Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Monday that his team’s pass protection must improve going forward. I think Vikings fans would most certainly agree. On Sunday against the Raiders, QB Christian Ponder was sacked 5 times and was forced to leave the pocket to avoid pressure many more. For the season, only 4 teams have allowed more sacks than the Vikings (30).
With pass protection being the issue that it is, many are quick to point a finger at the offensive line. And certainly members of the offensive line will be the first to tell you that they’d like to improve their play. The 5 starters on the Vikings offensive line are prideful individuals who’ve played on winning teams in the past, plus they’re playing well this year in the running game and would like to equal that effort in the passing game.
But the Vikings pass protection issues don’t land exclusively at the feet of the offensive line. Protecting the passer is a task charged with every single offensive player on the field, not just the 5 linemen.
“It wasn’t always our offensive line,” Frazier said on Monday of his team’s pass protection issues against the Raiders. “Sometimes, for the number of people that we had in protection, versus what they (Oakland) were bringing, they had more numbers than we had. Other times, there were times where we did get beat one-on-one. So, it was a combination of the two.
“When they are bringing as many people as they were bringing yesterday, we have to do some things to try and get Christian another second and be able to exploit the one-on-ones with our receivers down the field. Our receivers have to get open and we have to get the football to those receivers.”
The last point Frazier made is important. Winning one-on-one matchups down the field is just as important as winning one-on-one matchups against defensive linemen. The Raiders scored their 2nd-quarter go-ahead TD when WR Chaz Schilens beat man-coverage and came down with a lofted pass from Carson Palmer. On the play, Vikings CB Asher Allen was in good position to make a play, but it was Schilens who made the play instead. This is something that Vikings pass-catchers have the ability to do, and when they do this it will allow Ponder to get rid of the ball quicker and, consequently, reduce the amount of sacks the Vikings allow.
Proof that the Vikings have the playmakers to win one-on-ones actually came on Sunday against Oakland when WR Percy Harvin scored on a 26-yard screen pass and also scored on a 35-yard run that was called back because of penalty.
“One of the reasons that screen was so effective that Percy scored on was because they wanted to bring pressure, they get everybody coming in one direction and Percy is untouched on the simple screen away from the action,” Frazier explained. “So, there are some ways to slow them down if they want to bring pressure the way we’ve been getting it the last couple of weeks, and the same thing on the reverse that was called back. There are some things to offset some of what people are doing and we’ll work to do that, to attack that.”
Tags: Christian Ponder, Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin
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