Breaking down the tape from the Vikings' win over the Cardinals
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Here's the tale of the tape from the Minnesota Vikings' 34-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, with grades on a scale of 0 to 5 in parentheses:
What's left to say about Donovan McNabb (63 snaps)? He skipped his first pass. He nearly threw interceptions on his next two. He finished 10-of-21 for 169 yards, including 60 on a catch-and-run wobbler to WR Devin Aromashodu when backup S Rashad Johnson faceplanted. A screen pass and two throws to the flat came up preposterously short, bringing boos from the stands and questions from at least one teammate on the sideline. There appeared to be miscommunication on another throw that sailed wide. McNabb had to burn a timeout early when no one seemed to have any idea how to line up. He did have a 4-yard touchdown walk and went vintage on a 21-yard completion to Aromashodu after breaking ROLB Joey Porter's grasp. But it said a lot the Vikings only ran one play over the final 1 minute, 12 seconds of the first half, despite reaching the Arizona 48. McNabb still isn't making any plays down the field, and now, coaches apparently don't even trust him to try.
Running backs (4)
There were plenty of holes early for HB Adrian Peterson (49 snaps), who doesn't need much of one to get started. He juked, stiff-armed and ran over Cardinals defensive backs on his first-quarter touchdown runs of 4, 24 and 14 yards, respectively. He had five runs of 11 yards or more by halftime and finished with 122 yards on 29 carries (4.2 average). Seven of his 10 carries for 1 yard or less came in the second half as Arizona fired one run blitz after another. Peterson lined up a little too wide on the broken play in the end zone. He missed LB Daryl Washington on the sack just before the half, although that protection was a mess in general. It might not have been the smartest idea to give Peterson the ball six times straight with a 24-point lead and less than 7 minutes to play. Do coaches really have that little faith in the ball security of HB Toby Gerhart (12)? He got fewer touches (two carries for 9 yards) than HB Lorenzo Booker (four), who took a reverse for 25 yards, shook ILB Paris Lenon for a 10-yard reception on third-and-12 and read his blocks well on a screen for 15. Not bad for a guy who hadn't played a down in three weeks. FB Ryan D'Imperio (18) stuck Lenon on Peterson's second TD, inexplicably drew double coverage on Aromashodu's long catch and came up thin on several lead blocks in his NFL debut. At least he seems to know where he's going now.
Even when Percy Harvin (40 snaps) barely touches the ball, he can make a difference. Look no further than how he turned around FS Kerry Rhodes on Peterson's first TD and kept his hands on SS Adrian Wilson all the way to the end zone on Peterson's second. Harvin's hustle alone was worth a game ball, even if one block aggravated his longstanding rib problem. His only touches gained 12 yards on a shotgun sweep and 11 on a catch in front of RCB Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals kept rotating and revealing coverage when Harvin went in motion, too, although they were pretty consistent in sticking a safety into the box (48 times in 61 non-kneeldown snaps, 78.7%) and playing off on the edges. Aromashodu (35) came back for the 21-yard catch against LCB A.J. Jefferson and showed some straightline speed while turning the edge on the 60-yarder. The out that went through his hands against Peterson is one Aromashodu needs to catch if he wants to keep Bernard Berrian on the bench. His blocking can be better, too. Ditto Michael Jenkins (45), who caught a team-high passes for 32 yards, drew a 36-yard pass interference penalty on a play-action post against Peterson and let nickel CB Richard Marshall elbow out the ball on a fumble that ended the Vikings' opening drive of the second half. Greg Camarillo (six) was active for the first time since the opener and got trashed by Wilson on a run that lost 2 yards.
Tight ends (3)
Visanthe Shiancoe (56 snaps) had a right to be frustrated with McNabb's short-range accuracy. He was open on three targets in the right flat and only got a catchable ball once, although he had to spin back for that one before accelerating to a 20-yard gain. Two other passes for Shiancoe were tipped and another yielded a pass-interference call against Marshall. False start and holding penalties on first downs didn't help. Shiancoe's blocking was as good as it has been all year. Jimmy Kleinsasser (30) was solid in a typically diverse role -- 11 snaps in the backfield, 19 inline. He drove Porter back on Peterson's first touchdown, absolutely wiped LOLB Clark Haggans on the Booker reverse and drew a holding penalty for throwing Porter to the ground on an end around to Harvin. The more accurate call would have been "being too strong." The Cardinals did stonewall Kleinsasser on a couple of lead blocks. Rookie Kyle Rudolph (19) only was detached from the formation twice and wasn't targeted. His blocking is the main thing keeping him off the field.
Offensive linemen (3½)
Hands down, this was the line's best game so far in both phases. It also was a bounce-back performance for RT Phil Loadholt, who didn't allow a QB pressure and was as effective in the run game as he has been in two years. The Vikings need more of this from him. RG Anthony Herrera brought the attitude, kept setting tight combination blocks with C John Sullivan and got enough of Johnson to spring Booker on the reverse. DT Darnell Dockett got enough push against Herrera to tip McNabb's first pass and ignite the boos. Sullivan got NT Dan Williams to the ground on Peterson's last TD and otherwise was mostly invisible -- which is a good thing, given his practice time was limited by a sore ankle. He's quietly coming into his own. LG Steve Hutchinson was slow off the ball on a first-and-goal play that went nowhere, got knocked down by Peterson on a play-action pass and generally was just OK. He finds himself off balance a lot. LT Charlie Johnson gave up two QB pressures, which isn't a bad day's work against DE Calais Campbell. The Cardinals rushed five or more nine times in McNabb's 18 dropbacks (50%), and only one blitzer got home. At times, the Arizona line seemed content just playing the passing lanes, which they did with some success. The Vikings kept an extra man or two in protection 10 times (55.6%). Seven other pass plays were bootlegs, sprint-outs or one-step screens set up by success on the ground.
Defensive linemen (4½)
Week after week, RE Jared Allen (63 snaps) and LE Brian Robison (62) find ways to top themselves. Allen beat LT Levi Brown for sacks in 3.0 and 2.5 seconds, torched Brown outside for another hit and finished with seven total pressures on QB Kevin Kolb. He also batted a pass, made his presence felt in the run game and recovered the fumble forced by Robison, who stripped Kolb in 2.6 seconds, got a cleanup sack in 3.8 and totaled seven pressures against fill-in RT Jeremy Bridges. Not even 24 chips and extra-man protection calls in 55 dropbacks (43.6%) or injuries could hold down Allen (poked in eye) and Robison (abdominal strain). The illegal use of hands penalty on Bridges that wiped out WR Early Doucet's 11-yard touchdown catch was a product of Robison's speed rush, too. Look out, Chicago. It didn't show in the box score, but UT Kevin Williams (60) kept getting just enough push to disrupt the Cardinals' ground game, which generated only 67 yards on 22 carries by running backs (3.0 average). He finished with one solo tackle, a batted pass and three QB pressures. Versatility is bringing more opportunities for DL Everson Griffen (42), who worked inside and outside as a nickel rusher, tipped the pass that turned into the Vikings' first interception and got pressure against LG Daryn Colledge on one of three standup rushes. He's showing progress against the run, too. DT Letroy Guion (32) got trapped inside by C Lyle Sendlein on HB Beanie Wells' 2-yard TD run and defeated RG Rex Hadnot to set up a rare solo tackle for NT Remi Ayodele (20), who isn't playing as stoutly as advertised. NT Fred Evans (19) mostly anchored OK. DL Christian Ballard (14) played end in garbage time, drew a holding penalty on third-string RT D'Anthony Batiste, hit backup QB Richard Bartel's arm to force an incompletion and was flagged for a neutral zone infraction that also could have been called on Guion.
The Vikings only sent more than four rushers 12 times in 55 dropbacks (21.8%). Three of those looked like green dogs from WLB Erin Henderson (61 snaps), who once again took all the nickel mike snaps. He scuffled some in zone coverage -- losing track of WR Andre Roberts on an 11-yard completion early, getting caught peeking on a third-down out to TE Rob Housler for 7, losing Housler again on a fourth-down hookup for 13 -- and let Wells run through his arms on the TD. Henderson otherwise was strong against the run, firing inside Bridges to stop Wells for a 1-yard loss. He got home on four of his blitzes. It will be interesting to see if and when the Vikings re-expand the role of his brother, MLB E.J. Henderson (22), who barely played but nonetheless was in on four tackles (three solo) with the base defense. He plays downhill and scrapes so well, but can he hold up in coverage on that knee? SLB Chad Greenway (78) stuck Wells on a third-and-3 sweep, tipped a pass, had a QB pressure, made an incredible tackle from the ground after Brown trapped him on a run play and cleaned up on a fourth-and-1 draw for one of his nine solo tackles. He got a fingertip on the jump ball to WR Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone, too. Intercepting the ball that fluttered between him and E.J. Henderson would have a nice capper. Not that it's his fault, but Greenway should have used a timeout when he realized the Vikings had 10 men on the field for the second time in four plays. Instead, he tried to cover two men and Kolb hit Roberts for 13 on third-and-11.
Defensive backs (4)
Give CB Asher Allen (58 snaps) a ton of credit for not only holding up in CB Antoine Winfield's absence, but making a game-changing play within the first 6 minutes. In zone coverage on first-and-10 when Griffen got a piece of Kolb's throw to Roberts on a curl, Allen broke on the ball and made a sprawling interception -- the Vikings' first take-away in nearly 10 quarters. Allen also made a fantastic read from the slot to trip up Wells on fourth-and-1 and mostly held up well in coverage, although Doucet crossed him for 14 yards on third-and-7 and Housler had him beat up the seam before notching one of Arizona's four drops. Allen missed one tackle late. He's clearly best suited to the slot but started at right cornerback in place of RCB Cedric Griffin (75), who sat out the first series for disciplinary reasons, forced a Wells fumble that bounced out of bounds and got his helmet blown off when Wells drilled him to finish a 9-yard run. Fitzgerald's 22-yard catch on a back-shoulder throw down the sideline would be a tough one for any corner to stop. But having size on the outside with Griffin and CB Chris Cook (78) gave the Vikings confidence to beat up Fitzgerald at the line all day, force him to reroute and make Kolb go to other reads against mostly Cover-2. It worked -- Fitzgerald finished with only four catches for 66 yards on eight targets. Cook sank underneath to break one throw to the corner and didn't cede a completion longer than 7 yards all day. Marcus Sherels (17) wasn't a liability in his first NFL action on defense, mostly in the dime package, and got home on his lone slot blitz. Good for SS Jamarca Sanford (50) getting those interceptions, but they were gift-wrapped overthrows from quarterbacks in desperation mode. He was quiet otherwise, getting in on two tackles (one solo) while mostly playing deep zones alongside FS Husain Abdullah (78), who dropped Wells for a 3-yard loss on a run blitz and finished with five tackles (four solo). SS Tyrell Johnson (28) got two series and inexplicably abandoned the middle third as Housler streaked for a would-be 22-yard touchdown Kolb overthrew. What's the point?
The snap and hold looked OK on the 43-yard field goal attempt PK Ryan Longwell hooked well left. It didn't make a difference, though, and Longwell drilled a 53-yarder for good measure late. He also hit from 26, converted four extra-point attempts and had two touchbacks in seven kickoffs that averaged 3.56 seconds of hang time. All but one landed at least 5 yards deep in the end zone. LaRod Stephens-Howling averaged 23.0 yards on five returns, with a long of 31. P Chris Kluwe's hamstring held up fine as he grossed and netted 47.5 on four punts, with a long of 51, two downed inside the 20, an average hang time of 4.88 seconds and no returns. Sherels is playing with no fear on punt returns. He got a good block from LB Larry Dean on his early 23-yarder and juked Stephens-Howling to go for 22 on his next chance. Booker had a 28-yard kick return and probably shouldn't have brought out the other from 5 yards deep. The play took too long to develop and he got dumped at the 10. S Eric Frampton had two special-teams tackles.