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Bleacher Report – Vikings

4 thoughts: Sack party, Cam Newton, Blair Walsh, special teams

By Derek Wetmore

The Vikings didn’t play that well in the first half Sunday and yet were hanging right around in a game with last year’s NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Then they turned things around after the break: the defense was terrific, special teams were highlighted, and the offense made progress enough to beat the Carolina Panthers.

This column presents 4 thoughts from Sunday’s 22-10 win, which moved the Vikings to 3-0.

1. The Vikings defensive line was terrific Sunday, delivering a contained rush against one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL. Collectively, Vikings defenders sacked Cam Newton eight times for minus-64 yards, and kept the dual-threat quarterback from hitting a home run with his legs.

The defensive line is a big reason for the team’s early success,

Six of those eight sacks were credited to defensive lineman: Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter (a safety), Brian Robison, and three for Everson Griffen.

On Sunday they played without injured defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, but in part because of their strong depth – Tom Johnson at three-technique, Shamar Stephen at nose tackle and Hunter at defensive end – that hardly seemed to matter against the Panthers. The other reason it doesn’t matter is because Minnesota is playing with two all-pro level defensive lineman in Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph.

Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr added sacks, as well. Some of the sacks on Sunday were what you’d call ‘coverage sacks,’ but I believe that line cuts both ways. The fact the Vikings can get such tremendous pressure and limit the running game with their four linemen, that in turn makes the defensive backs appear to be better in coverage.

Newton did rush for a touchdown, but when you create three turnovers, rack up eight sacks and keep Newton and Kelvin Benjamin from hurting you in a meaningful way, it speaks to a job well done for the Vikings’ defense, and in particular Sunday, the defensive line.

2. Cam Newton became the latest in a line of quarterbacks to fail a test against the Vikings defense.

Even if you just narrow this down to opposing QBs this season, check out this crude and simplified chart of what I’ll call The Vikings Effect.

2016 QBs* TD INT COMP % YARDS/ATTEMPT SACK/GAME
Versus Vikings 3 5 58.9% 6.66 5.0
In other games 13 5 60.4% 7.12 1.8

*Marcus Mariota, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton

So what is The Vikings Effect?

In short, when a quarterback plays the Vikings, he throws for fewer touchdowns, more interceptions, completes a lower percentage of his passes, takes more sacks and isn’t as effective moving the ball.

On Sunday, Terence Newman, Trae Waynes and Tom Johnson all had interceptions, and the Vikings combined for eight sacks.

We’re still dealing with a small sample of games, of course, but I’d say that’s a pretty impressive feat.

3. Blair Walsh, what in the world?

The Vikings kicker missed an extra point on Sunday – as in, another extra point. He’d already missed one this season. Extra points are no longer technically “gimme” kicks, but when you combine that with his problems kicking field goals dating back to last year’s playoff loss against the Seahawks, it’s fair to wonder what’s going on with Walsh.

He did hit two field goals — 28 yards and 31 yards – to stretch the score from 16-10 to 22-10 and push the Vikings’ lead to a two-score margin.

I think it’s funny when people start off a point, in this case about Walsh, by saying that ‘You’ve got to give him credit for hitting those field goals – but he has to make those PATs.’

Here’s the thing: Short yardage field goals are a mandate in the NFL, and he doesn’t deserve extra credit for doing one thing that is in his job description.

Mike Zimmer even told reporters after the game that the Vikings went for a 2-point conversion after a touchdown because Walsh had already failed in one point-after kick.

Whether that wavering of trust was a one-game deal or if it extends beyond that remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

4. The Vikings owe partial credit for Sunday’s win to their special teams.

It isn’t something that gets written about all the time, but it matters practically every single week.

Two things stood out to me, outside of Blair Walsh’s extended problems.

The first was Marcus Sherels, who returned a punt for a touchdown to give the Vikings a jolt. That scamper made cut the Vikings’ deficit to 10-8. (It would have been 10-9 if Walsh had hit the PAT.)

The second facet that stood out was Cordarrelle Patterson, who is known as a kick returner more than a wide receiver. He made his mark on the game Sunday as a gunner on the punt team.

Once in the third quarter he raced down the field and made a great open-field tackle to stop the Carolina return man just as he caught the punt. Another time, Patterson helped the Vikings down the ball inside the Panthers’ 5-yard line. Patterson’s hustle kept the ball out of the end zone, and Carolina had to start its next drive from its own 2-yard line.

That drive went nowhere for Carolina, as they punted three plays later.

One surprising thing about Patterson’s performance is that head coach Mike Zimmer intimated that Patterson was at the gunner position as more of an emergency than a specific plan.

And one more thing before you go. If you like the ‘4 thoughts’ column on the Vikings, you can get a summary emailed to you each week, so you never miss a column – even if 1500ESPN.com isn’t your homepage.

If you want more Vikings coverage from Sunday, like this video, check out our dedicated Vikings page.

You can subscribe to 1500 ESPN Twin Cities on YouTube here.

The post 4 thoughts: Sack party, Cam Newton, Blair Walsh, special teams appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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