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Reviewing the Minnesota Vikings’ 2021 season: Week 11 vs Green Bay

Purple Pain

This fan blog entry was originally posted at Purple Pain Forums by MidwinterViking.

I learned more from rewatching this game than I expected – much more. I thought this would be a simple case of “offense can score, defense stinks,” but the offense happened to have the ball last, so the Minnesota Vikings won. Turns out there is a lot more I can get from this for 2022 (other game reviews are linked at the bottom of the post.

Week 11 – Vikings vs Packers: Vikes win 34-31

Interesting stat:

Green Bay Packers’ points-per-drive in the first half: 2 (this even ignores the one play kneel down or it would be 1.7)

Packers’ points-per-drive in the second half: 7

When I was watching the game, I was looking for what changed.

Vikings leave their defenders on an island

Key play:

The Packers’ third touchdown, this one from Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams. Mackensie Alexander completely falls for Adams’ move and gets badly beaten. Here’s the play:


There were so many questions and trends this play highlights.

First, the coverage – the Vikings had been playing really good coverage the first half of this game. The Packers’ first two touchdowns were both extended scramble drills where coverage held up longer than expected. If the Vikings had any kind of pass rush at all, they could have really set the Packers back. Unfortunately, Armon Watts was the best pass rusher on the field (stats say it was Sheldon Richardson, but I liked watching Watts). Watching the 2021 season over has made me a big fan of Watts, but he can’t be the team’s best pass rusher; he just can’t. Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith would have had a massive impact on this game, and that’s where we look forward to 2022. 

Related: 3 Minnesota Vikings poised to breakout in 2022

Second, why was it so easy to get Adams 1:1 versus Alexander? Bashaud Breeland had a good game, and Patrick Peterson had a great game. This highlights some of the inflexibility of the Zimmer system. I get it. Peterson plays outside, but Adams versus Alexander is ridiculously one-sided. It has to be tougher to get that matchup than to just put Adams in the slot – putting a top receiver in the slot isn’t exactly an earth-shattering move; there should be a better solution than “oh well, here’s a touchdown.” This was my answer to the “interesting stat question”. Pass rush wasn’t good most of the game, but the secondary played really well through the first two and a half quarters.  The Packers just started scheming away from Peterson and Breeland.

This wasn’t the only play where the Packers had a slot receiver running against an overmatched defender. On the long touchdown that tied the game at 31, Marques Valdez-Scantling just ran a post route against air (or Xavier Woods, one of them). I’ve ripped on Woods, but I can’t be too hard on him for this play when he’s completely on an island like this:

(Sidetrack on this play: if you can’t get pressure with six pass rushers, what’s the point of blitzing?)

Third is awareness. The defensive line actually had a chance to make the key play tough on the Packers. Everson Griffen, for some reason, pulled up on his rush as if he expected Rodgers to run past him. You can see in the image above that Griffen is unblocked but not in a running position as he stutter-steps. I don’t get why he did that. Then to add insult to injury, he hit Rodgers (a tiny bit) late and drew a flag. Maybe it’s just a mistake on Griffen’s part, but it was strange to see when there was a blitz set up to get someone free, then that someone hesitated.

Related: Overpaid or underrated: 2022 outlook for Vikings QB Kirk Cousins

Minnesota Vikings player grades

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

None of the ratings are very clean this week. They all have huge caveats that could be argued up or down. For what I expected to be one of the best games of the season, the replay is very mixed. All the inconsistencies of the rest of the season are still here, but the Vikings just got a few more breaks in this game. I’m rating -2 to 2 and sticking to no 0’s given out.

Passing offense:

This has to be a positive rating simply because of the stat line: 341 YDs, 3 TDs, 0 INT. However, for numbers this good, I saw a lot of warts. Kirk Cousins threw into coverage deep, wasting several shots that had little chance of success. The offensive line held up, but it wasn’t a great game for Christian Darrisaw with seven pressures. Even Justin Jefferson made a mistake on a route that would have led to an interception if not for a roughing-the-passer penalty:

I’m being harder on the passing offense to ask the question: how would this game have gone if Jaire Alexander played? I think there is another gear needed and available in 2022.

Game score: +1 (cumulative season to date: +5)

Rushing offense:

I watched the game before looking at the box score, and the box score surprised me: 90 yards and a 3.1 yards-per-carry. I had expected fewer yards but higher yards-per-carry. For having 29 carries, the running game was largely invisible. They only converted six of the Vikings’ 25 first downs via the run. I thought about marking this as only a -1, except for this play. As you look at this play, try and figure out who player “A” and “B” are (the best clue is the hair visible on player “B”, but not “A”, KJ Osborn? Dalvin Cook? Alexander Mattison?):

This play is a 3rd-and-1 with the Vikings leading 16-3 with six minutes left in the first half. This is the perfect time to establish the run, convert a first down and potentially put the Packers in a huge hole before halftime (with the Vikings receiving the second-half kickoff). From this angle, the play looks blocked well enough to gain the one yard needed.

The reason I downgraded the rushing offense from -1 to -2 is because player “B” is Dalvin Cook. Okay, so with no long hair, “A” must be Kene Nwangwu? Nope. What!?! That makes no sense; he’s the only other fast guy without long hair? Who’s player “A” running with the ball then? Surprise! It’s CJ Ham. Instead of having a fast guy like Cook, Mattison or Nwangwu do fast-guy stuff, the Vikings used this critical moment to give the ball to a slow guy.  The down was not converted. 

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Game score: -2 (cumulative season to date: -6)

Pass defense:

Which group do I rate? The defensive ends who got very little pressure? Or the defensive tackles who got two sacks? Do I rate the coverage that held Aaron Rodgers to one touchdown on his first five drives? Or the coverage that allowed three touchdowns on three drives in the second half? The first half was a +2 rating and the second half was a -2 rating. And since the Vikings won, they get a + instead of a -; they did enough.

Game score: +1 (cumulative season to date: +6)

Run defense:

The box score shows 5.0 yards-per-carry allowed, but that was brought up by a Rodgers scramble. This group was effective enough but nothing exciting.

Game score: +1 (cumulative season to date: +3)

Special teams:

Greg Joseph missed an extra point and Dede Westbrook dropped a punt, but a game-winning field goal will gloss over everything.

Game score: +1 (cumulative season to date +5)

Coaching:

It’s tempting to mark the coaching staff down when the passing game fell apart, but overall, the game plan worked. The Packers figured it out in the second half, but I’ll give the coaches credit for mostly being aggressive. The really boneheaded stuff seemed play-specific with a good underlying plan.

Game score: +1 (cumulative season to date: -3)

Prior weeks if you want to take a look: 

Game 1 @ CIN

Game 2 @ ARI

Game 3 vs SEA

Game 4 vs CLE

Game 5 vs DET

Game 6 @ CAR

Game 7 vs DAL

Game 8 @ BAL

Game 9 @ LAC

As always, if you’ve enjoyed this piece, please consider hopping over to Purple Pain Forums and debating with other Minnesota Vikings fans about not only this topic, but so much more!