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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Film: Full bag of tricks available as healthy Vikings thump Beckham-less Giants

By Andrew Krammer

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Eli Manning worked his hands like a conductor, but the symphony came from the other team.

Facing nine Vikings defenders at the line, Manning motioned his receiver away from the formation and moved his running back to the opposite side. Anthony Barr countered, sliding from left tackle to over center in coach Mike Zimmer’s double A-gap front. The play clock struck :01 with Manning still pointing out Barr, and a delay of game penalty sent the New York Giants into a continued tailspin. Danielle Hunter sped past Marshall Newhouse on the ensuing 3rd and 10, sacking Manning to force another punt.

Zimmer had his full bag of tricks available in Sunday night’s 49-17 win over the New York Giants as they returned three key players to the lineup in safety Harrison Smith, Barr and nose tackle Linval Joseph. He made clear their impacts when asked about his rediscovered freedom in the playbook.

“Well, a lot,” Zimmer said. “I mean, a lot of times I’m thinking, ‘All right, I want to use this guy to do this, I want to use this guy to do this,’ from what I’m calling.”

The Vikings (10-5) flustered Manning early and often, with Zimmer rekindling the Vikings’ blitzkrieg ways with seven five-man rushes in the first half. With the game in hand, they backed off after halftime. Overall, Manning was hit eight times and had seven passes deflected (or intercepted) on his 34 drop backs. He didn’t complete a ball until the Giants’ fourth drive, and watched as his teammates dropped five passes.

After allowing 17 points and 363 yards, the Vikings rank 6th in points/game (19.3) and 14th in yards/game (343.8).

Defensive sets & stats
Base: 10/61 [16%]
Nickel: 51/61 [84%]
Yards: 363
Points: 17
Takeaways: 3
Sacks: 4

The Vikings’ five-man rush rate was 7 for 17 on first-half passes as they jumped on Eli Manning early. Throughout the game, they didn’t need more than the four linemen to get to him as Tom Johnson, Brian Robison and Danielle Hunter accounted for the four sacks. Those three and Everson Griffen combined for seven of the eight QB hits as the D-line’s pass rush once again dominated another quarterback at TCF Bank Stadium. Griffen, Robison and Johnson each led with two QB hits apiece. Griffen (53 of 61 snaps) led with four hurries overall against Giants’ rookie tackle Ereck Flowers. He drew a couple flags on Flowers, including holding and unnecessary roughness for what the referee called “action around the head.” Griffen and Sharrif Floyd (28) combined to pressure Manning on his first interception thrown to Andrew Sendejo. Floyd’s incredibly quick jump on the snap helped him set the pick on a stunt with Griffen, who forced Manning up and into a bad decision. Linval Joseph (31) returned from a three-game absence and was admittedly ‘rusty,’ said Zimmer. Joseph’s impact was limited to one run stop and tossing aside guard Justin Pugh to force an incompletion just before halftime. Johnson (37) can still be tossed aside in the run game, but he’s an irritant for quarterbacks. Johnson finished with three QB hurries and two QB hits on two sacks. Two plays after Joseph worked by Pugh (2013 first-round pick) to force an incompletion, Johnson used a swim move on Pugh for his first sack, forcing a Giants punt. Robison (45) continues to move around in pass-rushing spots. Robison moved inside and rushed as a defensive tackle (three-point stance) and linebacker (two-point), helping them vary up the looks. Manning thought he could outrun Robison on a naked bootleg, leading to Robison’s sack. Hunter (33) continues to serve a meaty role as a rotation end and part of their third-down rushing line. His sack against right tackle Marshall Newhouse wasn’t only impressive because it took three seconds, but that it came with his hand in the dirt. The Vikings tweaked Hunter’s rush earlier in the season, standing him up as it allowed him to maintain his speed without ‘popping up.’ It’d appear he’s grown more comfortable with rushing from a traditional 4-3 end stance.

The Vikings’ only meaningful bust came on a 50-yard screen to Rashad Jennings. Linebacker Eric Kendricks (50) was shoved down by guard John Jerry and Sendejo was also blocked out. They’ll take the effort, though, as six Vikings (including Hunter) were within five yards of Jennings when Xavier Rhodes came from the play’s far side to tackle him 50 yards downfield.

Image (below): On the first third down of the game, the Vikings run a zone blitz with Everson Griffen (97) dropping into coverage.

Video (below): The play displays Griffen’s athleticism to drop into coverage and nearly make this interception.

Seven Vikings split seven pass deflections in the continued torment of Eli Manning, who has now thrown more interceptions for touchdowns against the Vikings (5) than any active player against any one NFL team, per NBC’s broadcast. Safety Harrison Smith (44) returned from a two-game absence and didn’t skip a beat, wreaking havoc in the run and pass. His 35-yard interception return for a touchdown started with Manning overthrowing Rueben Randle down the sideline. A defense at full strength allowed Zimmer to open up the playbook, but likely so did the absence of Beckham Jr., who was the Giants’ only consistent source of production all season. Without Odell, the Vikings didn’t seem to tilt coverages one way or another. They could free up defensive backs and did so by blitzing cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (51) four times, landing one QB hit to help force an incompletion. Munnerlyn continued his standout play with a run stop on a backside blitz and also one of the three interceptions on an excellent zone drop. He watched Manning stare down a corner route to Ben Edwards, who was promoted from the Giants’ practice squad because of Beckham’s one-game suspension. Xavier Rhodes (61) was the only defender to play every snap, getting his best work in early when he blanketed Hakeem Nicks on a quick slant, deflecting the pass that ended in Sendejo’s interception. Sendejo (55) can get himself in bad spots with poor angles, but he tracked Jennings perfectly to stop the bleeding of a 16-yard run early. Terence Newman (44) was beat in man coverage on the 72-yard touchdown to Randle, rendered inconsequential by the Vikings’ 32-3 lead prior. Newman was pulled because of an illness in the second half.

Image (below): The Vikings are really good at disguising coverages on the back end, and Munnerlyn’s interception was a good example. It’s a non-traditional Cover 3 with two safeties dropping into one-third zones and corner Xavier Rhodes taking the other. That allows the pre-snap look to be two deep safeties, signaling Cover 2 to the quarterback.

Video (below): Munnerlyn makes an excellent play in his zone drop against a route combination that should beat a zone coverage like this. He watches Manning the entire way and shows off that instinct so well known from his days in Carolina.

Rashad Jennings found some room to operate vs. the Vikings, a defense still trying to shore up their game against the run. Joseph’s ‘rust’ perhaps played a factor, though the Vikings’ interior line as a whole, including Joseph, Floyd and Johnson, were too often single blocked, which allowed the Giants’ linemen to get to the linebackers. Chad Greenway (33) led the Vikings with nine combined tackles, including three on completions of 10 yards or more. Despite Anthony Barr’s return, Greenway still subbed into the Vikings’ nickel packages. Barr (37) had his biggest play come on a jarring hit to knock the ball loose from Shane Vereen on a 3rd and 3 attempt. He didn’t appear to be pushed in his first game back from groin and knee injuries. Kendricks’ best play came when he shed center Weston Richburg to aid a run stop up the middle. Otherwise, Kendricks had a quiet day and largely struggled to avoid linemen in the run game.

The Vikings’ most dangerous defender against the run was Smith, the fast-flying safety who didn’t have much rust from two games away to heal a left knee/hamstring injury. Smith had two run stops (seen below) and effectively acted like a third linebacker some nickel fronts.

Video (below): Smith creeps up to the line and jumps the backside of the play to tackle Andre Williams for no gain.

Video (below): Rueben Randle displays zero interest in blocking Smith on this run stop, as he knifes through the line and stops Jennings for one yard.

Game ball: Harrison Smith — The Vikings have an impact defender at all levels of the field when Smith is healthy. Honorable mention: Everson Griffen, Captain Munnerlyn

Goat(s): N/A

(Credit NFL’s Game Pass for imagery)

The post Film: Full bag of tricks available as healthy Vikings thump Beckham-less Giants appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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