Breaking down the tape from the Vikings' loss to the Dolphins
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Here's the tale of the tape from the Minnesota Vikings' 14-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, with grades on a scale of 0 to 5 in parentheses.
The blame has to be spread around for Brett Favre's numbers (three interceptions, one lost fumble, 44.3 passer rating), but the veteran once again scuffled with his accuracy and decision-making despite mostly serviceable protection. He threw one interception on a back-shoulder play for WR Bernard Berrian when his primary read, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, was uncovered on a stick route. He threw another interception on an underthrown post into double-coverage for Berrian, who's not built to win jump balls. An early interception WR Percy Harvin dropped wasn't Favre's fault. He baited and trapped the Dolphins into four penalties, completed several throws after buying time with movement and made multiple positive line checks, including to the power-left run RB Adrian Peterson took for 18 yards in the fourth quarter. But Favre also held the ball forever on a key third-down sack and misfired on his final three passes, two of them with rushers in his face. He says he has confidence in his wide receivers but completed only four balls to them over the final three quarters. If there's a positive in his performance through two weeks, it's that Favre seems to be moving OK on his bad ankle.
Running backs (4)
HB Adrian Peterson (65 snaps) reminded everyone why he's among the NFL's greatest weapons. He turned negative plays into 23- and 8-yard gains by breaking tackles in the backfield. He also had runs of 15, 13, 12 and 18 yards, plus a reception for 16, accounting for six of the Vikings' 11 "explosive" plays on his way to 186 combined yards on 33 touches. Peterson's 1-yard touchdown run was all second effort, too. He might have been too impatient on a second-down sweep in the failed goal-line series, but he didn't have much to work with on the fourth-down stretch play. Peterson's pass-blocking has progressed to the point the Vikings deactivated HB Albert Young in favor of rookie HB Toby Gerhart (nine), who didn't play at all on third down. Gerhart ran four times for 10 yards and appeared to make a bad decision cutting back a power run when the edge was sealed. A game plan heavy on three-wide and extra-tight looks meant FB Naufahu Tahi (11) barely saw the field. ILB Tim Dobbins shoved off Tahi and hit Favre low on the first interception -- perhaps lowering the trajectory enough for DT Tony McDaniel to tip it at the line.
Harvin (28 snaps) caught five passes for 32 yards in the first quarter, didn't catch another and never looked fully functional on his balky hip. He got drilled by CB Benny Sapp on a bubble screen, backed up the opening drive with a false start on second-and-3, couldn't outrun CBs Sean Smith and Vontae Davis after catches and aided Favre's first interception by losing his balance, then kicking the ball into Davis' hands. Good on Harvin for coming back for the final three series on one good leg, but the Vikings have to be careful with one of their top playmakers, too. Berrian (66) might have had a touchdown if he'd planted his feet instead of spinning out of bounds after his only downfield catch, a back-shoulder throw for 20 yards. The same throw came his way six plays later at the goal line and Berrian tried to go to the corner, leading to a pick. In all, half the balls Favre threw Berrian's way were intercepted -- a third was wiped out by an offside call -- and only two completed, including a 4-yarder late off a fake spike. Without a speed threat on the opposite side, defenses can roll single-safety coverage to Berrian's side all day and not worry about getting burned. He's responding by looking for flags instead of getting his nose dirty. Lewis (44) whiffed on two blocks early, had a false start and came up with one big third-down catch in traffic to keep alive the final drive. Camarillo (34) played a lot more against his old team and was practically invisible, catching the only ball thrown his way for 3 yards.
Tight ends (2½)
The Dolphins tried to beat up Visanthe Shiancoe (58 snaps) at the line all day and he still had team highs in targets (nine), catches (six) and receiving yards (86) -- including "explosive" gains of 18, 33 and 19 yards and a sensational third-down catch on a bad Favre pass. Letting WLB Cameron Wake blow by him for a strip-sack that turned into a Dolphins touchdown was a bad mistake, though. Shiancoe also got beat on a couple of run blocks and couldn't shake Smith off the line on the game's final play. Backups Jimmy Kleinsasser (36) and Jeff Dugan (16) were slow off the ball on the failed fourth-and-goal play; LB Quentin Moses worked back Kleinsasser and Dugan ran into Kleinsasser's back, cutting off Peterson's path to the pylon. Kleinsasser was OK overall and wiggled free for a 20-yard reception. Dugan gave up a QB hit.
Offensive linemen (2½)
RT Phil Loadholt had his hands full with Wake, who rode his speed move to 1½ sacks and five unofficial pressures. That included a half-sack on a play RG Anthony Herrera also was beaten by RE Randy Starks and the strip-sack-score, on which Loadholt needed to help once Dobbins dropped. Loadholt also was flagged for holding Wake -- his third penalty in two games -- and got worked back by McDaniel on the fourth-and-goal run. C John Sullivan simply couldn't move huge NT Paul Soliai, but he held his ground better as the game went on. LG Steve Hutchinson was excellent in the running game with two notable lapses: a whiff on LB Karlos Dansby, leading to a Peterson run for minus-1, and a poor finish against ILB Bobby Carpenter, who forced fourth-and-goal by standing up Peterson at the goal line. Hutchinson also got walked back on the Vikings' final play by McDaniel and was flagged for a false start that could have been called on LT Bryant McKinnie, who had a tremenous day in pass protection until Moses beat him outside and hit Favre on the game's penultimate play. McKinnie always can finish better in the running game. The Vikings averaged 9.9 yards on seven power runs behind Herrera, who kept drilling people in the hole and is at his best with a head of steam. The combo block by Herrera and Sullivan on DE Kendall Langford was too loose on fourth-and-goal, preventing Herrera from getting to Dansby, who made the tackle. Ryan Cook played his only snap on that play in the jumbo package.
Defensive linemen (3)
RE Jared Allen (48 snaps) ended up with a sack and two quarterback hits, but he never beat Pro Bowl LT Jake Long off a first move. The sack came after LE Ray Edwards (46 snaps) beat RT Vernon Carey, forcing QB Chad Henne to step up, and the other hit was off a counter move as Henne left the pocket. Long's block also helped spring RB Ronnie Brown's 51-yard run from the goal line. The Dolphins helped the line with chips or extra-man protection on 13 of 19 dropbacks (68.4%), while the Vikings chose to play coverage, rushing more than four only four times (21.1%). UT Kevin Williams (47) got the other sack, had three pressures and batted down Henne's final pass. NT Pat Williams (35) made of the day's biggest plays by getting to the perimeter and stripping RB Ronnie Brown in the fourth quarter. He also drew a holding call and was typically disruptive in the run game. Limited defensive snaps meant less action for backups Letroy Guion (eight), Fred Evans (seven), Jayme Mitchell (three) and Brian Robison (three). Only Guion did much, penetrating on one running play and recording a solo tackle.
SLB Chad Greenway (49 snaps) was unusually up and down. He once again led the Vikings in tackles with eight, including four solo and two for loss. But he also kept getting owned by bruising FB Lousaka Polite in the hole -- worst on Brown's long run, which came with both safeties on the opposite side of the field -- and took a holding penalty on TE Anthony Fasano that helped Miami escape its own goal line. MLB E.J. Henderson (49) was in on both turnovers, stripping RB Ricky Williams in the third quarter and falling on Brown's in the fourth. Erin Henderson (12) fell on the former to set up the Vikings' lone touchdown and dumped Brown for no gain after replacing WLB Ben Leber (22), who missed two tackles before leaving with a lower-back injury.
Defensive backs (3)
The Dolphins played so much base, Wildcat and extra-tight offense the Vikings played only 16 snaps of nickel (32.7%), but it didn't take long to expose No. 3 CB Lito Sheppard, who on the first possession gave up WR Brandon Marshall's 46-yard reception and got caught peeking on WR Brian Hartline's 5-yard touchdown. Henne only threw Sheppard's direction one more time, and that ball came out so late Sheppard almost intercepted it at the sideline. RCB Asher Allen (49 snaps) played the right side exclusively this time, with Sheppard bumping LCB Antoine Winfield (49 snaps) into the slot in nickel. Miami used presnap motion to get Allen chasing and had him beat on an early first-and-goal that Henne misfired for Marshall. Winfield had all three passes thrown in his direction completed, for 23 yards. There wasn't a lot of action for any of them with Miami running on 28 of 48 snaps (58.3%). FS Madieu Williams (48) made a sensational diving stop of Ricky Williams and finished with five tackles. A personal foul for helmet-to-helmet contact was dumb and will cost him some cash. SS Husain Abdullah (49) got a late jump on Hartline's 19-yard catch against zone coverage.
PK Ryan Longwell hit a 28-yard field goal, an extra point and a 3-yards-deep kickoff that went for his first touchback. All three of his kickoffs hung 3.8 or 3.9 seconds; one was fielded at the 2 and one at the 10, the latter giving Miami possession at the 29. P Chris Kluwe booted a 38-yard duck that hung 3.7 seconds and a 50-yarder that hung 4.9 and could have been downed inside the 5. Berrian may have banished himself permanently from punt returns with a second muff in as many games. Camarillo took over, fumbled on one of his two returns (for 14 yards) and got lucky two Dolphins botched the recovery. Harvin got 22 on each of his kickoff returns. Robison ran into P Brandon Fields and could have been called for roughing.