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VT BD: Vikes Scary Loss to Dallas— Seen it Before

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VT Breakdown: S4 E8 Joe Oberle and Star Tribunes Mark Craig talk Vikings lost to Cowboys

“Same as it ever was!”—David Byrne of the Talking Heads from the song Once in a Lifetime

I quoted the Talking Heads at the top of this piece because I am one (if you click on the link to the Vikings Territory Breakdown podcast with Joe Oberle and Star Tribune’s Mark Craig, you will see that) , plus the sentiment aptly sums up the Vikings’ Halloween night loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The Vikings had a chance for victory over a beatable opponent (who played a backup quarterback in his first start in the NFL) and they lost in the last seconds of the game.

They have done it before this season and here it was again. But this game was bad and dispiriting on many levels. The Vikings lost to the better team at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 31st, but they shouldn’t have and the blame for that horrifying loss that just may have kicked away the rest of the season and has become the first domino in a chain that will result in firings and changes at season’s end (or mid-season). Heads will roll after this one, as the hue and cry for head coach Mike Zimmer’s job are louder than the stadium after the opening drive touchdown pass to Adam Thielen.

But you see, after the efficient and effective scoring drive, the Vikings crawled behind their horrifying masks and back into the ground finishing six feet under in a 20-16 loss. Primetime Kirk Cousins showed up in his most nervous and misfiring and check-downing self. Even when he had time or made time by stepping up in the pocket, he would inexplicably miss an open receiver and short circuit a drive.

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His bad play (augmented by ultra-conservative play-calling) allowed the Cowboys to stay in a game they should have lost with Cooper Rush at QB. The defense did not shut down the run in the first half and then could rush Rush and stop the pass in the second half and the Cowboys sunk the Vikings to a record of 3-4 and essentially created that six-feet-under hole as the road games in Baltimore and LA loom. The whole team, from GM Rick Spielman on down to the practice squad has to be asking themselves: “My god, how did I get here?”

There is plenty to break down here and I am joined by the Star Tribune NFL writer Mark Craig to analyze it all for you. This one will reverberate for some time to come, as Danielle Hunter went down and calls for changes went up. You’d think that just Once in a Lifetime” the Vikings could win the Super Bowl, but that suddenly seems far, far away from us all.

Here are some topics we discussed on the podcast. Check it out:

In this Vikings loss 9 of the Vikings’ 12 possessions lasted five plays or fewer. Kirk Cousins was 23-of-35 for 184 yards (5.2 yards per attempt) and one touchdown. The offense has failed to score an offensive touchdown in the 2nd half for the 5th time in their 7 games this season… And they have yet to score one at US Bank Stadium.

This is just not an NFL quality offense with that kind of output. Who gets the blame?

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Then Kirk became Checkdown Kirk, throwing constantly behind the sticks. Is that because of nervous Kirk (he certainly was) or due to conservative play calling?

Were you satisfied with Zimmer’s answer on the conservative game plan? That Dallas was in some kind of defense designed to put the team in checkdown mode. Shouldn’t the Vikings be able to adjust?

Is it Kirk, Klint or Zim that is keeping the offense grounded? C.J. Ham three receptions to Justin Jefferson’s two. And Jefferson only had one more target (four) than C.J. (three). Whose fault is it that we never throw a pass down field and see if our talent receivers can make a play? Kirk, Klint or Zim?

Offensive line—Darrisaw was okay and Bradbury was brutal. Udoh had back-to-back holding calls. How soon before we see Davis or Cole at center?

Last drive before half—Kirk tells the media “I just let Zim handle the timeouts because I never know quite what the coaches want to do with that.” He can’t call time outs and he can hardly change the play at the line? How is this possible for a 10-year vet?

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Midway through the second quarter, the Cowboys had 58 yards rushing. They were gashing the Michael Pierce-less run defense. Then Dallas went away from the run (they finished with 78 yards) and gave the ball to Cooper Rush and told him to beat the Vikings. Can you explain that thinking and why it was such an effective adjustment?

I don’t recall seeing Harrison Smith so lost out on the field. Was he trying to do too much?

Xavier Woods was fired up to beat the team that spurned him. He had to have left that game feeling very pissed. He then told a reporter that the defense only game-planned for Dak when Zimmer said they plenty of film on Rush. What’s up with that?

Danielle Hunter is now lost for the season again, but there wasn’t a pass rush on Rush when he was in there. They ran into a good offensive line to be for sure, but now the unit, which is also missing Pierce and traded away some of its depth in Weathery is looking extremely weak.

The Vikings lost to the better team. The defense was better, the offensive line was better and somehow their quarterback was better than the Vikings QB. How do you fix it?

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The hot seat doesn’t even describe what’s happening. It is hell fire under Zim’s chair right now.

After this Vikings loss how do they handle Lamar Jackson with only an old Everson Griffen chasing him down?

The post VT BD: Vikes Scary Loss to Dallas— Seen it Before appeared first on Vikings Territory.



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The GM’s View: Keys to Vikings Beating Ravens in Swing Game

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Vikings Insider, The GM’s View

The Vikings season is at a crossroads over the next few weeks, beginning with another swing game at Baltimore Sunday.

Find a way to win, and the Purple are back to .500 at 4-4 and possibly holding the final NFC playoff spot if the Patriots beat the Panthers as expected. If the Vikings fall to Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, they’ll sit at 3-5 with a tough couple weeks ahead at the Chargers and hosting the Packers before another tough road game at the 49ers.

The 5-2 Ravens are coming off their bye that followed a surprising 41-17 thrashing at the hands of the Bengals. They have a narrow lead in the AFC North over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, plus several close wins, including over Detroit on an NFL record 66-yard field goal by Justin Tucker. And there were exciting comeback wins over the Chiefs and Colts where Jackson flashed his MVP form.

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But the Bengals showed that Baltimore could be beaten with a prolific passing attack as Joe Burrow threw for 416 yards and three touchdowns, while Ja’Marr Chase had eight receptions for 201 yards and one touchdown.

Here are my keys to the Vikings beating the Ravens in what should be a high scoring game:
1. Offensively, get back to what worked in Carolina in Week 6 when Minnesota had 571 yards total offense, running and throwing it well against a good defense. The Vikings wide receivers were targeted 37 times (Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn combined for 25 catches for 284 yards and 2 TDs).

Compare that to the Dallas game when that trio had a total of 16 targets, 10 catches, and 109 yards. This was due to Cousins’ excessive checkdowns to the backs and tight ends as he felt the heat from the Cowboys pass rush even when there was time to throw. Skittish Kirk must be replaced by the return of confident Kirk, and the offensive line must be better against an aggressive Ravens pass rush.

Center Garrett Bradbury has landed on the Covid list, so it appears he’s out for the Vikings game against the Ravens. I’d love to see third-rounder Wyatt Davis get a shot at center, but vet Mason Cole likely will start. Davis was last year’s Big Ten lineman of the year and is more stout than Bradbury, so it would be interesting to see him in action.

As for the line overall, blocking vet stalwarts Calais Campbell and Justin Houston on the edges will be critical, along with handling an impactful linebacker in Patrick Queen. The Bengals did help their offensive line with backs and tight ends staying in often to max protect.

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Cousins needs to take more chances and give Jefferson and Thielen opportunities to make contested catches, especially in single coverage. Give Jefferson a chance to do what his former LSU teammate, Chase, did in repeatedly beating Ravens corner Marlon Humphrey.

And get the ball to Vikings tight end Tyler Conklin, as the Ravens were torched by K.C.’s Travis Kelce and Cincinnati’s C.J. Uzomah.  Cousins has only thrown two interceptions this season, which is a nice stat, but perhaps that means he’s being overly cautious at times. 

Memo to Vikings offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak: the Ravens are dead last in the league in pass defense and were severely beaten on first-down throws by Burrow (10 of 14 for 192 yards and 2 TDs). Yes, Dalvin Cook always must get his touches rushing and receiving, but Baltimore is better in run defense (fourth-ranked, in part because teams are throwing more against them). Playing conservative is not the formula to beat Baltimore or really any NFL team as the Dallas fiasco proved.  

2. Defensivel — yikes. No Danielle Hunter spells big trouble for the Vikings pass rush, a unit that leads the league in sacks per game (3.4). Hunter was their best pass rusher and best chance to contain Jackson. Batten down the hatches as much as possible against the NFL’s No. 3 offense led by Jackson, who has had some monster games this season (including 442 passing yards and 62 rushing yards in the OT win over the Colts).

Mike Zimmer and his defensive coaches will try to copy what Cincinnati did in limiting Jackson to 257 passing yards, which was by applying pressure, especially from the defensive end spots (5 total sacks and 3.5 from the DEs). Jackson has been sacked 21 times in seven games this season, so the Ravens’ pass protection isn’t great.

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Vikings defensive end D.J. Wonnum must step up his play in Hunter’s spot. It will be a huge test for linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr to contain Jackson’s elite scrambling ability (he is the Ravens leading rusher with 480 yards).

Jackson throws to some talented receivers, including a top tight end in Mark Andrews and his wide receiver trio of Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, and former Gopher Rashod Bateman. If Jackson has time, I don’t like this matchup with the Vikings secondary still missing their best corner in Patrick Peterson.

3. On special teams, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh is a former special teams coach, and his team always excels in this area. He has the league’s best kicker in Tucker (14 of 15 field goals this season), who has the edge over the Vikings’ up and down kicker Greg Joseph.

Jeff’s Prediction:

I think the Vikings offense will score more points and be better in the red zone this week (a point of emphasis from Coach Mike Zimmer). I see the Vikings keeping it close but ultimately falling short in a high-scoring game as Jackson, and his receiving corps will make the big plays late to get the win. I hope I’m wrong, but I’ll call it 34-27 Ravens over the Vikings.

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Around the NFL Observations:
1. What an awful story involving Raiders receiver Henry Ruggs who is charged with DWI resulting in death after he reportedly was driving 156 miles per hour when his car hit and killed a 23-year-old woman and her dog. I’m sure every coach in every sport in America is using the Ruggs case as an example to their players of terrible decision-making and disastrous results. 

2. Aaron Rodgers tests positive: the Packers QB lied when he told the media he was “immunized,” and now he’s landed on the COVID list due to his unvaccinated status. Jordan Love will start in K.C., and if he plays well, it could give the Packers more confidence if they decide to let Rodgers leave after this season.

3. Adrian Peterson to Titans: this could be a good fit for the former Vikings star as he has been signed by Tennessee to help replace superstar runner Derrick Henry. The 36-year-old Peterson will run behind one of the league’s best lines, so it will be interesting to see how well he performs.    

Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President, and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis and does other sports consulting and media work along with college/corporate speaking. Follow him and direct message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl.

The post The GM’s View: Keys to Vikings Beating Ravens in Swing Game appeared first on Vikings Territory.



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