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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Film: Vikings recommit to Adrian Peterson, go big and wear down the Falcons

By Andrew Krammer

Adrian Peterson put the onus on the players, and most notably the Vikings coaching staff, after he received just 13 carries for 45 yards in last week’s loss to Green Bay, the team’s most important game of the season at that point.

Peterson reportedly met with coach Mike Zimmer last week to vent his frustration about his role in that loss, and Zimmer saw to immediately rectify the situation. The Vikings’ running backs room made a goal leading up to Sunday’s 20-10 win at the Georgia Dome — 200 rushing yards, which they had also set, and met, in a win at Oakland just two weeks prior.

The Vikings fell nine yards short of 200, but Zimmer’s goal was met as they fed Peterson a season-high 29 carries and controlled the clock for another grind-it-out win.

“Adrian did a great job, made some fantastic runs. Obviously Adrian is a very, very special player,” Zimmer said postgame. “We made a commitment to give him the football today and run, I think our guys did a good job up front, for the most part, of getting to the players we needed to block. Norv made a great call on that last 3rd and 6, he went for the touchdown. This guy is a threat every time he has the football. We’re glad he’s ours.”

An offensive strategy that got the ball out of Bridgewater’s hands and into Peterson’s fueled the Vikings’ fast start. They’ve normally sputtered out of the gate, but not on Sunday. They found 153 yards in the first quarter alone and Bridgewater completed 8 of his first 11 throws for 100 yards prior to an end-zone interception that slowed the passing attack. The next time they reached the red zone, Bridgewater handed the ball off to Matt Asiata, their most secure handler, on 3rd and 5, leading to a field goal.

The Vikings lined up heavy personnel and used Peterson to chisel away at a Falcons’ dam, which didn’t spring many leaks until the second half, when Peterson took 17 carries for 110 yards. The result was a decisive advantage in time of possession, including 10:13 of 15:00 in the fourth quarter.

After producing 365 yards and 20 points, the Vikings rank 24th in points per game (21) and 28th in yards per game (333.2).

Personnel groupings (#)
3 receivers / tight end (11): 25
2 receivers / 2 tight ends (12): 20
2 receivers / tight end / fullback (21): 9
1 receiver / 2 tight ends / fullback (22): 9
1 receiver / 3 tight ends (13): 6
2 tight ends / fullback / OL (22): 1
Total: 70 plays

The Vikings ran the ball on 25 of 30 first downs, but predictability doesn’t matter if the opponent can’t stop Adrian Peterson (45 of 70 snaps). Entering Sunday, the Falcons had the league’s top-ranked run defense, which did not deter the Vikings. Peterson pounded away against loaded fronts (8+ defenders) on 25 of his 29 runs, grinding away clock in a game they led wire-to-wire. Peterson’s agitation with his workload the week prior fell off of him just as nine Falcons’ defenders he shed en route to 158 yards on the ground, 110 of which came in the second half. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner drew praise from Zimmer for his final play call, which pitched the ball outside of a bunch trips formation with three tight ends, taking advantage of a Falcons defense ready to clog up the middle; Peterson had done most of his damage between the tackles with his 200-yard outing in Oakland just two weeks ago. Peterson took that carry, his 29th and final, for a 35-yard touchdown to seal the Vikings’ fourth straight road win in Atlanta.

Atlanta’s eagerness to stack the box was catalyzed by Turner’s constant heavy sets from which Peterson ran. While the Vikings bounced between personnel groupings on Peterson’s runs, they continued the adjustment of completely shedding shotgun handoffs (all 29 carries came from under center) and only two of Peterson’s carries came from a three-WR set. Running out of shotgun and spread formations was a staple of this offense earlier in the season, but Peterson had at least two tight ends or a fullback on 27 of his 29 runs against the Falcons. It was still tough sledding for Peterson, who was tackled short of a three-yard gain on 12 of his 29 attempts. They’ve done a better job up front of eliminating negative runs (just one on Sunday), and Peterson’s legs were a big reason why as he often turned nothing into something. Fullback Zach Line (19) continues to have an increased workload in the Vikings’ effort to bulk up in front of Peterson. Line had an uneven day, getting shoved into the end zone by Peterson on his one-yard score. Later, he got enough of O’Brien Schofield to spring Peterson for a 17-yard gain. Line was targeted twice, catching one for eight yards and dropping the other.

Video (below): Don’t let anyone tell you ‘wearing down a defense’ is a cliché. That’s what Peterson did against the Falcons’ top-ranked rushing defense, which limited Peterson to just three yards or fewer on seven of his first 10 carries. Falcons’ leading tackler Paul Worrilow (55) shed Fusco on this run up the middle and stopped Peterson’s fourth carry, a three-yard gain in the first quarter.

Video (below): On Peterson’s 16th carry in the third quarter, Worrilow (55) bounced off Peterson, who found room on the outside with Kalil sealing and Line getting just enough of the linebacker. Ten yards downfield, Peterson lowered his shoulder and gained even more to cap a 17-yard run on 3rd and 1.

Video (below): Peterson shed six of his nine tackles in the second half, including a couple on this run for 11 yards, which came on just the second and final carry out of a three-receiver formation.

Pass protection is still a major issue, despite the Vikings not allowing a sack. The Falcons’ lackluster rush was still able to kill the Vikings’ quick-passing plays designed to get the ball out of Bridgewater’s hand and the young quarterback into a rhythm. “It’s something that’s irritating me,” Zimmer said postgame. “I’m going to figure out some way to get it fixed, one way or another.” Rookie tackle T.J. Clemmings looked lost in his 11th career start, getting mixed up by stunts and allowing free runners at the quarterback. The Vikings really miss Phil Loadholt’s size in the run game as well. Clemmings wasn’t able to move big bodies, as he was dragged down the line by Grady Jarrett on one of Peterson’s three runs for no gain. Clemmings also jumped early, forcing the Vikings into a 3rd and 15 near the red zone and ultimately a field goal for the 13-3 lead. Left guard Brandon Fusco had another poor outing, looking out of sync in some protection sets as he allowed three quarterback hurries. Fusco has admitted he’s still adjusting to footwork on the left side of the line, and he hit the Georgia Dome turf a few times when his feet got tangled up. Center Joe Berger was the only lineman capable of handling 345-pound nose tackle Paul Soliai, who shoved Fusco aside to tackle Peterson for a loss of a yard – the Vikings’ lone negative run on the second play of the game. Mike Harris was uneven, but didn’t stand out as much as Fusco or Clemmings. Matt Kalil was imperfect, but by far the most consistent lineman next to Berger. Kalil helped spring Peterson for big gains, including a down block on Tyson Jackson to set up Peterson for a 17-yard gain and pulling to kick out the defensive back on Peterson’s 35-yard touchdown. Tight end Rhett Ellison was also a key blocker on that game-sealing touchdown run.

In protection, stunts or twists were consistent issues for Harris-Clemmings and Fusco-Kalil to handle. The Falcons rarely sent more than a four-man rush, and still pressured Bridgewater on 14 of his 29 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. To avoid sacks, Bridgewater padded his NFL lead on throwaways with three more out of bounds. He also ran once.

Video (below): Rookie Vic Beasley (44) simply runs right around Clemmings, who doesn’t drop deep enough to match Beasley’s angle. Bridgewater alone saves this play, improvising to find Rudolph for no gain.

Bridgewater executed a quick-passing strategy, which began to surface at the start of last week’s loss to Green Bay. Bridgewater attempted just three passes beyond 10 yards, save for the two pass interferences, as he got into a groove early on. Fast starts allow the Vikings to lean on Peterson more throughout the game, and that’s been an emphasis for the offense as they take high-percentage completions to build Bridgewater’s confidence and take pressure off an uneven offensive line. He completed 8 of his first 11 throws for 100 yards before he was late on a throw down the seam to tight end Kyle Rudolph, ending in Bridgewater’s seventh interception of the season. Against a Falcons’ defense eager to stack the box, Bridgewater commonly found Rudolph (59), who saw a season-high 10 targets as he ran more routes and spent less time blocking against the Falcons’ poor pass rush. Bridgewater split the other 17 targets between six options, led by four each to receiver Stefon Diggs (54) and Peterson. Diggs’ explosiveness showed off on his short routes, putting a slick cut on an in-and-out route to shake fellow rookie Jalen Collins for his 16-yard gain. Vikings’ coaches like Diggs’ fiery attitude, but he drew an unsportsmanlike conduct for spinning the ball, which hit Collins. The Vikings don’t have an especially athletic offensive line, so it was surprising to see Turner put seldom-used screens to work. And to good results. The 33-year-old Berger labored down the field and got just enough of a linebacker to help spring Ellison (38) for the Vikings’ longest completion when he took a screen 23 yards, carrying a couple defensive backs at the end. Peterson took his own screen 18 yards. Falcons’ stud corner Desmond Trufant stayed on his side of the field as the Falcons loaded the line and showed no respect for the Vikings’ passing attack. Bridgewater was less hesitant throwing into tight windows, which helped draw a pair of pass interference penalties on the lone targets to Mike Wallace (44), who went without a catch for the third time in his last five games. Jarius Wright (23) caught two balls for 13 yards. Charles Johnson (15) and Adam Thielen (11) rotated as run-blocking receivers. Cordarrelle Patterson (0) went without a snap for the first time this season.

Video (below): The Vikings stuck with a short passing game into the second half, including this five-yard hook to Diggs that eventually set up a third-quarter field goal and 13-3 lead.

Game ball: Peterson – He’s still a cut above the rest and helped the Vikings hold a big advantage in time of possession throughout a close game.

Goat(s): Clemmings – A weak link in an uneven chain, Clemmings had a bad day in Atlanta.

The post Film: Vikings recommit to Adrian Peterson, go big and wear down the Falcons appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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