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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Wetmore’s 4 thoughts: The Blair Walsh problem, not closing drives, Laquon Treadwell

By Derek Wetmore

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings lost in painful fashion in overtime Sunday to the Detroit Lions. There’s a laundry list of reasons why, although head coach Mike Zimmer said after the game that he felt his team fought much better against Detroit than it had in the previous two weeks on the road against Philadelphia and Chicago.

This column presents 4 thoughts from Sunday’s game.

1. Blair Walsh hurt the Vikings again on Sunday.

Walsh that started the year on shaky footing missed one extra point and had a long field goal attempt blocked. To some, it looked as if Walsh’s kick might have missed wide left even if it hadn’t but blocked, but it’s hard to know that without a better replay tracking the ball.

Two things need to be addressed here, and at least one of them is a problem.

I don’t have the math on what the league-average kicker does on extra points this season, but according to TeamRankings.com, 12 teams hit all of their extra-point attempts entering Sunday. Blair Walsh has now hit 12 of his 15, which drops Minnesota from 31st to dead last in the NFL in converting extra-point attempts. It’s the first extra-point try that he’s missed at US Bank Stadium. (For what it’s worth, he was kicking toward the end of the stadium with the giant glass doors open, but it was a beautiful day outside and the wind flags atop the goalpost hung motionless.)

Getting a 46-yard field goal blocked is more understandable, especially if it happened in a vacuum. Longer distance kicks require kickers to aim slightly lower for a line drive effect. If it’s a confidence issue for Walsh, however, after having just missed an extra point, then the Vikings might have reason to be concerned.

Walsh was chippy with the media after the game.

“I mean, you guys are going to ask me this question a million times,” he said. “‘Did it feel good? Did I make it?’ No, I didn’t. Do I have to? Yes. Do I want to? Yes. If you’ve got something else, please. Seriously.”

When pressed on the issue, Walsh said that “If I had the answer right away, I’d tell you.”

“I’m confident in what I’m doing, I know that I’m going to be fine. But it’s tough right now,” he said

Walsh missed two extra points in the first three weeks. Then he went 9-for-9 before missing his first shot Sunday. I don’t know what’s gone wrong with Walsh in bad times but I do know that having a bad kicker in the NFL on a good team is a liability.

2. Laquon Treadwell got the first catch of his NFL career.

The rookie wide receiver, drafted in the first round this summer, has been slow to come on. He basically has been a non-factor offensively for Minnesota.

“It’s normal,” Treadwell said of notching his first catch. “I’m used to making plays so I’m just waiting for my role to open up and get me more involved in the offense. That’s where I’m at right now, help this team win.”

“I see these guys working hard every day and I just want to be a part of it.”

I wonder what the deal is – the fact that he’s been little more than a rumor through eight weeks of the season was puzzling to me. If you draft a receiver in the first round on an offense that can’t put up many points in a given week, the expectation should be that he sees the field.

Are the reasons given for him not playing him all that there is to it? Is there more than that? Was that Norv Turner thing? Is it a Mike Zimmer thing? Will we see more of him now that Pat Shurmur is running the show on offense?

Remember, it took an injury to Charles Johnson injury last season to get Stefon Diggs on the field.

Here’s the less cynical way to view the situation: Perhaps Treadwell’s game truly did need some fine-tuning to really get to the next level (and perhaps Diggs’ did last year, too). Perhaps sitting and seething over the lack of playing time and attention could be a net positive for each receiver, long-term.

I don’t know if that’s the case – and furthermore I don’t even know that’s how each guy felt about being benched early on in his rookie season. But I do think that would be the natural human reaction.

Last year I thought it was way harder to parse than most people gave it credit. Was Diggs’ early benching an indictment on the coaching staff for not recognizing the talent? Or was the early benching a part of the process that led to a precise route runner who became a vital weapon in Minnesota’s offense?

I’m introducing a lot of unkowns, so I’ll conclude this thought with one thing I do know: Vikings fans would be in a great spot if that same sort of ambiguity arose this season with Treadwell.

3. I think there could be upwards of a half-dozen reasons the Vikings lost Sunday.

Zimmer’s timeout with 27 seconds to go in regulation, Walsh’s misses, poor tackling in the first half and in overtime, and the list goes on. But one thing that I think will sting for the Vikings and may get overlooked is the failure to convert Chad Greenway’s interception into a touchdown in the first half.

Red zone efficiency has to be concerning for the Vikings right now. If they can get that straightened out, the points magically will start to pile up. If they can’t for some reason, they’re going to continue to rate as one of the worst offenses in the league.

Here’s one of the troubling situations. Early in the second quarter, Danielle Hunter was all over Stafford on a 1st-and-10 play, and was barreling down on him for the sack. Stafford hung in there and tried to force it to one of his teammates – and just then veteran linebacker Chad Greenway undercut the route to intercept the pass and set up the Vikings in excellent field position.

But not only did they fail to score points after starting on Detroit’s 18 yard line, the Vikings eventually had to punt. That’s right: they started a drive in the red zone and they had to punt!

That’s thanks to a false start penalty by T.J. Clemmings, an illegal block penalty on Jeremiah Sirles, a negative run play and a 9-yard sack to bring down Bradford on 3rd-and-long.

Drives beginning in the red zone and ending in a punt is a bad formula. It’s not the first time the Vikings have struggled in or near the red zone this year.

4. Say what you want about the Lions being the Lions, but Matthew Stafford has been a great quarterback lately.

On Sunday, the Lions QB was 31-for-40 for 273 yards and a touchdown, god for a 103.4 rating. He entered the day 9th in the NFL in yards per attempt.

Ever since Jim Bob Cooter took over the offense, Stafford has been a lot better than the reputation he’s gained over his career. In preparing for Sunday’s game, it occurred to me that people also used to think of Matt Ryan as a so-so quarterback at best and now he and the high-flying Atlanta Falcons offense have taken the NFL by storm under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Fascinating how 2 talented QBs once widely viewed as ‘meh’ are succeeding in good offensive systems. Matt Ryan and Stafford.

Bradford next?

— Derek Wetmore (@DerekWetmore) November 6, 2016

The jury is still very much out on Sam Bradford and Pat Shurmur, if Sunday is any indication. If the outcome was different Sunday, we’d likely spend more time collectively talking about Bradford’s gutsy drive late in the game.

It’s worth noting here that sometimes very talented quarterbacks will look bad in a bad system and good in a good system. Bradford is on that level of talented quarterback, now it’s up to the pieces around him – including the coaching staff – to allow that talent surface.

The post Wetmore’s 4 thoughts: The Blair Walsh problem, not closing drives, Laquon Treadwell appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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