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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Film: Danielle Hunter, Vikings’ shorthanded D-line breaks through vs. Bears

By Andrew Krammer

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

What the Vikings couldn’t do to limit the Bears, the Bears did to themselves.

A shorthanded defense proved their depth was more than capable Sunday of handling a hapless Chicago Bears offense, which negated its own two biggest plays by penalty. With Linval Joseph sidelined and Everson Griffen limited by a painful shoulder injury, the defensive line alone still produced four sacks, two pass deflections, a forced fumble and an interception.

And an impressed Joseph, who is hopeful to return from a three-game absence this week.

“Right now, I feel like, frickin, we’re a defense to be reckoned with,” Joseph said. “[Sharrif Floyd] is the second-best D-tackle on this team and he’s stepping up and doing the job…When he went down, I had to go to [his defensive tackle spot], you know what I mean? It’s just great to see guys stepping up, guys coming in and doing their job.”

Coach Mike Zimmer noted postgame he knew prior to Sunday’s 38-17 win over Chicago that he’d need his defensive line, the deepest and most talented unit, to control the game as the Vikings were without three stalwarts again in Joseph, linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Harrison Smith.

Control, they did. From the first snap, when a holding penalty forced by Sharrif Floyd negated Matt Forte’s 35-yard run, the Vikings imposed their will up front. Xavier Rhodes shadowed Alshon Jeffery from the onset, though his day was made easier when Jeffery limped off the field with a hamstring injury in the third quarter. Jay Cutler was suddenly without his lone deep threat as he completed just 1 of 7 passes beyond the 10-yard marker, according to Pro Football Focus.

After limiting Chicago to 293 yards and 17 points, the Vikings rank 13th in yards/game (342.4) and 8th in points/game (19.4).

Defensive sets & stats
Base: 14/64 [22%]
Nickel: 49/64 [76%]
Dime: 1/64 [2%]
Yards: 293
Sacks: 5
Takeaways: 2

Early disruption from Floyd, Robison and the Vikings’ line likely changed the way Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase called this one for Chicago. The Vikings harassed Cutler early with three sacks on his opening eight drop backs. Throughout the game, Zimmer varied the Vikings’ attack plan, including a zone blitz that resulted in a pass deflection, a stunt ending in a sack and straight four-man rushes like when Robison (55 of 64 snaps) used his speed around the edge to beat tackle Kyle Long. That was “the play of the game,” said linebacker Chad Greenway, after Robison worked past Long and forced the Cutler fumble and recovery just three plays after Chicago gained possession on a surprise onside kick out of halftime. The numbers might not show it with just 4 sacks, but Robison has put together a successful season at age 32. Robison’s versatility makes him all the more valuable as he’s capable of playing both end spots and pass-rushing tackle on third downs. He tied the team lead with three QB hurries, missing two sacks on Cutler, which were cleaned up by teammates. Johnson (59) also had three QB hurries, finishing one of Robison’s missed sacks on the third play of the game. Johnson also chipped in a run stop, bursting off the line and into the backfield for a loss of 4. Floyd (35) continued to play out of position at nose tackle, and continued to show he’s capable. He drew a hold, deflected a pass and split a sack. Griffen (31) seemed hampered by his right shoulder injury, but still managed a pair of QB hurries, a QB hit and a tackle. Justin Trattou (10) showed his smarts by recognizing a screen, and backpedaling into Cutler’s pass for his second interception in his third game this year.

Before the Vikings dropped into ‘prevent’ mode, they tallied five sacks and six pass deflections on Cutler’s first 30 drop backs.

Video (below): Johnson and Robison team to sack Cutler on the Bears’ third snap.

Video (below): Two of the Vikings’ five sacks came from defensive line stunts. Hunter curls underneath Robison and sacks Cutler.

The Vikings have a real player in Danielle Hunter. A third-round pick from May, Hunter has grown more consistent as the season wears on. Cautiously labeled a project when he was drafted, Hunter had as many sacks (1.5) on Sunday as he did his entire junior season at LSU. The physical traits were an obvious pull for the Vikings, who took the sinewy, 6-foot-5-inch Hunter with the 88th-overall pick. Hunter has a rare combination of length and speed, not dissimilar to Anthony Barr at linebacker. But he was unrefined, specifically as a pass rusher. Hunter (48) isn’t a finished product, but he’s producing for a Vikings’ defensive line in need of a budding role player. He combined on two stunts, one with Robison and another with Floyd, to generate his 1.5 sacks on Cutler. Hunter also chipped in a pair of run stops, tossing aside Bears left tackle Charles Leno for a red-zone stop on Jeremy Langford. He’s also used in coverage, dropping on a zone blitz that resulted in Floyd’s pass deflection. Hunter’s length got in his way once, when he drew a facemask flag on a diving Cutler near the red zone.

Video (below): Hunter uses his length and leverage underneath Bears left tackle Charles Leno, tossing him aside on this run stop of Jeremy Langford.

Image (below): On this 1st and 10 play, the Vikings run a zone blitz dropping Hunter (99) into coverage with Kendricks (54) and Robinson (51) rushing off right tackle.

Video (below): One of Cutler’s few targets to Jeffery is deflected at the line by Floyd (73) in the play displayed above.

Mike Zimmer’s trust in Xavier Rhodes is unquestioned. Rhodes (61) has been given the tallest tasks any NFL corner could want this season between shadowing Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones and Jeffery on Sunday. The contest was short as Cutler targeted Jeffery on Rhodes just twice, both incompletions, before Jeffery left in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. Overall, Rhodes allowed two catches on six targets for 15 yards. A disruptive line shortened coverage times as Cutler kept most of his passes shallow. Captain Munnerlyn (50) allowed two catches on three targets for 19 yards. Terence Newman (58) allowed a few short completions. He was looking for safety help on the 10-yard touchdown pass to Jeffery. There was a coverage mistake on the play, which appeared to be Anthony Harris (63) in his second career start. Harris’ inexperience led to struggles with in-game adjustments, according to Zimmer. Overall, the Vikings covered up their mistakes well for a defense starting three rookies in Harris and linebackers Edmond Robinson (14) and Eric Kendricks (64). Robinson appeared to botch an adjustment on Jeremy Langford’s seven-yard run. The Vikings shifted into a single-high safety coverage with Harris rolling down over Robinson’s receiver. Robinson shifted inside toward the formation, but Kendricks didn’t, which left them bunched up on one side and the middle wide open for Langford. Chad Greenway (64) showed tremendous effort on his sack, taking down Cutler by the sleeve after working his way around Forte. Neither Greenway nor Kendricks can make up for the physical presence lost without Anthony Barr, and that was evident as the Bears racked up 4.5 yards per carry on 17 handoffs before garbage time. Andrew Sendejo (64) returned to the lineup with a mixed bag, including a run stop and a missed tackle.

Image (below): Following Hunter’s facemask penalty, Rhodes (29) flips to the left side of the field to track Jeffery (17) in the red zone.

Video (below): Cutler has a window for a 15-yard touchdown to Jeffery, but Robison’s rush off right tackle forces him to scramble. The throw is late and deflected by Rhodes.

Game ball: D-line — Three sacks in the first eight pass plays sent an early message to the Bears.

Goat(s): N/A

The post Film: Danielle Hunter, Vikings’ shorthanded D-line breaks through vs. Bears appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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