Minnesota Vikings: The Season isn’t Over

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Vikings suffered a worst-case scenario on Sunday. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.

The season isn’t over for the Minnesota Vikings, but they do have some things to fix. Their lack of discipline was embarrassing and the offensive line was atrocious. With every loss comes positives and negatives. Here are some of each:

Things to fix

The obvious candidate here is the offensive line. Frankly, there are no excuses for this group. If the offensive line continues this level of play, the Minnesota Vikings will have a lot of trouble overcoming deficits. To my surprise, however, I did find a bright spot in this group–the interior. Alex Boone, Joe Berger and even Brandon Fusco kept the middle of the pocket clean, and even managed to handle Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Still, even the bright spot couldn’t get a push on key run plays.

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The three-headed offensive tackle rotation of Jake Long, T.J. Clemmings and Jeremiah Sirles simply could not block the edge. It wasn’t even close. After dissecting the film, there was not one pass play where the tackle on either side won the battle–not one play.

Jake Long’s first two snaps as a Vikings resulted in strip sacks. At some point, the tackles should have at least over-compensated to the edge, but they never adjusted their approach.

When a team is so talent-poor on the offensive line, one can only blame the players so much.

To fix this offensive line, the coaching staff needs to fear the worst of the line. In other words, the coaches need to anticipate that Sam Bradford will only have one second to pass. Over the first five weeks, the coaches seemed to know and embrace that fact. Against the Eagles, Norv Turner and company were far too comfortable setting up deep drop backs with no blocking help. That was by far the biggest mistake of the game–zero adjustments. Moving forward, the Vikings need to move back toward a balanced, quick passing game that incorporates tight end help and chip blocking.

Although it is hard to criticize a player with an interception, Andrew Sendejo could use some coaching. In the three turnovers of which Sendejo has been involved, he has made terrible mistakes. Before this game, Sendejo had the only Vikings turnover when he elected to scoop and score a fumble with 11 opposing players in front of him–he fumbled.

After his first interception of the season, Sendejo decided to run the ball back and attempt a spin move–he almost fumbled again. Against the Eagles, Sendejo had a clear path to a pick six–he ran into a wall of players. Not so hot take–the Vikings would have won if Sendejo scored. He simply needs some situational coaching in what to do after turnovers.

This goes back to the offensive line, but somehow some way the Vikings need to get the running game going. In fact, the game against the Eagles did show some bright spots for the run game. Those successful plays need to come earlier in the game, and the coaching staff needs to be more creative in manufacturing holes with a porous offensive line.

In a game that featured five turnovers in the first five drives, it is clear that the Vikings need to work on discipline. Sherels had an uncharacteristic special teams fumble. Bradford was strip-sacked four times officially, losing two. The run defense was suspect at times. The Eagles won the game on a kick return touchdown–something that simply doesn’t happen under special teams coach, Mike Priefer. It may actually be good news that everything that could go wrong all went wrong in one game, accounting for only one loss. Zimmer should have all the confidence of the fans and media to whip this team into shape like he did following the season-opening loss to the inferior 49ers last season.

Encouraging signs

First all, no one can say enough about Sam Bradford’s poise. Sure, perhaps he could have made adjustments to avoid some of those strip sacks, but Bradford kept a calm demeanor throughout the game. Even after limping in a play where he got smoked, Bradford threw a gorgeous touchdown strike to Cordarelle Patterson after all hope was seemingly lost.

Despite the poor play and play-calling, Bradford still managed to drive the team down to the red zone four times. His execution in the red zone was simply not his fault. The plays were reminiscent of Bill Musgrave’s conservative Christian Ponder play calls. In a season where the Vikings have had no success in running, running was the go-to in the red zone.

As usual, the defense played incredibly. How the Vikings lost when the defense forced four turnovers will give Zimmer nightmares the rest of his life. Xavier Rhodes played the best game of his life, forcing two key turnovers. The Eagles offense didn’t score until late in the third quarter. Sure, the defense could have played the run better in key moments, but they absolutely put the Vikings in a position to win.

This may not seem like a promising sign, but it can’t possibly get worse for the Vikings. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.  Sherels won’t be fumbling again. Zimmer will ensure that the offensive play calling and offensive line improve. Simply stated, Mike Zimmer will not allow the discipline of his players and coaches to be that bad again.

Next: PFF Ranks Vikings Secondary Best in NFL

Zimmer was not shy about his mistakes. A good coach recognizes their flaws, and Zimmer is a good coach.