Tale of the Tape: NFL Week 8 — Vikings at Patriots
A LiveBall Sports Game Tape Review.
- There are a number of fundamental issues with the Minnesota Vikings that simply can’t be corrected by Brad Childress or anyone else. Against the New England Patriots, I thought the Vikings did an excellent job of hiding their weaknesses to keep the game close. In the second half, the ball really, really bounced the way of the Patriots and put the Vikings on the defensive, which lead to hard hits on Brett Favre.
- When the game was at 21-10 in the third quarter, I thought the teams had played evenly to that point. From that point, the Patriots pulled away and dominated in the fourth quarter.
- The Patriots didn’t have a banner offensive day, but when you talk about teams who display great offensive efficiency, consider that Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson relieved Brett Favre and finished the game for him…by throwing a single TD pass with more than 7 minutes to go in the game. Jackson got the ball down by 10 points inside two minutes to play, with the game over at that point.
- Patriots LT Matt Light had a complete and utter domination of Vikings DE Jared Allen in this game. So convincing was this match-up in favor of the Patriots that Vikings DC Leslie Frazier had to move Allen off his preferred right defensive spot to try to give the defense a chance.
- QB Brett Favre is not noticeably affected by his broken ankle. I’m sure it hurts.
- The Vikings coverage units were strong in this game. For the Patriots, there were plenty of third and long situations on offense, and they didn’t always come through in those long conversion situations.
- All of those long yardage passing attempts makes it more inexcusable that the Vikings didn’t get a sack in this game.
- There are way too many Vikings receivers who don’t play at an NFL standard. WR Bernard Berrian in particular has performed poorly, but TE Visanthe Shiancoe who had such a great year last year is running inconsistent routes and messing up in simple areas like knowing where the sticks are.
- Brett Favre was a distributor of the football in this game, really putting the Pats defense in a bind. That means it really wasn’t the fault of anyone but Randy Moss that Randy Moss had just one catch.
- It’s fallacious to say that Randy Moss dictates the coverage that defenses use. It’s true that when he goes vertical, he gets a second defender running deep with him, but that’s how most defenses cover most vertical receiving threats. WR Percy Harvin wasn’t more open because of Moss, Harvin was open because he was running the best routes on the field, and using the whole field.
- The New England Patriots really lack any semblance of a pass rush to get to the quarterback, and they know it. When Favre got hit in this game it was because of complete and utter breakdowns by the Minnesota receivers in understanding both the game situation and the quarterbacks intentions. The 3 and 4 wide packages of the Vikings are one of the least tactically prepared units I’ve graded this year.
- While the Pats have wasted many early draft picks on defensive backs who can’t play at the NFL level, there is every indication to believe that rookie CB Devin McCourty is different. When the Patriots get CB Leigh Bodden back from injury next year, they will have a starting corner tandem that they have tried hard to develop since losing Asante Samuel back in 2008.
- The Vikings can win as long as they can stay with RB Adrian Peterson and their rushing attack. This is a very good running team, unlike some of the Vikings team of the past which had an explosive playmaker who had both a fumbling tendency and a tendency to lose yardage. Peterson is as good as I’ve ever seen him this year. The 2nd half score of this game, 21-10, prevented the Vikings from using Peterson as anything but a pass receiver in most of the second half.
- Percy Harvin lapses in concentration causing mistakes, but if the Vikings can manage his migraines, it’s hard to imagine Harvin not being one of the best receivers in the NFL for a long time.
- If and when the Vikings ever turn the offense over to Jackson, he’s got a really powerful offensive unit that Favre helped build with Sidney Rice, Peterson, and Harvin. This year the Vikings are too reliant on players who don’t have a true understanding the offense: Berrian, Greg Lewis, Shiancoe, Toby Gerhart, and — at times, yes — Favre himself.
- For the Patriots, their backs, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead are fairly interchangeable as players, both are excellent runners. Woodhead is playing the Kevin Faulk role in their offense. I don’t know if I’d want to send him between the tackles as much as Green-Ellis, but they are both man-blocking sit and wait runners. Green-Ellis is more patient than Woodhead.
- The Vikings did not let WR Wes Welker get open in this game. He was the focus of Leslie Frasier’s gameplan. It was often SLB Chad Greenway‘s responsibility to hit Welker and make sure the safeties could adjust to his routes. Greenway did a fantastic job, and would seemingly be on his way to the pro-bowl this year.
- As deep and elite as this Vikings DL is, this unit is clearly underachiving. It’s not just Jared Allen. They need more production from Kevin Williams and Ray Edwards with Pat Williams getting decreased playing time.
- WR Deion Branch was a non-factor in this game for the Patriots. It was Brandon Tate who made all the (fluky) long-yardage plays thanks to QB Tom Brady‘s underrated elusiveness.
- Maybe no fact in this game sums up the Minnesota offense quite as well as this: their three leading receivers in this game all played running back in college. Randy Moss was not overall helping this offense accomplish anything, from an on the field perspective.