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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Film: Bridgewater takes a step back as Vikings’ offense sputters vs. Packers

By Andrew Krammer

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Teddy Bridgewater’s hot hand quickly cooled at Lambeau Field.

In his first career start at Green Bay, Bridgewater looked uncomfortable and out of character, finishing with a career low in completions (10) and yards (99) to go with a left-handed interception that left the Vikings’ sideline baffled by the decision to switch hands while evading pressure before throwing into traffic.

“He just wasn’t as sharp last night as he’s been these last three weeks,” Zimmer said Monday. “I thought he moved in the pocket too much. He didn’t take some of the easy throws he had. He may be trying to do a little too much, I don’t know. I haven’t really talked to him yet. I’ll talk to him more this week. But he needs to play better.”

Adrian Peterson and the offensive line were largely out of sync as he finished with 3.5 yards per carry on 19 attempts. Just like the Vikings have seen all season, the Packers loaded the box with eight- and sometimes nine-man fronts, daring Bridgewater to beat them. With an average third-down distance of 7.5 yards, the Vikings would move the chains just twice on 11 attempts.

The Vikings opened with an aggressive approach on offense, with Bridgewater misfiring on deep shots to Jerick McKinnon and MyCole Pruitt in the opening drive. Facing a 4th-and-3 that series, receiver Adam Thielen took a direct snap 41 yards on a fake punt. Before aggravating his left shoulder, Thielen stood out with three of the Vikings’ four longest plays.

In offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s second year, the Vikings finished the regular season ranking 16th in scoring (22.8) and 29th in yardage (321.2).

Personnel groupings (#)
3 receivers / tight end (11): 22
2 receivers / tight end / 2 backs (21): 9
1 receiver / 2 tight ends / 2 backs (22): 8
2 receivers / 2 tight ends (12): 7
1 receiver / 3 tight ends (13): 2
Total: 48 plays

Bridgewater couldn’t find his mark from the start, overthrowing an open McKinnon down the sideline on his first attempt of the game. The Vikings continue to get McKinnon (12 of 48 snaps) more involved through the air, and Bridgewater missed a couple opportunities to him on Sunday night. This reporter inaccurately Tweeted pass protection was ‘atrocious’ on Sunday night. Protection was par for the course, which isn’t stellar, but Bridgewater didn’t do the line many favors. Facing a 3rd-and-7, the Vikings ran an interference play that freed McKinnon in the flat against the Packers’ man coverage. Bridgewater missed the read, unnecessarily scrambled and was sacked by Julius Peppers. When he was under pressure, Bridgewater didn’t fare well by completing just 2 of 6 passes for 38 yards and an interception, per Pro Football Focus. Matt Kalil had another off night, allowing a critical pressure on 3rd-and-9 at the Packers’ 11. Kalil, recovering from an ankle injury, got caught reaching on Matthews, who sped past him to sack Bridgewater and force a field goal even though Green Bay rushed just three defenders. Bridgewater’s accuracy waned when a 3rd-and-2 attempt fell at Mike Wallace’s feet. His grip slipped when he fumbled a handoff to Peterson as they milked the clock on the final possession. And his decision making was suspect on a left-handed interception, corralled with a backhanded grab by Micah Hyde. They’ll need much better from Bridgewater in his first career playoff start on Sunday against the back-to-back reigning NFC champion Seattle Seahawks.

Matthews was a mismatch for the Vikings wherever he lined up, notching pressures against Kalil, center Joe Berger and guard Brandon Fusco. Kalil and Fusco allowed two hurries apiece. Mike Neal ran a twist that got past guard Mike Harris and tackle T.J. Clemmings, pressuring Bridgewater on his head-scratching interception. Harris and Clemmings got under Matthews’ skin, ultimately drawing a 15-yard penalty when Matthews slammed Harris to the grass.

Image (below): On this 3rd-and-7, the Vikings run a combination pattern that should beat the Packers’ man coverage. Watch the linebacker (circled) manned up on McKinnon.

Image (below): Wright and Rudolph (underlined) run routes that interfere with the linebacker, freeing up McKinnon in the flat for what could be a big gain. Bridgewater sees an opening and runs, even though the Packers’ twist created and closed the opening.

Video (below): At times there were no options, including this ‘sack’ of Bridgewater. A play-action rollout finds little with Rudolph and Wallace doubled, and Stefon Diggs slipping out of his break.

The Vikings once again struggled to run block the Packers’ front. Adrian Peterson had a couple 10-yard runs and was otherwise bottled up by an aggressive Green Bay defense that Vikings’ blockers couldn’t budge. Their best success came with three straight red-zone runs out of spread formations (three receivers). Peterson took three consecutive carries for 11 yards and a touchdown, coming out of a shotgun set at the 3-yard line. Peterson’s trademark jump cut helped him pick up a 10-yard gain between Berger and Harris. Otherwise, the Packers were sound tacklers as Peterson broke free just thrice on 19 carries, per PFF, before he exited with a lower back injury. Peterson would return for the final series after undergoing X-rays, and expects to be fine for Sunday’s playoff game. Tight end Kyle Rudolph (42) had a rough outing as a run blocker, getting his feet tangled up with Clemmings on a 2-yard loss to McKinnon. Rudolph always gives the effort, but he was bested again by Nick Perry on a 3-yard gain to Peterson. Mike Daniels and Letroy Guion each got the upper hand on Fusco and Harris, resulting in a pair of 2-yard gains for Peterson.

Video (below): The Vikings were out of sync up front. Fusco slips. Peterson tries to bounce this one outside, where Clemmings doesn’t fire off the ball and is beat by Datone Jones for no gain.

Video (below): Peterson takes a handoff out of the shotgun and rams through for a three-yard touchdown.

Tight end Rhett Ellison’s season-ending injury is a big one for the Vikings. Ellison tore a patellar tendon on a fourth-quarter catch, and needs to undergo surgery. He’s expected to miss six months. Ellison (20) is the Vikings’ most versatile and one of the most effective blockers, lining up in a variety of spots in just his 20 snaps on Sunday night. He saw work in the backfield as an extra pass protector out of the shotgun, or lining up as a fullback for Peterson. Without him, the Vikings will turn to rookie tight end MyCole Pruitt and fullback Zach Line. Line (17) could see an increase in playing time with Ellison out, since he’s taken to a similar role as a backfield pass protector and run blocker. On one play Sunday night, Turner used both Line and Ellison as lead blockers for Peterson. Even then they managed just a 2-yard gain.

Video (below): Ellison blocks rookie Damarious Randall to help free Adam Thielen on his 26-yard jet sweep.

Game ball: Adam Thielen – A versatile ball carrier and pesky run blocker, which isn’t common with receivers. He produced 83 of the Vikings’ 242 yards in just seven snaps.

Goat(s): Teddy Bridgewater – The Vikings need Bridgewater to get back on track.

(Credit NFL Game Pass for imagery)

The post Film: Bridgewater takes a step back as Vikings’ offense sputters vs. Packers appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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