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Monday Morning Mailbag: Evaluating The Offense vs. Baltimore

Posted Oct 22, 2017

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Some might say the Vikings offense did not play well against Baltimore. The way I look at it, they went into game manager mode, not taking any chances down field to risk turnovers since the defense was playing lights out. What was your impression?
-- Joe Kaiser

There were some things I really liked about the offensive performance, notably the running game generating a per-carry average of 5.1 yards on 33 attempts, and also the pass protection keeping quarterback Case Keenum clean with no sacks allowed. I also loved the 12-play, 69-yard drive that produced Kai Forbath’s sixth field goal, gave the Vikings a 15-point lead and, most importantly, took 6:47 off the clock late in the 4th quarter. I don’t know that I would agree the offense went into game manager mode. You have to give Baltimore’s defense credit for making it tough to move the ball, and then you have to give Keenum and Co. credit for scoring points on seven of 10 drives.

Another tough game. Our offense needs to be a little more consistent. I know Case Keenum can do better in his decision making. There were a lot of plays left out there.
-- Toby Smart
Alaska

Yes, there were some plays left out there, I’m sure. But that is no different than every game. I actually feel Keenum played really well and did a great job of understanding what type of game he was in, how well the defense and special teams were playing and then adjusting accordingly. He made some gutty throws on 3rd downs to Adam Thielen and Jarius Wright, too. Keenum threw an interception on his first pass, but then proceeded to complete 20 of his next 29 passes without any more turnovers and without taking any sacks. Keenum was solid and steady on Sunday.

The Vikings are on a roll. Our defense is outstanding. We are making progress. Penalties and turnovers were better. Field goal kicking is better. Next thing we need to improve on is red zone efficiency. Touchdowns instead of field goals. How do we improve this?
-- Gerald Goblirsch

The biggest cardinal sin in the red zone is negative plays, and the Vikings were guilty on Sunday. On the Vikings first red zone snap of the game, Latavius Murry was tackled for a loss of two. On the next snap, Thielen was penalized for offensive pass interference. Needless to say, the drive stalled and Forbath came on to salvage a score. Two red zone possessions later, Murray was tackled for no gain on 1st down and Laquon Treadwell was penalized for a false start on 3rd down, leading to another Forbath field goal. The next biggest thing in the red zone is being able to run the ball effectively. The Vikings have shown signs of that in the last three weeks and the best signs yet were on Sunday against Baltimore. So if the Vikings can eliminate those negative plays and keep running the ball well, the red zone woes will turn into red zone touchdowns.

Great performance by the defense and Kai Forbath. I don't understand why, when the Ravens receiving corps is non-existent, our defense went in to prevent mode, allowing the Ravens to drive down and score on the last play of the game. Why not continue to play the way you've played the entire game and let your secondary take care of business like they've been doing all day? Disappointing to see them take their foot off the gas and play not to lose with the situation they were in. Either way, a win is a win, but I hate watching our phenomenal defense be forced to concede.
-- Jerry
Michigan

You said the key word, Jerry. Situation. You have to understand the situation and adjust your strategy accordingly. The Vikings kicked a field goal to go up by 15 points with 3:03 to play in the game and then took the field on defense. The worst thing that can happen to you on defense in that situation is a quick Ravens score, which would allow them to try an onside kick and gain possession again. So by adjusting your strategy and making the Ravens use time and scrimmage plays to drive down the field, you are decreasing their chances of obtaining a second possession, which they need to attempt to tie the game. By keeping everything in front of them, the Vikings defense forced Baltimore to all 3:03 of the game clock to score, which left them with no mathematical chance to tie the game. It was smart situational football by the Vikings because they made sure that between the final offensive drive for them and the final offensive drive for the Ravens, all of the 9:50 left on the clock expired.

The defense played lights out just like you expect them to and Murray showed off his talent and getting better every week. But the biggest compliment I could give the team is the fact that the backups along the offensive line were great! I love the fact that there was no drop off in their ability when called upon.
-- John McGuire
Lone Pine, CA

The Vikings offensive line depth was tested on Sunday. Backup left tackle Rashod Hill entered for Riley Reiff, who left the game with an apparent leg injury. And then rookie Danny Isidora had his number called when backup left guard Jeremiah Sirles was forced from the game, also with a leg injury. Zimmer didn’t seem too concerned with Reiff’s injury and there was no update on Sirles, but Zimmer will likely be asked about both early this week so we’ll have to stay tuned for more information later.

I thought our special teams really stepped up against the Ravens, who are one of the best in the league at special teams. But we still don't seem to have that Cordarrelle Patterson-like home run threat we used to take for granted. Do you see one player in our squad that can change that perception?
-- Raymond Bustos
The Dalles, OR

The special teams was dynamite for the Vikings on Sunday. Marcus Sherels had three big returns, and two of them led to Vikings scores; he also had a special teams tackle. And of course Forbath was huge in connecting on all six of his field goal tries. The Vikings kickoff and punt coverage groups also did a good job limiting the Ravens return groups. I don’t know that the Vikings have a dynamic returner like Patterson on this roster, but I also can’t be certain that they don’t. Jerick McKinnon was going to get a full-year run at it until Dalvin Cook was lost for the season and McKinnon was thrust into a more prominent offensive role. We’ll see if rookie Stacy Coley can step up in this role. For the time being, the Vikings are without a Patterson-type return threat.