Breaking down the tape of the Vikings' loss to the Jets
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Here's the tale of the tape from the Minnesota Vikings' 29-20 loss to the New York Jets on Monday, with grades on a scale of 0 to 5 in parentheses:
Three gorgeous second-half touchdown passes couldn't make up for Brett Favre's failings before and after. Over the Vikings' first nine drives, Favre was 3-of-8 passing for 31 yards, lost two fumbles that set up Jets field goals and threw incomplete four times in as many third-down passes. In the fourth quarter, he misfired on consecutive passes to kill one drive, then overthrew wide-open WR Percy Harvin one play before gift-wrapping a pick-six for CB Dwight Lowery that sealed the decision with 1 minute, 30 seconds to go. Favre doesn't appear to be hurting for distance -- one of four deep balls that missed WR Randy Moss traveled 58 yards in the air -- but it's worth wondering if elbow tendinitis is harming his precision. Two of four sacks were on him for holding the ball. He forced a pass into double-coverage on a two-point conversion instead of throwing immediately to FB Naufahu Tahi. The difference in Favre's body language before and after his 37-yard touchdown strike to Moss was remarkable -- he seems to need a big play to get him excited to be on the field. His decision to spend an entire injury timeout chatting up old Jets teammates couldn't have played well in the huddle.
Running backs (2½)
Explosive runs of 15 and 30 yards helped HB Adrian Peterson (59 snaps) to a 4.9-yard average on 18 attempts. Twice he kept his legs moving and carried tacklers to get a first down. He also turned a dump over the middle into a 20-yard gain. There were a few times Peterson seemed impatient behind his blocks, he dropped one pass and he got Favre drilled by whiffing on S Jim Leonhard's blitz. He's better blocking against strength than speed. Tahi (13) didn't block CB Drew Coleman's slot blitz, leading to a drive-killing sack early. HB Toby Gerhart (six) bounced off a tackler to gain 6 yards on one of his two carries and dropped the only pass thrown his way. The third-down blocking troubles make it worth wondering if HB Albert Young should get another shot.
Randy Moss played 53 snaps and had 10 balls thrown his way even though wasn't involved in red-zone packages five days after arriving via trade. The touchdown was vintage Moss, complete with single-motion push-off and catch against CB Antonio Cromartie, who shadowed him all night with mostly press coverage. Moss' illegal completion to Favre on the opening gimmick play was designed to go to TE Visanthe Shiancoe up the seam. Harvin (53) got the better of hobbled CB Darrelle Revis on his 34-yard TD grab, and his acrobatic 11-yard score on a corner against Leonhard was the catch of the year so far. Harvin also took a bubble screen for 19 and beat Lowery on a cross for 22 on third-and-12. Coaches just have to keep designing ways to get the ball in his hands. Greg Lewis (31) caught Revis peeking and peeled off for a 33-yard gain that set up Harvin's second score. He was the clear No. 3 receiver over Bernard Berrian (13), who wasn't targeted and got in for exactly four plays before coaches needed him to play hurry-up in the fourth quarter. Welcome to the doghouse. It's puzzling how Greg Camarillo (seven) just can't get involved.
Tight ends (2)
Shiancoe (50) was targeted seven times but had only one catch before his 20-yarder on the desperation drive. Moss' presence should help him eventually, but defenses still are scheming to take away the seam for now. Shiancoe mostly blocked well at the edge and his false start didn't hurt. Jimmy Kleinsasser (32) got flattened on one running play and spun OLB Calvin Pace to draw a holding call that wiped out a Peterson run. He's better than that. Jeff Dugan (13) always seems to seal the backside on cutoff blocks.
Offensive linemen (2½)
C Ryan Cook (22 snaps) blocked fine, but two snap-related penalties, a bad exchange and problems with protection declarations prompted a switch to C Jon Cooper (46). Twice it appeared there was confusion against blitzes, leading to pressure on Favre. None of the four sacks were a direct result of poor blocking by the line on a night the Jets rushed five or more on 18 of 30 dropbacks (60%) before bunkering down with a three-man rush on the final drive. Cooper got walked back three times by big NT Sione Pouha but otherwise was OK. LG Steve Hutchinson and RG Anthony Herrera each had trouble at times with DT Mike DeVito in the run game. Herrera had a hand in three runs for loss or no gain and could have sustained a little longer before releasing on a designed screen that turned into a sack. Hutchinson showed his technique by uprooting DeVito on a third-down run. LT Bryant McKinnie quietly continues to have a solid season -- he allowed three pressures, but none of them were damaging. RT Phil Loadholt had his best game in pass protection. Another false start wasn't all his fault.
Defensive linemen (2½)
RE Ray Edwards (77 snaps) was productive again, beating RT Damien Woody outside to get in on one sack, sniffing out a bootleg for another, recording two additional pressures, tipping a pass and getting credited with seven tackles (five solo). Edwards could have been better in the run game -- Woody destroyed him on third-and-inches and got him all turned around on HB Shonn Greene's 23-yard touchdown run. On the other side, Jets LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson had his way in protection with RE Jared Allen (76), whose only pressure came on a bull rush despite facing single blocks most of the day. Allen just doesn't seem to have his usual explosion, and that probably contributed to DC Leslie Frazier's season-high 45% blitz rate (18 in 40 dropbacks). The Jets' interior did as good a job as anyone against DTs Kevin Williams (74) and Pat Williams (51). They were credited with one tackle combined, and Kevin Williams -- the Vikings' lone regular source of interior rush -- had his only two pressures on consecutive plays in the second quarter. DT Letroy Guion (15) beat RG Brandon Moore once down the line to drop RB Tomlinson for a 2-yard loss and again two plays later but couldn't wrap up QB Mark Sanchez for a sack. DT Jimmy Kennedy (12) slipped free on a stunt to share one of Edwards' sacks and got pancaked on RB LaDainian Tomlinson's 16-yard run. DL Brian Robison (six) was limited by a sprained ankle.
The bye week might have helped MLB E.J. Henderson (78 snaps), who was flying around better than he had at any point since December's leg injury. He pressured Sanchez twice, got in on nine tackles (three solo), held up OK when matched against TE Dustin Keller (four targets, one catch for 8 yards) and narrowly missed a couple of diving tackle attempts. At least Henderson seems to be getting closer. SLB Chad Greenway (78 snaps) once again led the Vikings in tackles (10, nine solo). He just makes so many plays in space -- at times, he could meet blocks better in the hole, such as FB Tony Richardson's lead on third-and-inches. WLB Ben Leber (50) missed Tomlinson on a trap play that went for 17, got picked off on another run for 16, hit Sanchez once and broke a pass on a blitz. His only action in nickel came out of a 3-3 look on the first snap.
Defensive backs (3)
RCB Cedric Griffin (66 snaps) was enjoying a productive day before his season ended with a major knee injury in the fourth quarter. He bodied up against WR Braylon Edwards and WR Jerricho Cotchery to force incompletions on consecutive plays and made a sensational, leaping pass break-up on a pump-and-go to Edwards -- all in the end zone. Griffin's injury meant extended action for CB Asher Allen (38) and Lito Sheppard (three), and the Jets went after both of them. Sanchez completed 5 of 8 passes in Allen's direction for 56 yards (another was dropped) and 1 of 2 at Sheppard for 11. LCB Antoine Winfield (78) broke up two of five passes thrown at him, allowed only one catch for 7 yards, had an unusual tackling slip-up on Edwards' 12-yard catch-and-run and dropped a would-be interception. FS Madieu Williams and SS Husain Abdulah each got in on nine tackles (four solo); Williams whiffed or couldn't finish five others. Tomlinson made him miss on an early 12-yard run and stiff-armed him twice on a 16-yarder late. Edwards' 31-yard catch on the game's opening play was up the seam between Williams and Abdullah, who just don't seem to have many opportunities to get their hands on the ball.
Brad Smith's momentum-shifting, 86-yard kickoff return came on one of several line-drive kickoffs by PK Ryan Longwell, who averaged 3.6 seconds of hang time. S Jamarca Sanford got flattened at the point, Abdullah and LB Jasper Brinkley got stacked and Smith made Longwell miss at the 34. Those are the ones that just can't happen. P Chris Kluwe grossed 42.4 yards on seven punts, netted 40.4, rescued LS Cullen Loeffler on a high snap and blasted two beauties -- a 51-yarder with 5.3 seconds of hang time and a 59-yarder that hung 4.5. Harvin finally appears to have his burst back after dealing with hamstring and hip issues. He had a 44-yard kick return and averaged 25 yards on seven chances. Camarillo fair caught five punts, returned the other 22 yards and has brought a steady hand to a spot that needed it.