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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings better equipped to handle Bears’ McPhee this time around

By Matthew Coller

On October 31, 2016, it became obvious that the second half of the Minnesota Vikings’ season was going to be rocky.

The Vikings’ offensive line put on a nightmarish performance, allowing the Chicago Bears to sack Sam Bradford five times and pressure him on nearly every throw of the Vikings’ 20-10 loss at Soldier Field.

At the center of the Bears’ pass rush was edge rusher Pernell McPhee. He picked up four QB hits and a sack in just 25 snaps.

Here’s one of them:

Vikings OL had major issues protecting Sam Bradford that night. Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Akiem Hicks were virtually un-blockable. pic.twitter.com/Ot9iFu7jM6

— Daniel Fitzgerald (@nflpicksfitz) June 4, 2017

The 6-foot-2, 275-pound outside linebacker has battled injuries over the past two seasons, appearing in just 13 games and picking up six sacks. Between 2014 and 2015, he combined for 13.5 sacks between the Ravens and Bears.

This year, he’s slowly ramped up, playing more snaps in each game. Last week against the Packers, he played 61% of defensive plays and sacked Aaron Rodgers once.

“When he’s healthy it definitely makes us better,” Bears head coach John Fox said.

The Vikings’ offensive line is unlikely to let McPhee harrass their quarterback the way he did last Halloween. The line has taken huge leaps forward in pass protection, ranking 11th by Pro Football Focus ratings and fifth in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Sack Rate statistic.

Right tackle Mike Remmers, who will likely see the most of McPhee, has given up just one sack this season and rates as PFF’s 19th best tackle out of 68. That’s a big change from last year’s starter at right tackle TJ Clemmings, who rated as PFF’s second worst tackle.

Whether Sam Bradford of Case Keenum starts at quarterback, success in the downfield passing game has been key to the Vikings’ two wins this season. Receiver Stefon Diggs, who leads the NFL in receiving yards, has an averaged depth of target of 15.1 yards. Last year the average throw in his direction traveled just 8.5 yards.

Chicago’s defense overall has not been good against the pass. They have given up a 103.8 quarterback rating against. So long as the Vikings contain McPhee, they will have the opportunity to have success through the air.

The post Vikings better equipped to handle Bears’ McPhee this time around appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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