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Bleacher Report – Vikings

DeFilippo picked up where Shurmur left off with key third-and-short play calls

By Matthew Coller

In 2017, the Minnesota Vikings dominated third-and-short.

They ranked fourth in the NFL, converting 61.8 percent of third downs with less than five yards to go and gained a league-high 6.5 yards per third-and-short play.

In such situations, last year’s starting quarterback Case Keenum averaged 8.5 yards per pass attempt and posted a 108.1 quarterback rating on 67 throws. Receiving options Adam Thielen (14), Stefon Diggs (13) and Kyle Rudolph (9) all ranked in the top 20 in third-and-short receptions.

Many of the Vikings’ successful third-and-shorts, of which there were 102 total (per Pro Football Reference), came because of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s schemes and play calling. He consistently dialed up ways to get the ball into his top receivers’ hands.

On Sunday, new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo followed in Shurmur’s footsteps, setting the Vikings’ offense up to hit on third-and-short in big spots.

Against Green Bay, the Vikings went 6-for-8 on third-and-short. Two of the conversions came using the same deception from Rudolph.

With 5:05 remaining in the first quarter, Cousins converted a third-and-1 with a two-yard pass to Rudolph to set the Vikings up at the Green Bay 22-yard line. The conversion ultimately led to a Cousins touchdown pass.

A very similar look led to a 23-yard connection on third-and-1 with the Vikings trailing 20-7 late in the third quarter. Cousins also finished that drive with a touchdown, bringing his team within one score.

Here is a look at both plays:

On each play, Rudolph sells that he’s run blocking and then spins back into the flat wide open. The offensive line plays a huge role in giving the Packers’ defense a run look. On the first quarter play, they zone block left and in the third quarter guard Mike Remmers pulls left and receiver Adam Thielen blocks the safety. The linebacker No. 50 Blake Martinez breaks left both times, taking him out of the picture, leaving Rudolph free to gain the first down (and much more, in one case).

With just 42 seconds remaining in regulation, Cousins completed a 6-yard pass on third-and-4 to Thielen, bringing the Vikings within striking distance to tie the game at 29.

Four yards to go is slightly out of range to risk a run play, so the Vikings spread out three receivers and one tight end. Interestingly, that TE was not Rudolph, rather the rookie Tyler Conklin. Both the fifth-round pick from Central Michigan and Thielen run slants.

The Packers two high safety look leaves the middle of the field open. Had the Packers been playing single-high, middle-closed, the Vikings’ QB might have looked at the other side of the field. But with the two-high look, as soon as Conklin’s man breaks with him, Cousins has a clear throwing lane to hit Thielen for the first down.

One interesting detail of the play is that Thielen is off the ball and Conklin is on the line of scrimmage, yet Thielen runs the deeper route. It’s possible that alignment works to create slightly better spacing.

There’s nothing super unique about double slants, but it allows the QB to know where he’s going with the ball in the case of either one or two-high safeties — which the Packers could have played either in a third-and-4 situation.

As the Vikings looked to get Daniel Carlson the easiest kick possible following his two misses earlier in the game, they needed to convert a third-and-3 in overtime.

Lined up in a bunch formation, the Vikings had three-on-three on the outside as long as Clay Matthews rushed the passer. Rudolph and Laquon Treadwell, two mismatch blockers for DBs, jumped into action at the snap finding their blocking targets while Cousins got the ball quickly to Stefon Diggs on a screen pass.

Rudolph gets just enough of the cornerback, who is playing well off the line of scrimmage, to give Diggs a lane to get the first down. Ha Ha Clinton Dix is the lone deep safety on the play. While he’s over the bunch, he can’t move up toward the line before the snap and risk getting beaten over the top.

The first down set up Carlson’s 35-yard field goal…which went wide right.

Any time a team has success in a certain situation, it’s going to be because of a combination of scheme, play calling, timing and execution. In 2017, all of those things came together under Pat Shurmur on third downs-and-short, which drove the Vikings’ ability to sustain drives and rank 10th in points.

Through two games, Cousins is 9-for-11 with 133 yards and two touchdowns in the first two weeks in on third-and-short. DeFilippo, Cousins and the rest of the offense’s effectiveness on those plays has helped shape their solid start to the year.

The post DeFilippo picked up where Shurmur left off with key third-and-short play calls appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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