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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Should the Vikings blitz Tom Brady?

By Matthew Coller

EAGAN, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings are making the rounds this year, hitting what seems like all the quarterbacks who are en route to Canton, Ohio.

This week, they will match up with future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, who is having a fine season, but is not running away with many statistical categories as he has in the past.

New England’s superstar QB has a 96.5 rating, 19 touchdowns, seven interceptions and averages 7.5 yards per attempt. The Patriots rank tied for eighth in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, seventh in passing DVOA (Football Outsiders) and Brady is Pro Football Focus’s seventh highest graded quarterback.

All of those stats combined paint a pretty clear picture that the Patriots’ passing attack is effective, but not other-worldly.

Per PFF , Brady’s numbers against the blitz have been about the same as when opponents rush four. He’s averaging 7.8 yards per attempt and has a 93.2 rating against the blitz. However, his PFF grade drops from an elite 90.7 (out of 100) to 68.1 when opponents send extra rushers.

“I think he sees so many things now, I think with the experience,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I don’t know that he’s changed all that much. I don’t remember when I was with Dallas. But I think like Belichick said about [Aaron] Rodgers, I’m glad he’s not in our division.”

On the other side of the ball, the Vikings are giving up the second lowest quarterback rating when they blitz.

Does this add up to a big day of exotic blitzes from Zimmer?

“They do a good job of getting in no backs and spreading the ball around, getting the ball out quick,” Zimmer said on Wednesday. “Protection wise they change up on you quite a bit so they can get extra hands on your pass rushers. The play action quite honestly helps them quite a bit because they sell the run so well with it. If it was just a straight passing game every snap I think we’d have a good opportunity.”

There’s a saying about blitzing that, paraphrased, is something like this: Blitz the bad ones, cover against the good ones. That has largely been Zimmer’s philosophy. He has dialed up more blitzes per game against QBs with fewer than two seasons under their belt than against the proven opposing quarterbacks.

Blitzes against experienced quarterbacks (all data via Pro Football Focus):

Aaron Rodgers (game 2): 2-for-3, 32 yards

Matthew Stafford: 3-for-5, 19 yards, one sack

Drew Brees: 1-for-3, seven yards, one interception

Carson Wentz: 6-for-11, 86 yards, one touchdown

Jared Goff: 9-for-11, 164 yards

Aaron Rodgers (game 1): 9-for-10, 87 yards, two sacks

Total: 30-for-43, 395 yards, one TD, one INT, three sacks, QB rating: 96.7

Blitzes against inexperienced quarterbacks

Mitch Trubisky: 6-for-9, 54 yards, one touchdown, one interception, one sack

Sam Darnold: 3-for-11, 51 yards, one sack

Josh Rosen: 6-for-9, 53 yards, three sacks

Josh Allen: 5-for-8, 45 yards, one sack

Jimmy Garoppolo: 4-for-8, 53 yards, two interceptions, one sack

Total: 24-for45, 256 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, seven sacks, QB rating: 49.9

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the more experienced QBs have put up better numbers in total, but since Week 4 the amount of blitzing has been so minimal that it’s hard to make any predictions about how Brady would handle the blitz.

The Vikings consistently find ways to show blitz and send five rushers but have pressure from different angles. Last week against Green Bay, Harrison Smith lined up over the center on two occasions — an unusual look for Zimmer’s defense.

PFF’s tracking stats show us how mixed the rushes have been. Defensive end Stephen Weatherly has dropped back in coverage on zone blitzes 12 times, cornerback Mackensie Alexander has rushed the passer 12 times, linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr have totaled 110 pass rush snaps and safety Harrison Smith has 26 pass rushes.

PFF’s Mike Renner pointed out in this article that the Vikings blitz less than other teams, but have a far greater success rate at creating pressure. Renner wrote:

“The Vikings’ 25.2% blitz rate is actually slightly below the league average of 27.0%. They’re not adding an extra man regularly because they lack the ability to get home with four; they’re using it as a sporadic weapon in their arsenal. Because of that, their blitz packages have generated pressure a ridiculous 48.5 percent of the time (league average is 41.8 percent). When they don’t blitz, that figure is only 32.6 percent (league average is 30.0 percent).”

When pressured this year, Brady has a 77.1 rating.

Zimmer will also pick key spots to dial up blitzes such as third downs, where the Vikings are the best team in the NFL by six percent over the next best team.

“They’re really well coached,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said during Wednesday’s press conference. “Defensively, this is as good of coaching as we’ll face. I think Mike does a tremendous job with fundamentals and their schemes. They’re very challenging, especially in critical situations like third down, red area, things like that.”

The post Should the Vikings blitz Tom Brady? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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