Breaking down the tape from the Vikings' loss to the Lions
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Here's the tale of the tape from the Minnesota Vikings' 26-23 overtime loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday, with grades on a scale of 0 to 5 in parentheses:
Donovan McNabb (67 snaps) doesn't bear full responsibility for a third straight offensive collapse, but his inaccuracy in the pocket and inability to generate explosive plays downfield sure didn't help. He threw 10 uncatchable passes, plus several others that were late or in spots that forced open receivers to go to the ground. He finished 22-of-36 passing for 211 yards, a touchdown and an 86.7 passer rating but seemed to sleepwalk through the second half until the Lions took the lead. McNabb did turn a one-hop shotgun snap into an 8-yard touchdown by waiting just long enough for TE Visante Shiancoe to clear himself in the end zone. He bailed out a struggling line once by scrambling on third-and-8 but also took four sacks. Taking an additional five hits is a rough day at the office, especially when one leaves McNabb shaking his throwing hand in pain. That doesn't excuse 1-for-6 passing on third downs after halftime, the only completion leaving the Vikings to attempt a doomed conversion on fourth-and-1. McNabb's longest completion was 24 yards on a day Detroit dropped a safety in the box 35 times (52.2%). Benching McNabb won't cure the Vikings' ills, but letting him play out his one-year contract won't help them win many games either if he can't do better than this -- and recently history strongly suggests he can't. Third-stringer Joe Webb (one) was split wide as a decoy on a running play.
Running backs (3)
Take away the gap error that freed HB Adrian Peterson (59 snaps) for a 43-yard gain on the opening series, and he averaged 2.2 yards on 16 carries, including five for 5 yards after halftime. That won't cut it for a Vikings offense that can't do much of anything else -- not even exploit the single-safety coverage Peterson's presence is yielding on most first and second downs. Penalties wiped out runs of 29 and 14 yards. Peterson caught four passes for 19 yards (4.8 average) and dropped another. He actually had some of his best moments in pass protection, beginning when he dumped MLB Stephen Tulloch on the opening series. The Lions had to know something was up when HB Toby Gerhart (six) played his first snap at fullback in the fourth quarter. He didn't have much choice but to cut back into unblocked RE Kyle Vanden Bosch when the frontside B-gap caved on fourth-and-1. Gerhart gained 2 yards on his only other carry and caught one pass for 5 yards. Peterson just isn't ceding many snaps.
What's the point of giving 73.1% of the split-end work to Bernard Berrian (49 snaps)? His one dominant trait (vertical speed) has diminished, he doesn't compete physically for the football and McNabb seems skittish about throwing in his direction (four targets, no catches). Berrian did have a step on CB Chris Houston late in regulation, but the throw drifted out of bounds. OLB DeAndre Levy walked him back on a Peterson run that lost 4. When Michael Jenkins (48) looked to lateral to him on the Vikings' last play, Berrian was 5 yards too far upfield. Maybe it's time to take a longer look at Devin Aromashodu (12), who isn't afraid of 50/50 balls and caught a drag for 5 on one of two targets. Jenkins just kept running slants and stick routes and caught of nine of 11 passes thrown his way for 88 yards (9.8 average). A holding penalty wasn't entirely his fault -- the play was supposed to go the other way before blocking broke down, leaving Jenkins hooked around what ended up being SS Amari Spievey's outside shoulder. Percy Harvin (38) dropped a bubble screen that might have gone for a touchdown, took the same play for 21 yards later and finished with 88 yards on five touches (three catches, two runs, 17.6 average) before a shot to the gut left him throwing up on the sideline for the final 5 minutes and overtime. He was on the field for all but 13 snaps (74.5%) before dropping out -- and that still might not be enough, given the impact it makes when he's on the field.
Tight ends (2)
Rookie Kyle Rudolph (33 snaps) will keep getting more chances if he catches the ball like this. He snared an out for 13 and a pass to the flat for 6 on the first touchdown drive, then saved another errant McNabb pass with a whirling grab for 20 up the seam late. Ten of Rudolph's snaps came detached from the formation and four more in the backfield. He'll stay there until he improves as a blocker. He was part of a blown third-down protection early, and DT Corey Williams beat him to the inside on the failed fourth-and-1. The 8-yard touchdown was the only catch for Shiancoe (55), who often had the safety down on his side and only was targeted twice. He's struggling to get movement in the running game, too, and spinning FS Louis Delmas by the jersey wiped out Peterson's 29-yard run. Even Jimmy Kleinsasser (33) didn't block particularly well after Tulloch popped him in the hole on the opening series. Kleinsasser played 10 "F" snaps in the backfield. McNabb missed him twice up the seam. Allen Reisner (one) is a special teamer for now.
Offensive linemen (1)
RG Anthony Herrera had a tough matchup against DT Ndamukong Suh and seemed to wear down the more snaps he played. Herrera gave up nine total QB pressures, including a sack in 2.8 seconds when McNabb had to step up into Suh's bull rush. He got turned by Suh on fourth-and-1, too, ruining the play at one of the game's pivotal moments. But Herrera was far from the only problem on a day the protection unit hemorrhaged pressure on 20 of 42 pass plays (47.6%). Speed rushes kept beating LT Charlie Johnson and RT Phil Loadholt, who let McNabb get sandwiched on two of the sacks. Johnson gave up four total QB pressures, wasn't anything special in the run game and took two penalties (false start, illegal formation). Loadholt gave up 10 QB pressures -- mostly to Vanden Bosch, who embarrassed him with a bull rush early and later whipped him for a strip-sack in 2.6 seconds. The Lions did it all while rushing five or more only 10 times in McNabb's 38 dropbacks (26.3%), while the Vikings countered with at least one extra blocker 16 times (41.0%). Williams brought LG Steve Hutchinson to his knees on a zone run early and also drew a holding penalty, but the veteran otherwise rose to the challenge. Look no further than the way Hutchinson sealed the hole against DT Sammie Hill on Peterson's 6-yard touchdown run. C John Sullivan has to do something about his shotgun snaps. The one-hopper McNabb turned into a touchdown could have cost the Vikings points with the clock ticking and no timeouts. Sullivan's run blocking is OK when he can focus on slipping to the second level instead of moving a big man over the nose.
Defensive linemen (3½)
Has RE Jared Allen (71 snaps) ever played better than this? He torched LT Jeff Backus for sacks in 2.1 and 2.0 seconds, came free for a strip-sack off a T-E game in 2.5 and finished with six total QB pressures. No wonder Backus false started twice as the Metrodome rocked in the fourth quarter. Allen also was unrelenting in the run game and had a right to be upset some teammates weren't keeping up. He couldn't blame LE Brian Robison (64), who benched RT Gosder Cherilus with a sack in 2.5 seconds, beat backup RT Corey Hilliard with an inside counter for another sack in 2.4 and had eight total QB pressures. The Lions countered with a short passing game, and QB Matthew Stafford released the ball in an average of 2.14 seconds during the second-half comeback, holding on more than 3 seconds only twice in 29 passes (6.9%). DE Everson Griffen (24) added three QB pressures, played 10 snaps as a standup linebacker in the new 3-3 concept subpackages and had a neutral-zone infraction. So much for easing in UT Kevin Williams (61) after his layoff. He had a couple of QB pressures, made two solo tackles, got turned on RB Keiland Williams' early third-and-1 plunge, never saw the fumble Allen forced and took an encroachment penalty. At least someone inside will penetrate now. DT Letroy Guion (35), NT Remi Ayodele (12) and DT Fred Evans (nine) all saw reduced snaps and failed to get in on a tackle, but they held their ground well enough as Detroit averaged 1.1 yards on 19 carries -- none longer than 5. Guion flushed Stafford on one of the TD passes. DT Christian Ballard (six) took a couple of snaps at end.
Win or lose, SLB Chad Greenway (71 snaps) never quits. He got in on eight tackles (five solo), spilled several other runs to the edge, saved the Vikings from playing third-and-6 with only 10 men by calling timeout and generated pressure with three of his seven blitzes, landing at Stafford's feet after running over HB Jahvid Best on the Lions' final play. Greenway also beat two blocks to trip TE Brandon Pettigrew on one screen but couldn't avoid C Dominic Raiola on the one Best took for 60. The horse-collar penalty was a tough one to swallow. MLB E.J. Henderson (67) came off the field in the rarely used dime defense and still hasn't looked quite as explosive since his bad knee swelled. He drew a holding penalty on LG Rob Sims, was in on 10 tackles (seven solo) got tripped up on Best's big screen and was the closest man in coverage on Pettigrew's catches of 10, 14, 10 and 27 yards. No question, the word is out about attacking the middle when the Vikings back off in zone. Henderson only blitzed twice as DC Fred Pagac rushed five or more nine times in Stafford's 49 dropbacks (18.4%). SLB Erin Henderson (nine) barely got on the field because the Vikings played 62 snaps in subpackages (87.3%). He had a solo tackle and disturbed another run while he was in there.
Defensive backs (2)
WR Calvin Johnson finally took over in the second half (six catches, 101 yards), but it would be tough to heap substantial blame on the corners. The Vikings played sides throughout, with No. 3 CB Chris Cook (62 snaps) drawing the primary assignment because Johnson lines up wide right more often than not. They also mixed in some Cover-3, and Johnson beat Cook downfield only once -- boxing him out on a jump ball for a 32-yard touchdown that sparked the rally. Cook broke up two other passes, made a sure tackle on third-and-goal and kept Best from scoring on the screen. CB Cedric Griffin (71) leaped to break up a go ball for WR Titus Young, gave up slants to Young for 22 and 17 and couldn't keep Johnson from getting off the jam on third-and-4. SS Husain Abdullah (71) doubled a 4-yard out to TE Tony Scheffler instead of helping Griffin on the 40-yard dagger in overtime, but that's a spectacular adjustment by Johnson to haul it in at the sideline. The Lions used motion to get CB Antoine Winfield (71) out of the slot against their screens. He still got a piece of seven tackles (five solo) and dropped deep a little bit in what looked like a quarters concept. CB Asher Allen (five) played in the dime and wasn't a factor. Abdullah kept coming up to cover slot receivers and was quiet with three tackles (two solo). SS Jamarca Sanford (63) got most of the work ahead of SS Tyrell Johnson (eight), was caught peeking on Johnson's 5-yard touchdown and got in on five tackles (two solo) to Johnson's two (one solo).
CB Marcus Sherels walks on the edge sometimes, but he's proving more explosive on punt returns than the Vikings could have dreamed. Sherels caught the first punt with his fingertips, fair-caught another on his own 4-yard line and might have erred by trying to return P Ryan Donahue's moonshot out of a backpedal at the end of regulation. He also made two Lions miss on a 15-yard return early, stiff-armed the punter on a 53-yarder that set up the touchdown before the half and made a great play off of CB Brandon McDonald's block as a coverage gunner. HB Lorenzo Booker picked up key blocks from Gerhart, LB Kenny Onatolu and Ballard on his 68-yard kickoff return and averaged 37.7 yards on three. Harvin had returns of 25 and 22 before dropping out. Onatolu's cheap shot on LB Justin Durant after Sherels' return was a huge mistake, given the situation. Asher Allen (holding) and Aromashodu (running out of bounds) had penalties, too. Tyrell Johnson could have been called for another, but his last push on WR Maurice Stovall helped spring Sherels. Maybe he needed to prove something, because Johnson seemed to be everywhere on special teams. PK Ryan Longwell had plenty of leg on a 49-yard field goal. He also hit from 41 and 33, converted two extra points and averaged 3.74 yards of hangtime on the five kickoffs he booted away, with two touchbacks. P Chris Kluwe grossed 44.5, netted 38.3 and averaged 4.48 seconds of hang time on four punts. He also took a grenade to drive out WR Stefan Logan after a 20-yard return and rescued a rare high snap from LS Cullen Loeffler on an extra point.