Final Thoughts: Rushing Offense, Pass Rush Key Vikings Victory

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 23, 2012 – 6:20 am

The Vikings have a quick turnaround this week, as they’re slated to play on Thursday night in a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We’ll turn our full attention to the Vikings-Buccaneers matchup later on Tuesday. But first, here are a few final thoughts from the Vikings 21-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Getting Home With Four
We identified rushing four defensive linemen and dropping seven defenders into coverage as the defensive key to the game in last week’s Verizon Wireless Winning Formula. The Vikings identified the same strategy as the way to contain Arizona’s offense, and it worked. Cardinals QB John Skelton was sacked 7 times in the game and was constantly under duress. That disrupted the Cardinals passing game and it prevented superstar WR Larry Fitzgerald from ever becoming a factor.

“That was the goal, to go into this game and be able to generate a pass rush without having to bring five or six guys,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Monday. “Our D-line stepped up to challenge. They dominated just like we hoped they would. It really took a lot of pressure off our secondary and helped them to play a very good game as well. It was great execution, but it started with our guys up front.”

Of the Vikings 7 sacks, 6.0 of them came from defensive linemen. DE Brian Robison had 3.0, DE Jared Allen had 2.0 and DT Kevin Williams had 1.0. The other sack went to CB Antoine Winfield (more on that play later). The pressure generated by the Vikings front four allowed the Vikings secondary and LBs to focus on Arizona’s receivers, specifically Fitzgerald. Only one other team this year (New England Patriots) has held Fitzgerald to fewer catches and receptions than the Vikings, who held the former Holy Angels (Richfield, MN) star to 4 receptions for 29 yards.

Run It, All Day
When you play the Vikings, you know you have to buckle it up and get ready to stop Adrian Peterson. But then, when you’re able to shut down the Vikings passing game almost entirely, you surely know Peterson will be coming at you. Even so, Arizona could not stop the best RB in the NFL. Peterson had his best day on the field since returning from his knee injury, carrying the ball 23 times for 153 yards and 1 TD. On the Vikings two TD drives, Peterson carried the ball a total of 8 times for 87 yards.

Perhaps most impressive about the Vikings rushing performance was the fact that they did it despite Arizona consistently stacking the box to try and slow #28.

“For our running back, Adrian Peterson, who is the premier back, to know they’re going to be in eight-man fronts, nine-man fronts at a time, and be able to rush for 153 yards, that’s the formula for success if you’re in a tough situation throwing the football,” Frazier said. “Credit our guys for buying into that philosophy and finding a way to get a win.”

What I also loved to see was the way the Vikings finished the game. The Vikings were in a precarious situation, holding on to a 7-point lead with :14 to play in the game and a 4th and 5 from the Arizona 33. There was too much time remaining to kneel again because that would give the Cardinals the ball on about the 35 with 12 or so seconds to go. They could use one quick pass to the sideline to put themselves in position to throw a hail mary. Trying a FG was an option, but a miss would give the Cardinals the ball at the spot of the hold, with a chance at a hail mary on the following play. So what did the Vikings do? They gave it to Peterson.

The result was good – an 8-yard gain up the middle for the 1st down, permitting the clock to tick down to zero.

Key Play: Antoine Winfield’s 4th-Down Sack
A key moment in the game came at the 7:47 mark in the 3rd quarter, with Arizona facing a 4th and 2 from the Minnesota 18. The Vikings just took a 21-7 lead on the previous series when Harrison Smith returned an INT 31 yards for a touchdown. With a makeable distance to go on 4th down inside the red zone, Arizona decided a FG wasn’t going to do much for them, so they decided to go for it.

It didn’t work out.

Skelton took the snap and rolled to his right, looking for a receiver in the right flat. That receiver was blanketed by Winfield, so Skelton tucked the ball and attempted to run for the 1st down. Being chased by Robison, Skelton sprinted toward the sideline and the 1st down marker, which prompted Winfield to come off his coverage at the just the right time and administer a crushing blow to Skelton before he could reach the 1st down marker – before he could even get back to the line of scrimmage. Robison got there a split-second later to increase the punishment, and the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs.

It was one of those signature plays from Winfield, a defender who plays with a unique blend of calculation and tenacity.

Vikings Neutralize Patrick Peterson
When it comes to punt returners in the NFL, Patrick Peterson has been Superman. He had a record-setting season returning punts last year as a rookie, scoring 4 TDs and totaling 699 yards on 44 returns. The 4 return TDs tied the NFL single-season record and set a franchise record, and the 699 return yards established an NFL rookie record and ranks as the 2nd-highest single-season total in NFL history (Desmond Howard, 875, 1996).

But when it comes to defending punt returners in the NFL, the Vikings have been Peterson’s Kryptonite. In last year’s matchup, Peterson had zero return yards on 4 Vikings punt. In Sunday’s matchup, Peterson had 7 total return yards on another 4 Vikings punts. Credit goes to Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer, P Chris Kluwe and the team’s punt coverage crew for finding a way to neutralize the explosive and dynamic Peterson.

Harrison Smith’s Temperament Impresses
Vikings rookie S Harrison Smith is off to a fantastic start. Even before his 31-yard pick 6 this past Sunday, Smith was having a great season. Add in that play, which was ultimately the game-winning score, and you can’t be anything but completely excited about how much of an impact player Smith will be for this Vikings defense.

Smith plays the safety position in a way we haven’t seen very much in Minnesota. He’s been fined for illegal hits and he’s been penalized for mixing it up after a play. But the penalties and/or fines that Smith has received after a couple of big-time hits have not caused Smith to temper his aggressiveness. He’s learning to modify his play so that he can remain aggressive while playing within the rules.

“Sometimes when you get fined as often as he’s gotten fined in these first seven games, it can temper your emotions and make you start playing a little tentatively,” Frazier explained. “And that hasn’t been the case with him. He’s been aggressive. He’s still in-tune with everything we’re trying to get done. He doesn’t seem to be sidetracked by anything that happened.

“I remember explaining to him about horse collaring and what happened a week ago against Washington and talking him through it again, although we’ve covered this before. And he said, ‘Okay, I understand.’ Then he just moved on, and that’s the attitude you want to see.”

Now Smith adds a defensive touchdown to his body of work in the NFL. Typically, players who bring that much to the table are emotional and volatile by nature. But that’s not the case with Smith, and that’s impressed Frazier as well.

“His resiliency, his maturity is very, very impressive,” Frazier said. “He’s a bright guy and very athletic but his maturity and just not letting stuff hang on to him that can be negative, that’s impressive.”

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Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 27 Comments »

27 Responses to “Final Thoughts: Rushing Offense, Pass Rush Key Vikings Victory”

  1. By Muskyfever on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    Clearly ALL DAY is a beast and Harrison Smith is going to be a star for many many years to come!!

  2. By Muskyfever on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    I understand that Ed Reed has put in a loty of work to be as good as he is, but I see a lot of Reed in H. Smith. Good ball skills, not afraid to light you up, big hits over the middle, plays with a “certain” chip on his shoulder. I really like Smith, I think he is going to be a leader on D very very soon

  3. By BlueBird7 on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    Any chance we can trade Musgrave in exchange for Mike Tice?

  4. By vikingbob136 on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    Verizon Wireless Winning Formula???
    What the heck is that?
    Game plan is to cause havoc at all times.
    Forget about the sponsors

  5. By Muskyfever on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    Someone needs to bring Musgrave to Dairy Queen and show him the magic of the twist cone. Maybe he will realize that Vanilla is BORING!

  6. By OTKalil2012 on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    There used to be a time fans recognized the influence of an elite defense like the Cardinals have…

    Defenses are now catching up to offensive game plans this season…

    Ponder had a tough go, against a great Cardinal defense….

    Tampa Bay will allow some breathing room for the passing game this week…Ponder should fair better Thursday night….

    But look for the offense to have trouble again 2 weeks from now, when we head to Seattle…

    Where instead of playing the number 4 ranked defense in the Cardinals…That Seattle team at home, is ranked number one in defense this season…

    But first up, the Bucs….

    GO VIKINGS !!!!…

  7. By BlueBird7 on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    Mike Wobschall

    Yes, indeed. The grass is green, the flowers are blooming, birds singing in the trees (Maybe not in Minnesota this time of year) but somewhere.

    Even with two of our Rival North teams without their two good players(Chicago,Detroit) I still see these teams as NO pushovers.

    Ex-Viking Nate Burleson Remember him? Charles Woodson, Demon of the MidWay. Offensive Coach Mike Tice (Chicago) Remember him?

  8. By OTKalil2012 on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    I heard the Vikings were practicing outside on grass, in the rain already last week…

    Practicing on rainy grass fields a few weeks before the Seattle game is SMART coaching…

    CONDITIONING on grass fields is huge….

    Way to go coaching staff…Gives me hope for that Seattle game coming up…

    But first, the Bucs !!!

  9. By john on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    what i seen last night we are better team then the bears

  10. By Dakotakid59 on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    People have got to quit blaming Ponder for his playing. It’s Musgraves playcalling, which is way to conserative, he needs to mix it up every now and then. Ponder only does the play that is called. The day of calling your own plays are long gone.

  11. By BlueBird7 on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    Trade him to Chicago for Mike Tice.

  12. By BlueBird7 on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    Chicago is top of the North. With Musgrave calling plays for the Bears, it wouldn’t be long for them to drop down a bit. Yes, the Vikings are next in line but the Defense got them there, not Musgrave!

  13. By Muskyfever on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply


    Trust me we all see that Musgrave has vanilla play calling, but when Ponder can’t execute vanilla plays or throws INT’s on 5 yrd pass plays, or overshoots the long throw by a ton… UHHHH, Houston, we have a problem. EXECUTION IS NEEDED! the blame goes on the Offense, not just Ponder or Musgrave. Recievers (besides Harvin) can’t get separation + poor execution + Vanilla play calling = bad pa ssing Offense.

    OUr run game is Good, P ass… Not so much

  14. By Muskyfever on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    I have said before and will say again. DO i think we should bench Ponder…???? NO!!!

    But he needs to start showing again that he can make good decisions, cause the last three weeks I have been looking at 2011 Ponder, not the 2012 Ponder we thought we were getting. I believe he has it in him to be great, I just need to see it now

  15. By iaVIKE on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    He’s a smart kid, he’ll look at the tape, work hard, and bounce back Thursday night.

  16. By VikingFanatic209 on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    Good yes great No, although I was disapointed not to see more 2nd half production I understood that we had a lead and trusted our defense to maintain that lead therefore wasn’t much of a need to force anything against Arizona’s stout defense with that being said we do need to get better on offense as a unit and I do believe as the season moves on we will….

  17. By vikingbob136 on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    Lets hope Ponder hit the playbook this week and not his new girlfriend.
    Save that for the post game celebration.

  18. By VikingFanatic209 on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    more on ponder……walks like a duck, talks like a duck..well u got a duck….lets not be in denial here, Ponder has the potential to be much more than a trent dilfer type QB but he is no Aaron Rogers nor do i think he ever will be but the good thing is our scheme on offense doesn’t ask him to be an Aaron Rogers and lucky for us in both of Ponders worst games (Lions, Cardinals) AP got it done on the ground over 100 yrds. My point……………this is still a run 1st offense even though we kinda got away from that with the whole Favre and Chilly thing….we know that didn’t work out and now we are getting back to Minnesota football. Its not always gonna look pretty but a win in this league is something to be happy about.

  19. By Muskyfever on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    Vikingfanatic209… Not saying I don’t like winning.. But how many Super Bowls have we won “with this run first O”? I’m not saying… but I’m saying.

    Something has to give

  20. By pack fan on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    For those that dont know about ponders’ injury plagued collegiate career let me shine the light. junior season had shoulder separation missing four games and requiring surgery. senior season had three more surgeries to the elbow, removing scar tissue, draining fluids, bursa sac, torn tissue from the muscle. Then last college game of his career sustained a concussion. So hes had four surgeries to his throwing arm!…..He has no strength in the arm, the playbook is limited, cant call deep slants, back shoulder throws, timing routes. I am still in disbelief musgrave and braintrust selected him in first round

  21. By iaVIKE on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    Sure seem to have a lot of info on Ponder there cheesed1ck….. didn’t stop him from almost beating your fudgepackers last year in his first career start…. keep runnin your mouth, like all you packer fans do….it’ll catch up to ya. I know it will be hard seein as how you’re a packer fan, but try not to forget the intricate lyrics to your teams fight song…

  22. By northwoodsv2 on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    @ Dakotakid –

    Was it Musgrave’s call for Ponder to lob the ball over the wide open TE for an interception? (Something we saw from him last season as well)

    Ponder’s problem is NOT play calling – it’s execution when the shmidt hits the fan. He had pretty solid protection the first 4 games, hence no INTs. Opposing defenses have been putting more pressure on him the past 2 games

  23. By Tim S on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    I think its funny when I hear people say get off Ponders back. Regardless if he is only in his second year and he didn’t get an off season in his first year blah blah..even when he isn’t inconsistent and actually throws the ball to our team he isn’t very productive. I don’t see him ever being better than Alex Smith. Thats who he reminds me of. Someone that can be accurate at times but his production never shows it. He isn’t the answer here in minnesota. Even if we are a run first O, what happens if AD gets injured again? Our we going to turn to Toby to carry that weight for us? Not even. All im saying is im enjoying watching the vikes play good football, but I do not like watching Ponder throw and having to cringe every time because he might be making a dumb mistake.

  24. By 4eversteve on Oct 23, 2012 | Reply

    The mistakes that Ponder has been making is worrying to much about the pressure teams have been put on him along with the pressure he puts on himself to make a play. He needs to be more aware of his throwing mechanics when releasing the ball while on the run. Ponder should use his athleticism to allow him to escape the pressure and be able to reset his feet before releasing the ball when ever possible or just dump it out of bounds. I would rather them have to punt than give up the field position because the quarterback was trying to make a play that could end up costing them games. I fully expect the Buc’s to bring the heat in the form of multiple blitzes trying to rattle Ponder and the Vikings into several mistakes. Until Ponder proves that he can handle the pressure and make plays instead of turnovers, teams are going to pin their ears back and bring the heat ,It’s up to him to show them why that is a mistake, he will get there sooner or later right now I still view him as a rookie QB who needs to speed up the learning curve.

  25. By Muskyfever on Oct 24, 2012 | Reply

    Tim S nailed it right on the head.

    4eversteve made some good valid points too.

    Personally I don’t even know if Ponder will get there eventually, sure he has made some strides forward.. When has has blocking, in going through reads and what not. But I am not sure that he is ever going to be a QB that is going to be in the top 15 or even 20 in the league.

    I like him for now, but there are QB’s throughout history that were drafted in the first round, who were supposed to be great guys, who never did anything. Matt Lienhart comes to mind… Or Ryan Leaf, drafted above Peyton Manning. Can anyone tell me where Ryan Leaf is these days? Howe bout Manning?????

    No look at some of the Elite QBs not drafted high. right now I can only think of Tom Brady… Round 6 pick 299… WTF!

    So just based on where you are drafted does not mean that you are going to be great.. or even good for that matter. I will let him play out this year, I will even go as far to say I will let it play out next year also and see where he stacks up. The 3rd year is supposed to be the year where QB’s become better and should be done with their “learning situations”. So he has till the end of next season to prove he belongs.. and If not.. Get rid of the entire Offensive coaching staff, fire Frazier, Musgrave and release Ponder, hire some new people and draft a new QB… But that is a little harsh at this point considering he has a season and a half to impress me or us.

    Lets see what he can do if we let him out of his cage a little more, surround him with some more weapons and then check his status. If he still can’t play then bye bye ponder

  26. By Tim S on Oct 24, 2012 | Reply

    @ Muskyfever
    Yeah I would be okay with giving him one more year. But as we are doing that I think we should also look at other options in the off season just in case he continues this. People have a lot of faith in him so hopefully he wont let everyone down (see Mark Sanchez).

  27. By Kathy P on Oct 25, 2012 | Reply

    Just give Ponder the Offensive Line Protection he needs and I think he’ll do okay. He really got frustrated on Sunday and it showed with his two picks. Give him some decent time to actually have a target to throw to and I think this kid will do okay.

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