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A Closer Look: Receivers' Yards After Catch vs. Bears

Jerick McKinnon motioned out of the backfield and settled as the outside receiver on the right side of the formation. At the snap, he ran a shallow crossing route and was in position to secure a fastball from Teddy Bridgewater about two yards beyond the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field. It was a simple two-yard pitch and catch, but what happened next was a harbinger of what Vikings pass-catchers would provide all afternoon while helping Bridgewater rack up 231 passing yards and 4 TDs on 17 completions (13.6 yards per catch).

McKinnon tucked the ball in his left arm, used his speed and a stiff arm to get by S Chris Prosinski and around the corner, and then darted past LB James Anderson and 25 yards down the left sideline. McKinnon turned a benign-looking two-yard catch on 3rd and 4 into a 25-yard gain that put the Vikings on the Chicago 39 and eventually led to a Bridgewater-to-Stefon Diggs TD moments later.

The 23 yards after the catch (YAC) were only the beginning for McKinnon and his fellow offensive playmakers. The second-year RB had 73 YAC (on 76 total receiving yards), Diggs had 29 YAC on his second TD and fellow WR Jarius Wright had 28 YAC on the day. All told, Vikings pass-catchers had 173 YAC, accounting for 74.9% of the total passing yards on the day. Even more, they had 80 yards after first contact, displaying determination and toughness to go along with agility and speed.

Credit is not only due to the pass catchers, though. Norv Turner and the offensive coaching staff were wise to use route concepts that attacked the Bears man coverage by getting the ball into the hands of receivers when they were in position to make plays. Bridgewater deserves credit, too. Accuracy is always at a premium, but Bridgewater delivered passes on target the majority of the time, which allowed receivers to stay in stride during the process of the catch.

It wasn't all YAC that produced the big numbers, though. Bridgewater dropped a perfectly-placed pass in Diggs' front pocket on the game's first TD – a 15-yard pass with no YAC. The best throw of the day was to Mike Wallace down the middle of the field, when Bridgewater hit the speedster's back shoulder rather than leading him into the path of a hard-charging safety. That play resulted in a 34-yard gain, with only 5 YAC.

Bridgewater didn't set a career-high in passing yards on Sunday against the Bears; he did that two weeks ago in Arizona with 335 yards. But one can easily make the argument that Sunday's performance was the finest yet by Bridgewater in a Vikings uniform. He and the passing game appear to be peaking at a perfect time.

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