Offensive formations and film observations: Week 7 vs. Giants
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Welcome to another installment of 'Offensive formations and film observations,' this one brought to you for the Minnesota Vikings-New York Giants.
Every Tuesday after a game, we'll take a look at what the Vikings offense looked like, bring you five key takeaways from film study and hand out a proverbial game ball and name the goat(s). Every Wednesday, we'll provide you with a similar breakdown and analysis from the defensive side of the ball. Since the Vikings played the Giants on Monday night, those dates are pushed back a day this week.
The Vikings offense produced 206 yards and zero points in the loss, dropping to 22 points/game (19th in NFL) and 316 yards/game (25th). It's the first time the Vikings offense has been shutout since Nov. 11, 2007 in a 34-0 beat down at Green Bay.
Behind their third quarterback in four games, the Vikings set season lows in yardage (206), yards-per-play (3.3) and points (0). Josh Freeman's consistent inaccuracy led to 33 incompletions as he was called upon by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to throw 53 times and came up with just 190 yards and no touchdowns. Running back Adrian Peterson carried the ball just three more times than last week's 10 carries against the Carolina Panthers.
A game after quarterback Matt Cassel completed just 6-of-16 passes thrown farther than 10 yards, Freeman could only connect on 4-of-19 as he overthrew receivers at least 15 times in the game. Freeman did not complete a pass on eight attempts of 20-plus yards.
The Vikings' longest play, Peterson's 22-yard catch-and-run on a checkdown, is also a season low.
Shotgun 1 tight end / 3 receivers: 37 plays
1 tight end / 2 receivers / 1 fullback: 12 plays
1 tight end / 3 receivers: 6 plays
2 tight end / 1 receiver / 1 fullback: 5 plays
3 tight ends / 1 receiver: 3 plays
2 tight ends / 2 receivers: 3 plays
Shotgun 2 tight end / 2 receivers: 2 plays
Total: 68 plays
1) Playing from behind after Giants receiver Reuben Randle's 24-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, Musgrave ran out of the shotgun on 39 times [57%] and called passes on 54 of 68 plays [79%] with a quarterback who had only been with the team for less than two weeks. Freeman's wild inaccuracy didn't allow much movement in the Vikings offense, but he also made poor decisions that led to two three-and-outs and an interception on their first six drives. Freeman was already completing a NFL-low 45.7% of his passes entering the game and connected on just 38% on Monday night. Some of his passes can be chalked up to rust as he hadn't played since Sept. 22, but even then he completed 19-of-41 passes in his last game leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
2) Freeman commanded a simple game plan in his debut, but his technique was at fault more than any lack of preparation he's been accused of. Freeman often wasn't setting his feet, sometimes bouncing around in the pocket as he overthrew receivers at a nauseating rate. He felt pressure on 25 of his 54 dropbacks [46%], but was only brought down once as he escaped the pocket multiple times. However, he appeared rattled by the pressure as he completed just eight of 24 attempts [33%], including his ill-advised interception, under fire. Giants cornerback Antrel Rolle dropped an easy pick from Freeman in the first half, but came back to make a one-handed grab on one of Freeman's deep attempts in the third quarter for the Vikings' only turnover on offense. One of Freeman's best throws of the night came on a 21-yard completion in the second quarter as he placed it on tight end Kyle Rudolph's back shoulder on a seam route. After getting setup by receiver Cordarrelle Patterson's 69-yard kickoff return, Freeman fired to Simpson in the endzone for a would-be touchdown from midfield, but the ball went through his hands.
Freeman's overthrows also put his receivers in bad positions, as both Simpson and receiver Greg Jennings were hit helmet-to-helmet going up for passes in the middle of the field. Both players remained down on the field for a brief moment before returning. The hit on Simpson was flagged for unncessary roughness.
3) The offensive line held it together fairly well considering the Giants likely picked up on the pass-pass-pass game plan, but the unit was still inconsistent. Pressure came most from the ends as left tackle Matt Kalil and right tackle Phil Loadholt combined to allow nine quarterback pressures. Giants defensive end Justin Tuck abused Loadholt and right guard Brandon Fusco at times to get hits on Freeman. In total, Freeman was hit nine times and pressured 16 as Fusco, left guard Charlie Johnson, Kalil and Loadholt each allowed at least two hits on Freeman.
Whether or not it was communication issues, Loadholt played as if he would have inside help from Fusco, but didn't get it as Peterson was tackled for a three-yard loss by Tuck on their first drive. Two drives later, Kalil doesn't chip defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul as he crashes down to get Peterson for a gain of one up the middle. Kalil allowed a team-high five hurries as he played with a back injury. Coach Leslie Frazier said Tuesday that it was good he finished the game, meaning he was likely playing through lingering pain. Center John Sullivan allowed just one pressure and one hit as he had the most consistent game of any of the linemen.
Loadholt's false start on the second play of the second half was the only offensive penalty in the game. Giants defensive tackle Shaun Rogers gave both guards Fusco and Johnson trouble as he got to Freeman six times, hitting him four times. Rogers hadn't hit a quarterback more than once in a game this season before Monday night, according to ProFootballFocus.com
The line struggled mightily in the run game as ten of Peterson's 13 carries went for three yards or less. Peterson's troubles were likely a direct result of eight-to-nine men looks from the Giants in the box as they didn't have much of a passing game to defend.
4) The Vikings converted on 7-of-18 third downs [39%], but started 2-for-10 as Peterson could find no room to work with and Freeman missed receivers. Freeman also had three dropped passes as Vikings receivers didn't appear accustom to how quickly the ball came out of his hand. On 26 first downs, Musgrave called 19 passes to seven runs. He ended the game on 28 consecutive pass plays after Peterson converted a 3rd-and-1 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Vikings were able to run 31 plays in the final 11 minutes of the game because Freeman threw 30 passes, 19 of which fell incomplete. Four of punter Jeff Locke's seven punts came on 4th-and-3 or shorter as the Vikings fell just short of the first down marker on multiple occasions.
5) Vikings receivers were hung out to dry on Monday night as they had to risk their bodies to go for Freeman's often overthrown passes. Receivers like Simpson made great catches on those wild throws, but it appeared at times they weren't finishing plays. Jennings, who was the victim of multiple overthrows, didn't block his defensive back on a play where Peterson rushed for no gain near the end of the second quarter. Collectively, the group appeared to quit running their routes as Freeman rolled out and threw it away on 3rd-and-13 on the first drive.
Game ball: Peterson. Adrian Peterson only had 13 carries, but he continues to be stout in pass protection as he picked up Giants linebackers and moved them with ease in the pocket. Peterson also continues to be a factor in the pass game, catching two of four targets for 28 yards, third-most on the team. Peterson had ten carries of three yards or less, but he was often getting drilled by a blitzing linebacker or defensive back against loaded fronts.
Goat(s): Freeman. There's no preparation excuse for 33 incompletions on 53 attempts. Freeman's inaccuracy was as bad as any quarterback the Vikings have put on the field. He's already been named the starter for Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers and will have a long leash, but knowing terminology won't lower his passes. The coaching staff has a lot of work to do on a quarterback in his fifth year.