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Bleacher Report – Vikings

7 thoughts: Diggs-Bradford connection, gut check, running game concerns

By Derek Wetmore

CHICAGO – The Vikings lost the most surprising game of their season on Monday night to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

This column presents 10 thoughts from Monday night’s surprising 20-10 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

1. Stefon Diggs was targeted 13 times and had 8 catches for 76 yards and a touchdown Monday night.

Still, the impression I took away from the game is that he’s not quite on the same page with QB Sam Bradford right now.

Last week, Diggs and Bradford failed to connect on multiple occasions, and it looked to my untrained eye like Diggs might have been the guilty party on at least two routes mix-ups in that game.

On Monday, Bradford overthrew him on a deep ball early in the game that could have changed the complexion of the contest if it had connected. It didn’t. And on a play that looked like it was designed to go to Diggs on a comeback route, Bradford threw it short of the receiver and he never turned around to get it. That’s a classic miscommunication, and it’s not clear who’s to blame.

I asked Diggs whether he felt he and Bradford were a little off after Diggs missed time with a groin injury.

“That’s an overstatement,” Diggs said. “I take full responsibility for every play. As a quarterback he does a great job. Every play that I get an opportunity to make a play, I’ve got to make it.

“Sam does a great job at everything he does. And every ball that’s in the air is mine, and if I don’t make it that’s on me.”

He’s the best weapon the Vikings have on offense, and getting him back on track should be a significant boost.

2. Last week Mike Zimmer said this would be a gut-check game following the team’s first defeat of the season, in which the offensive line was bullied by Philadelphia’s tough defensive front.

So that’s not to call the Vikings gutless – I don’t think they’d have made it to 5-0 if that was the case – but it’s worth pointing out that they didn’t respond in a game their head coach viewed as critical in that regard.

“For us, everything that we do, all year long, is for 16 Sundays. That is really the proof in the pudding,” Zimmer said this week, when asked to clarify his ‘gut-check’ comment.

On Monday: “The other team beat us tonight. We didn’t play good enough. They played better than we did. Simple as that.”

3. Sometimes I wonder: Why can’t the Vikings run the ball more effectively? And if they can’t, then why are they so committed to trying?

The answer the first one should be a little easier. They lost Adrian Peterson and Jerick McKinnon, and their offensive line, while it’s been OK in run blocking at times, has not been good overall. It seemed especially bad the past two weeks, against Chicago and Philadelphia, the only two losses on Minnesota’s schedule.

Zimmer explained this week that the team’s terrible 2.6 yards per carry average was due in part to negative runs, which of course bring down the average. A reporter began a follow-up question about how it’s low by league standards and Zimmer interrupted by saying that “it is what it is, I can’t change it. It’s 2.6, that’s what it is. So we’ll just keep trying to do better.”

With no running game and little in the way of blocking, the pass attack has few opportunities to get in rhythm, and the Vikings’ offense basically is relying on picking up first downs and keeping drives alive through the air. That’s hard to do with a set of three downs, when one or two of them is devoted to running play that goes nowhere.

4. If you’re looking for a rock-solid Chicago Bears highlight:

Accuracy level: 100#MINvsCHI

— NFL (@NFL) November 1, 2016

Chicago had the last laugh though. That highlight looks like it came from the first 7 Bears games of the season. The eighth, a win against the NFC North favorite Vikings, was an impressive performance at Soldier Field.

5. My initial impression is that Xavier Rhodes played well in coverage against Alshon Jeffery.

The Bears’ top receiver had 4 catches for 63 yards and a touchdown – but the score game when Rhodes was out of the game, with Trae Waynes in coverage.

6. On that Jeffery touchdown, I thought it was a good bit of scheming from the Bears’ offense.

With Rhodes on the sideline and Waynes filling in for him, Chicago targeted the young corner on the second play in the red zone. Cutler faked a handoff off the left tackle that had Harrison Smith biting, after the Vikings had put him on Waynes’ side of the field to provide support.

That run fake left Waynes one-on-one with Waynes on a slant pattern at the end zone line, and that was enough of a mismatch for Cutler to fire a touchdown pass.

7. The game was on Halloween, of course.

And midway through the second quarter, when the Bears took a 13-0 lead at home, this was the general feeling of the game.

So far, the Zim Reapers playing zombies on Halloween and Jay Cutler looks back from the dead.

— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) November 1, 2016

The post 7 thoughts: Diggs-Bradford connection, gut check, running game concerns appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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