Breaking down the tape from the Vikings' loss to the Packers
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Here's the tale of the tape from the Minnesota Vikings' 31-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, with grades on a scale of 0 to 5 in parentheses:
Brett Favre's second-quarter interception set the stage for the meltdown. Packers CB Tramon Williams baited Favre into the slant Williams knew was coming and beat WR Percy Harvin to the spot, yielding a perhaps 14-point swing before halftime. When Favre returned from the locker room, he was simply awful -- throwing off-target on seven of his last 17 throws, including three on third downs and two more on fourth. Losing two receivers to injuries for most of the game didn't help the rhythm in the passing game, nor did 15 QB pressures. Favre took only one sack, which is a credit to how well he continues to slide in the pocket on that fractured heel. He had five "explosive" completions of 29, 20, 19, 17 and 16 yards. But Favre's lacking accuracy was striking down the stretch, producing another brutal line (44.7% completions, 208 yards, 51.2 passer rating). He was 4-of-14 (28.6%) against the blitz. He also got WR Greg Lewis drilled by throwing an ill-advised option on a run play. After 2½ games in which Favre seemed rejuvenated, his last six quarters once again are suggesting he's finished. He didn't do himself any favors by blowing off OC Darrell Bevell on the sideline after the interception, making lame pleas to officials for flags, taking the penultimate snap with 10 men on the field and refusing to say he was committed to finishing the season in his postgame media conference. In tough situations, leaders have to rise above the fray. On this day, Favre failed.
Running backs (2)
HB Adrian Peterson (45 snaps) was relatively efficient (5.2-yard average), but the Vikings' catch-up offense gave him only three carries after halftime and 14 total. Peterson cut back a zone-left play for 25 yards early, got good blocking on a screen for 16, turned the corner for 15 on third-and-1 and fought through DE Cullen Jenkins to gain 11 and another first down on an isolation play. Peterson dropped one pass; two others in his direction were way off the mark. He stayed in to block plenty on a day the Packers rushed five or more on 15 of 36 dropbacks (41.7%); two weak blitz pickups yielded hits on Favre. Getting stripped by CB Charles Woodson ruined the day for rookie HB Toby Gerhart (13) and was the first big error in a game the Vikings were leading in the second quarter. An impressive catch-and-run for 19 earlier notwithstanding, Gerhart will have a tough time getting on the field when the ball keeps coming out. After a bad day in Chicago, FB Naufahu Tahi (13) was back to leading well. He showed a little burst on a flat catch for 10, too.
Another early exit by Bernard Berrian (eight snaps) meant a position change and an extended debut for Sidney Rice (51), who led the Vikings with 56 yards on three receptions -- a slant for 17, a sprawling catch on a cross for 19 and a wide-open corner for 20 off a naked bootleg. The timing appeared off on a series of perimeter routes, and three inaccurate passes among 10 targets went to spots the fully repped 2009 version of Rice might have been. An illegal shift against Rice backed up a red-zone possession, but the violation couldn't be spotted on tape. Twice he went to the ground to avoid taking a hit. Rice mostly played the "X" after Berrian and Lewis (24) dropped out. What was the point of trusting Berrian to do anything when his groin is so fragile? Lewis returned late but managed only one catch after he beat CB Sam Shield's awful coverage on a pump-and-go for 29. He had a damaging red-zone drop in the same series. Percy Harvin (44) never stops fighting -- the tackle he broke against Woodson late to take a doomed quick out for 9 was something else -- but he struggled to get involved, catching only two of five passes thrown his way for 12 yards. There have to be more ways to utilize him in the backfield, such as the zone-right run that went for 16. Greg Camarillo (38) took an in for 17 and again set a standard with his blocking. A 15-yard penalty for rolling into ILB A.J. Hawk's legs while chasing an interception return looked borderline.
Tight ends (2)
Visanthe Shiancoe (35) was invisible in the passing game, catching an out for 6 yards and a screen for nothing when no one got out to block. Favre airmailed one seam route in his direction early and that was it. No wonder Shiancoe was so despondent in the locker room. Jimmy Kleinsasser (14) was OK in limited work and Jeff Dugan (seven) didn't even play after halftime as the Vikings employed only 14 extra-tight sets in 59 offensive snaps (23.7%). Talk about a nondescript day for this group.
Offensive linemen (1½)
RT Phil Loadholt had a tougher time in his rematch with Pro Bowl LOLB Clay Matthews and company -- allowing a sack, two other QB hits and five total pressures. Loadholt was slow to react to one of DC Dom Capers' base pressures on the opening series, allowing Matthews to slip inside and chase down Favre for a cheapie. Matthews beat him twice more for pressures and drew one of two penalties against Loadholt, who should know he can't get away with outright mugging at the point. Another false start at home was just ridiculous. LT Bryant McKinnie fared better on the other side, allowing one hit to Jenkins and a power pressure to ROLB Frank Zombo that caused a third-down swing pass to come out soft. That play probably wasn't going anywhere regardless. McKinnie always seems to have a couple of lackadaisical plays in the running game. RG Anthony Herrera lasted only seven plays before blowing out his left knee while pulling on a power-left play that lost 2 yards. He'd opened with two bad snaps against NT B.J. Raji, who dropped Peterson for no gain and got his hands in Favre's face on an incompletion, but also stuck the combo block with C John Sullivan that wiped out two Packers and sprung Peterson for 25. Sullivan and Herrera's replacement, Ryan Cook, weren't nearly as effective together in the run game. They combined to allow one pressure and Cook allowed two more, including a hit to Matthews on a bull rush. Sullivan's ankle-high snap aborted a play in desperation time. LG Steve Hutchinson gave up one pressure to Raji but held up well overall.
Defensive linemen (2½)
LE Ray Edwards (43 snaps) had two sacks and RE Jared Allen (48 snaps) had another, but this was far from the dominant pass-rushing effort several veteran defenders made it seem after the game. Allen and Edwards each ended up with three total pressures, rookie DE Everson Griffen (17) beat LT Chad Clifton with a nifty spin move to get a hit -- and that was it on a day DC Leslie Frazier sent at least one extra rusher on 12 of QB Aaron Rodgers' 31 dropbacks (38.8%). The Packers answered with chips or extra blockers 14 times (45.2%). Rodgers escaped pocket several times, scrambling for one 15-yard gain and extending one touchdown drive with completions in 5.8 and 5.5 seconds -- the latter on an 11-yard touchdown to WR Greg Jennings. Allen's sack was 6-second trash, though as usual, he deserves credit for hustle. No explosive gains and a 2.5-yard average on 26 carries by HBs Brandon Jackson and Dimitri Nance is to the credit of DTs Kevin Williams (44), Jimmy Kennedy (29) and Pat Williams (20), who held their ground for the most part against a tough Packers interior led by RG Josh Sitton. Kennedy was particularly impressive, getting down the line to make two stops and at one point beating C Scott Wells and Sitton into the backfield on consecutive run plays. The Vikings still can't find a combination to generate pass-rush pressure inside. DL Brian Robison (29) got most of his work outside and was invisible until garbage time. DT Letroy Guion (29) was outmuscled all day.
SLB Chad Greenway (50 snaps) didn't seem to have his usual juice after getting poked in his right eye early. He was credited with only six tackles (five solo), missed two more, got nowhere on his blitzes and gave up three completions for 37 yards. MLB E.J. Henderson (49) had a chance to man up against Nance on third-and-1 and lost that battle. None of his blitzes got home either. WLB Ben Leber (28) took some snaps off Greenway and Henderson in the nickel defense, came free on a blitz that set up Edwards' first sack and lined up once in a three-point stance as an interior rusher out of the 3-3 nickel package. OLB Heath Farwell (13) got three snaps early in Greenway's place and wrapped the final series alongside OLB Kenny Onatolu (nine) and MLB Jasper Brinkley (10), who blew up FB Quinn Johnson's lead to drop Nance for a 4-yard loss on the final play. That probably wasn't the right time to high-step off the field, though.
Defensive backs (0)
This was nothing short of disaster. SS Husain Abdullah (65 snaps) got things started by dropping an interception at the goal line, then losing Jennings in the end zone on the next play for an 11-yard touchdown. Rookie CB Chris Cook (33) gave up five completions for 78 yards -- including a go to Jennings for 47 and a 3-yard TD to WR James Jones on a fade -- before getting benched at halftime. And that brought on Asher Allen (59), whose dreadful whiff on Jennings' 46-yard catch-and-spin score was only one low point in a day he also allowed a 22-yard score to Jennings on a go among five catches for 88 yards in seven targets. All day, Rodgers sought out Cook and Allen, throwing go routes when they pressed and backside options when they played off. It led to a heated sideline confrontation between Edwards and Cook, who made matters worse by firing back profanities at the veteran, and Allen had teammates throwing up their hands again when he sat behind the marker and let WR Jordy Nelson run through him for a first down on the final series. CB Frank Walker (14) gave up an 8-yard completion to WR Donald Driver on the only ball thrown his direction. At least CB Antoine Winfield (55) is still playing -- his breakup on a third-down slant to Driver is a faint memory of the group's downright serviceable first 1½ quarters. FS Madieu Williams (55) missed a tackle on Jackson in the backfield, got doubled-juked in space on Jennings' second score and was nowhere to be found over the top on the third. What else is new? SS Tyrell Johnson (10) took the last series and missed one of two chances for a stop.
Kleinsasser's holding penalty was obvious -- he hooked CB Jarrett Bush at the edge -- and wiped out a 51-yard field goal PK Ryan Longwell made easily. Longwell was good from 24 yards for the Vikings' only points, and two kickoffs hung 3.7 and 3.9 seconds, respectively, with a 15-yard average on the returns. P Chris Kluwe hit one lemon that hung 3.5 yards and traveled only 36 yards in the air, but he got a good roll and finished with averages of 41.6 gross, 39.4 net and 4.14 hang. Overall, the coverage units performed well after two rough weeks. Harvin nearly got out of the gate on the opening return, but S Atari Bigby chopped him down. He finished with a 17.3-yard average as the Packers repeatedly pooched away from him; Dugan fielded two of them. Camarillo fair-caught three punts, watched one sail out of bounds and let the other bounce before grabbing it and diving for 5 yards.