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After Further Review: A Screen Becomes a Score

Posted Oct 16, 2017

After Further Review is a deeper look at plays or stats after Vikings games…

Q2, 15:00 remaining — First-and-10 at the Green Bay 27

The Vikings forced their first of three interceptions of the game at the end of the first quarter.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Anthony Barr moved the ball back to the Green Bay 42, but Packers linebacker Jake Ryan committed a horse-collar tackle on Jerick McKinnon on the following play to move the ball to the 27 at the end of the first quarter.

Minnesota lines up in 12 personnel with McKinnon as the running back and Kyle Rudolph and David Morgan as tight ends. The Vikings also have Michael Floyd and Adam Thielen in the game, a pair of receivers whose blocking is respected.

Thielen, who also has run successful jet sweeps, goes in motion behind Case Keenum before the snap. Keenum fakes the handoff to McKinnon, and the running back sneaks past blitzing inside linebackers Ryan and Blake Martinez.

The Vikings call of a screen overlapping with the Packers decision to blitz creates a great opportunity. Green Bay has seven players past the 31-yard line, and McKinnon is waiting between the 29 and 30 for the ball from Keenum with a convoy of Pat Elflein and Jeremiah Sirles.

Outside linebacker Clay Matthews spots the screen and has the best chance of getting to McKinnon, but “Jet” quickly accelerates and keeps his balance.

Elflein takes care of the backside pursuit by outside linebacker Nick Perry, and Sirles works his way toward the next defender, eventually finding safety Kentrell Brice near the goal line.

Floyd engages Damarious Randall and keeps the Packers cornerback occupied, driving him several yards and allowing McKinnon a cutback lane. 

The 27-yard touchdown was the longest receiving score of McKinnon’s career and the product of a couple of factors beyond a great play to have called against a blitz.

The Vikings spent a tremendous amount of time this offseason on screens, which require timing throughout the offense and mobile offensive linemen.

Zimmer on Monday explained why he emphasized adding more screens to the offense.

“I wanted to get better at screens because I know how difficult it is to defend,” Zimmer said. “It can slow down your pass rush. It can get guys hanging on the back more and not necessarily rushing the quarterback.

“I think [Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur has] done a great job with it, but maybe more importantly is we’ve got offensive lineman that are very athletic and can get out in space,” Zimmer said. “It’s easy to set up a screen, and then you get out there and a big guy can’t block a little guy. These guys are athletic. They’ve been able to get in space and be able to block them. Timing of it is essential.”

Here’s what Keenum, McKinnon and Sirles had to say about the play:

“When you have an offensive line that can run, give it space, and create explosive plays like that, it’s just about getting the ball in the right guy’s hands,” Keenum. “Jet did a great job. We use a lot of different guys in a lot of different ways, but it’s a good mix-up.”

McKinnon said: “The linemen do a great job of getting out and getting downfield. They make it easy on me. It’s always good to get in the end zone and celebrate with those guys.”

Sirles, who started in place of Nick Easton, said, “I think that we can get out and we can move in space as a group pretty well.”

“I think that we can run a little bit,” Sirles said. “I mean, having a guy like Jet back there who can make the first guy miss, and then as long as we just stand in front of people, he makes us look good.”