali on the Vikings' penultimate snap. The Chiefs blew coverage on the wheel Kyle Rudolph (25) turned upfield for 41. The one-handed catch in the flat was incredible even if it did lose 2 yards. Allen Reisner (one) keeps picking up scraps.
Offensive linemen (1)
No matter where Hali lined up, he found ways to cause trouble. He drew one of two holding penalties against RT Phil Loadholt (64 snaps) and closed a sack in 4.0 seconds after setting it up with a bull rush. He pressured McNabb three times and hit him once with an outside move against LT Charlie Johnson (53). Then, after Johnson injured his left triceps, Hali bulled backup LT Patrick Brown (11) for another of his 13 total QB pressures. The rest of the Chiefs defense pressured McNabb on only three other plays -- one from Piscitelli on an empty blitz against Loadholt and two by backup RDE Wallace Gilberry, who slipped past C John Sullivan (62) a little too quickly on the interception and came inside on a T-E game LG Steve Hutchinson (64) didn't pick up to force a third-down throwaway. OC Bill Musgrave gave the line protection help on 16 of 27 dropback pass plays (59.3%) on a day Kansas City rushed five or more only five times (18.5%). No one fared particularly well in the running game. Hutchinson whiffed on RILB Derrick Johnson, who dumped Peterson for a 2-yard loss and also beat RG Anthony Herrera (64) to stop Peterson for no gain on a second-and-goal dive from the 1. Johnson had a false start. Sullivan gutted it out after banging his left knee. Backup Joe Berger (two) filled in OK.
Defensive linemen (2½)
RE Jared Allen (60 snaps) was credited with two sacks, but his return to Arrowhead Stadium was far from dominant. The Chiefs chipped and doubled him plenty, giving the line help 24 times in QB Matt Cassel's 31 dropbacks (77.4%). Meanwhile, the Vikings committed to a four-man rush, blitzing on a pass play for the first time late in the third quarter and rushing five or more only five times total (16.1%). Allen split LT Branden Albert and TE Leonard Pope for one pressure early, cleaned up for coverage sacks in 5.1 and 5.4 seconds, tipped a pass -- and that was it. He kept getting turned and biting upfield in the run game. LE Brian Robison (57) got some extra attention, too. He set up Allen's first sack with an inside counter against RT Barry Richardson and totaled six QB pressures, including three by staying at home on Cassel's bootlegs. It looked like he got held twice on the final series, but no flags were thrown. UT Kevin Williams (51) had one pressure against Richardson and dropped HB Jackie Battle for a loss. He isn't himself yet, and the minimal impact of NT Remi Ayodele (19) and NT Fred Evans (12) next to him isn't helping. No way the depleted Chiefs should average 3.7 yards on 28 carries. Ayodele popped Cassel once. Evans was invisible. Neither had a tackle. When the Chiefs were trying to run out the clock, DT Letroy Guion (31) was on the field instead. He swam past RG Jon Asamoah to stop HB Dexter McCluster for loss and beat C Casey Wiegmann to set up Allen's second sack. DE Everson Griffen (13) got most of his time inside again and trashed Lilja for a sack in 2.3 seconds that was negated by a flagrant facemask penalty. That didn't stop Griffen from preening toward the sideline. He beat Lilja again on the last snap of the series and disappeared from there. DL Christian Ballard (five) mostly is just taking base end snaps now.
With his brother nursing a sore knee, WLB Erin Henderson (62 snaps) took over the mike in nickel and mostly acquitted himself well. He had six tackles (five solo), drew a holding penalty, dropped HB Thomas Jones for a loss and held his gaps in the run game, with the exception of letting Lilja seal him off on Jones' early 12-yard run. Henderson also broke up a pass, showed good instincts and reactions in zone coverage and looked quicker than MLB E.J. Henderson (44), who had five tackles (four solo) in reduced action and couldn't keep WR Steve Breaston from running the seam for 28. SLB Chad Greenway (61) had three solo tackles, overpursued on Cassel's third-down scramble for 11, got pancaked by WR Dwayne Bowe on the next play and seemed a little off after TE Jake O'Connell knocked his wind out with a crackback block. None of the blitzes got home. Something has to be done about the drag routes opponents keep running against the zone. The Chiefs hit on four of five for 46 yards (11.5 average).
Defensive backs (1½)
For the second straight week, RCB Cedric Griffin (62 snaps) was on the wrong end of the game's deciding play -- and this was a brutal one. With single-safety coverage behind him, Griffin bit on Bowe's stutter at 4 yards as he stared into the backfield, then stumbled and grabbed futilely as Bowe blew by him for a 52-yard touchdown. Missing a tackle at the 13 and getting flagged for illegal contact was just salt in the wound. Griffin also was in coverage when Breaston went for 42 on an in-breaking route, although backup SS Tyrell Johnson (six) made matters much worse by taking an awful an angle and causing a collision. Griffin took an illegal use of hands penalty earlier, too. He did break up a third-down pass over Bowe's back. LCB Antoine Winfield (62) got under FB Le'Ron McClain's lead block to drop McCluster for a 3-yard loss early, had a tough interception chance clang off his hands 11 plays later and finished with seven tackles (six solo). Bowe caught a dig for 28 against CB Chris Cook (19), who also yielded a couple of 10-yard completions and had five tackles (four solo). The Vikings played a ton of two-deep coverage that relegated FS Husain Abdullah to cleanup duty (eight tackles, seven solo). SS Jamarca Sanford (56) kept creeping into the box and then backing out, reacting slowly on run plays. He made two solo tackles, blew one on Bowe's touchdown and was all over McClain in the flat on third-and-2 in the shadow of the goal line. Johnson had one solo tackle, missed another and will be lucky if he plays defense next week the way he's going.
Chiefs PR Javier Arenas might as well have greased his uniform the way Vikings coverage players were sliding off him. Tyrell Johnson and P Chris Kluwe missed tackles on a 33-yard return early. Cook and S Eric Frampton couldn't wrap up on a 20-yarder in the third quarter. In all, Arenas averaged 23.7 yards on three returns, dropping Kluwe's average net to 30.5 yards on a day he grossed 53.3, averaged 4.45 seconds of hang time and was one favorable hop away from a touchback being downed inside the 5 instead. Arenas had less luck on two kickoff returns, averaging 18.5 yards. PK Ryan Longwell drove the other two for touchbacks, averaged 3.63 seconds of hang time and converted two extra points and a 33-yard field goal without trouble. LS Cullen Loeffler was a little off target twice, but nothing egregious. The punt team's delay of game penalty was clouded. CB Marcus Sherels returned one of two punts for 12 yards. Percy Harvin (30 yards) and HB Lorenzo Booker (25) couldn't much with the two of six kickoffs that didn't go through the end zone. LB Larry Dean had two tackles.