Minnesota Vikings vs. Lions: Offensive Report Card

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Vikings lost a third straight game to the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Each position played a part in the ups and downs of this game.

After experiencing another Minnesota Vikings loss predicted by Madden, it is helpful to examine the film and the numbers rather than the final score to determine the trajectory of the team.


Sam Bradford appeared shaky, and it is hard to blame him. After two consecutive weeks of a one-second-or-less pocket, it is no wonder why he was surprised to have time.

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Still, he missed a couple throws that could have been huge in the outcome of this game. One was a deep pass to a crossing Cordarrelle Patterson matched up on a linebacker. Bradford finally had time in the pocket, but he panicked and threw it early and off target.

Besides the learning curve of coming back to functional pass protection, Bradford played well in important spots. In the red zone drive where Pat Shurmur trusted him to pass, Bradford threw a touchdown.

In the game, Bradford threw 77.5 percent for 273 yards, a touchdown and a 103.4 passer rating. With the game on the line, the Vikings opted to run the clock down and trust Bradford to drive the ball all the way down the field–he did. Minus the shaky moments, Bradford looked like himself in his first four starts wearing purple with quick passes, quick decisions and poise. On top of that, he kept getting back up.

Grade: B+

Running backs

Ronnie Hillman asserted himself in a limited role with eight touches for 62 yards. In a more primary role, Matt Asiata looked like he was wearing ankle weights with 11 touches for just 41 yards. Most notably, Asiata again failed to get a first down in the red zone after two consecutive weeks of the same story. In all three of these cases, Asiata needed one yard in the red zone and failed. In all three games, the Vikings lost. Matt Asiata also had a crucial false start penalty in the red zone which should never happen to a running back with no reason to move early.

Jerick McKinnon struggled mightily as well on his ankle injury and also failed to pick up crucial first downs. Ultimately, if Rhett Ellison is the most successful runner with a rushing touchdown, this group doesn’t deserve a good grade. Run Ronnie more.

Grade: D

Wide receivers

Sam Bradford spread the ball around well–including a five yard pass to himself. Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Cordarrelle Patterson and even Laquon Treadwell got involved and open in a much more creative passing attack on Sunday.

Diggs hauled in 12 receptions for 80 yards, and gave Bradford a reliable target in several crucial moments. Adam Thielen made two or three plays that he shouldn’t have been able to make, but he did. Playing efficiently, Thielen had four receptions for 68 yards. Cordarelle Patterson dropped a touchdown, but continued to show improvement in route running. Laquon Treadwell caught his first NFL ball for a 15-yard first down reception in a key moment. Patterson’s drop was big, but all in all the unit adjusted spectacularly to Shurmur’s faster game plan.

Grade: B+

Tight ends

Kyle Rudolph had one catch for one yard and a touchdown. Rhett Ellison had one catch, one rush and one awesome trick play touchdown. Besides the small involvement with the ball in their hands, the Minnesota Vikings tight ends helped an awful offensive line look average, and Sam Bradford finally had time. For that, I have no choice.

Grade: A

Offensive line

If grading on a curve, the line would somehow reach a grade better than an A. Chip blocking, quick passes and creative plays working–who would have thought of that? Besides all the help the offensive line received, they simply looked more confident. There were moments where the pocket collapsed, but there were also moments where there was a pocket–a feat not achieved in the previous two games. The line allowed only two sacks, but one knocked the Vikings out of field goal range.

If the offensive line can be implicated in special teams, they did allow a blocked field goal. They also couldn’t get any push on a fourth an inches in the red zone (three weeks in a row). Yet, the line proved manageable, and the Vikings found enough things that worked for the offense to start winning games.

Grade: C

Offensive coordinator

New offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur experimented on Sunday. As a result, this game was sacrificed for the greater good of the season. He found things that work, glued together scrappy pass protection and kept things creative–a nice break from the predictability in the two weeks prior.

On the negative side, he let Matt Asiata touch the ball and he didn’t score following a Chad Greenway pick that started their drive in the red zone.

Grade: B

Next: Minnesota Timberwolves: Bad Second Half

Overall, the Minnesota Vikings offense looked like an offense. Sam Bradford had time, the line looked more confident and the plays fit the players.

Overall average grade: B-