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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Film: Xavier Rhodes’ tight coverage helped Vikings fluster Ryan, limit Jones

By Andrew Krammer

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An animated Brian Robison put on a little show during Friday’s open locker room, boisterously correcting a teammate who stated the obvious, to media, that Julio Jones was the Vikings’ No. 1 priority.

Robison came short of stomping his foot, saying the Vikings can’t overlook rookie running back Tevin Coleman as he replaced the injured Devonta Freeman.

“What if No. 26 gets 200 rushing yards?” Robison rhetorically asked. “Did it help them?”

The friendly bicker between defensive lineman and defensive back represented varied perspectives, but the Vikings’ most troublesome task was still Jones, the NFL’s leading receiver. With safety Harrison Smith sidelined by a knee injury, coach Mike Zimmer enlisted Xavier Rhodes to shadow Jones, switching sidelines throughout the game to cover the receiver. And the result was just seven targets, Jones’ second-lowest total of the season in the Vikings’ 20-10 win at the Georgia Dome.

“The biggest thing that we did yesterday, defensively, is we executed the game plan of trying to take care of Julio Jones,” Zimmer said. “I thought we did that well.”

Jones got some chunks, but wasn’t even the leading receiver on his own team as Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan effectively limited Jones on his own by consistently targeting Captain Munnerlyn and Terence Newman, each of which came away with an interception. The Vikings held Ryan to 151 passing yards until a garbage-time drive ended in a Falcons touchdown.

As Robison foreshadowed, Coleman did more damage than Jones as he became just the third running back this season to top the century mark against the Vikings. Anthony Barr single-handedly turned around his defense’s fortune by punching out the ball on Coleman’s 46-yard run, which was just one impressive play by the second-year linebacker who continues to play with a broken left hand.

After allowing 326 yards and 10 points, the Vikings rank ninth in yards per game (334.1) and second in points per game (17.6).

Film: Vikings ‘make a commitment’ to Adrian Peterson, wear down Falcons

Defensive sets & stats
Base: 25/64 [39%]
Nickel: 37/64 [58%]
5-3: 2/64 [3%]
Yards: 326
Sacks: 2
Takeaways: 3

Xavier Rhodes was up for the task, playing tight coverage against Jones throughout the game that limited the amount of times Ryan targeted his No. 1 threat. Shadowing Jones was a somewhat risky, but necessary, decision for Zimmer as Ryan went after the other cornerbacks. In his last three shadow assignments, Rhodes had eight flags, including five in two matchups against Calvin Johnson this season. On Sunday, he didn’t draw a single flag. Rhodes (61 of 64 snaps) allowed just two catches on three targets in direct coverage for 18 yards. He won more than he lost against the 6-foot-3 Jones, taking a lump only when Jones outmuscled him on a comeback route for an 11-yard gain. Once again, Zimmer backed off the blitz for the third straight week against a prolific passer in Ryan, as his five-man rush rate was just 18% (6/33). The Falcons had the same respect for the Vikings’ four-man pass rush as they deployed max protections, bootlegs and the like to get Ryan out of the pocket. That didn’t leave many options downfield. Before the Falcons’ meaningless final drive, their longest completion went 20 yards to Roddy White on a deep crossing route, targeting Terence Newman (62), out of a play-action bootleg. Rhodes’ presence on Jones turned Ryan’s attention elsewhere. The Falcons used crossers against Newman and Munnerlyn (39), who both gave up some plays underneath but each got their shots downfield. Ryan’s fourth target on Munnerlyn in the first half ended in an interception when Munnerlyn didn’t fall for the double move by Nick Williams and jumped the post route.

Without Smith, Antone Exum Jr. (64) got his first career start and played every snap. Exum Jr. stood out in run support, finishing with two stops including a tackle for a loss when he beat Jacob Tamme inside on a speed rush to tackle Terron Ward in the backfield. Robert Blanton (57) had to step in when Andrew Sendejo injured his knee on his seventh snap. Much like Sendejo, Blanton plays more like a dime linebacker than safety; he jarred a Jones’ catch loose and allowed the 19-yarder to Jones. Josh Robinson (4) got his first snaps of the season when Rhodes left briefly after taking a shot to the thigh in the second quarter.

Video (below): Five flags were thrown on the Vikings’ secondary and not a single one went against Rhodes, who got the benefit of the doubt on this play below when he got physical with Jones and deflected the pass.

Video (below): Jones’ impact was felt even when he wasn’t targeted, as the Falcons ran this fake screen to him below, which freed Jacob Tamme for the 12-yard completion after Kendricks and Munnerlyn jump toward the play fake.

Video (below): Rhodes’ tight coverage, as seen below on Julio Jones’ shallow crossing route, forced Ryan to go to beyond his first read throughout the day. Coverage like this from Rhodes, and others, led to just seven targets for Jones.

Anthony Barr showed off a wide range of talents, matching Coleman’s 4.4 speed with his own 4.4 speed when he chased the running back from behind, roughly 50 yards downfield, to punch the ball out and turn the Vikings’ worst defensive play into one of their best. Coleman got the edge, in part, because Sendejo was crack blocked by a receiver, which cut off the linebacker pursuits. Barr (63) made plays all over the field, whether it was an open-field tackle on Roddy White for a loss, a pass breakup on a deep wheel route to Coleman, a goal-line stop with Sharrif Floyd or, finally, a strip-sack on fourth down to effectively end the Falcons’ last real shot at the game. Barr’s 6-foot-5 size, combined with his speed and length, can make him a nightmare for opposing offenses and a threat in many situations. Barr forced three pressures on four blitzes. His progression from 3-4 to 4-3 OLB in fewer than two years is a testament to Barr’s approach, and the coaching staff. He was credited with eight tackles, two forced fumbles, a deflection and a sack as he appears to be growing more comfortable with his broken left hand. Eric Kendricks (64) did not have as impactful of a day as he was walled off on a few longer runs and appeared to lose sight of Coleman on his 16-yard run up the middle to the Vikings’ 1. Falcons’ guards Andy Levitre and Chris Chester did a solid job of doubling the tackles and shedding to linebackers, which is where Kendricks had some trouble. Chad Greenway (26) showed well in run support with two solo stops on Coleman. Greenway was also the player clipped by Falcons tight end Tony Moeaki, a potentially game-deciding penalty as it negated a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and ultimately led to Ryan’s second interception.

Video (below): Barr chases down Coleman for the forced fumble.

The Falcons showed respect to Linval Joseph, Sharrif Floyd and the Vikings’ defensive tackles as they were consistently doubled at the point of attack. Joseph (39) made his presence felt with a pair of run stops as the Falcons primarily used stretch runs to the edges, setting up their play-action bootlegs. Everson Griffen (57) fought through a couple injuries, and double teams, as he led the Vikings with four quarterback hurries, including two hits on Ryan. Griffen and Brian Robison (52) combined for what was perhaps the biggest play of the game. With Robison inside at defensive tackle on 3rd and 14 near the red zone, he paired with Griffen on a stunt that forced Ryan out of the pocket. And on the run, Ryan forced a pass to the back of the end zone and in the arms of Newman for an interception. Instead of 10-7 Falcons, the score remained 7-3 Vikings in the third quarter. Robison was also big in run support, helping to force three stops on Coleman. Sharrif Floyd (44) continues to get more work as his knee recovers, and for the first time since the injury his acceleration off the ball looked back to form. One of Barr’s blitzes appeared geared to tie up the guard, so Floyd could get the jump at Ryan. Floyd had two quarterback hurries and split a double team on 3rd and 2, tackling Coleman to force a punt. Tom Johnson (37) was flagged twice for illegal use of the hands and didn’t show up much on film. Danielle Hunter (21) is coming along as a pass rusher and gives Zimmer flexibility, as he’s athletic enough to drop into coverage on a zone blitz, whereas Robison is not.

Video (below): Joseph and Floyd are doubled at the point, and Kendricks appears to lose the ball carrier as Coleman picks up 16 yards.

Image (below): Perhaps the game’s biggest play, or the one that led to the critical swing, came when Robison and Griffen ran a twist to force pressure on Matt Ryan. In the red zone, the Falcons threatened to take a 10-7 lead with a touchdown in the third quarter.

Image (below): With Xavier Rhodes getting looked at on the sideline, Josh Robinson (21) comes in and effectively takes his spot in a coverage that has him manned up on Julio Jones (11). However, Griffen’s pressure forces Ryan out of the pocket before he sees his options to the right. Ryan rolls out and makes a bad decision into tight coverage, ending in Newman’s interception.

Game ball: Barr/Rhodes – Both were instrumental in the Vikings’ defensive effort in holding the Falcons to 10 points, tying their season low.

Goat(s): N/A

The post Film: Xavier Rhodes’ tight coverage helped Vikings fluster Ryan, limit Jones appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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