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Final Thoughts: Tate is gone but the challenge remains for Vikings defense

Vikings fans were pleased earlier this week when they learned the Lions traded Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles, just days before the Vikings and Lions were set to meet at U.S. Bank Stadium. Tate is a versatile offensive weapon who is particularly effective on 3rd downs, is especially adept after the catch and who can contribute as a runner, as well.

In eight games against Mike Zimmer defenses in Minnesota, Tate totaled 45 receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns. He had a pair of seven-catch games in 2014 and in 2016 he had an 11-catch game that included a 28-yard touchdown in overtime.

Suffice it to say, Vikings fans grew weary of Tate and that’s why they were pleased to see he had been traded away.

While Vikings coaches certainly shared in the pleasure of seeing Tate leave the division, it’s also clear in listening to them this week that they see the challenge of defending the Lions offense only changing, not getting easier because of Tate’s departure.

“It makes it tougher, honestly,” Zimmer said. “Tate was a great player and excellent on third downs, but now we have to kind of figure out what they’re going to do differently, who’s going to be in there, are they going to use [Theo] Riddick, which is probably a pretty good option. Maybe they go with other wide receivers. We could get a bunch of variables there. When he [Tate] was there, you knew he was going to be in there.”

Whether it’s the availability or performance of one of their own players or their expectations for what an opposing team may try to do and how they’ll try to do it, coaches value consistency and dependability. And Lions trade of Tate to Philadelphia adds something to the Lions offense that Vikings coaches don’t like to see – variance.

The trade may also be an indication that Detroit likes what they have in their other receiving options.

“They obviously feel good about their receivers that they have,” Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said. “When you look at them, number 11 [Marvin Jones Jr.], 19 [Kenny Golladay], now 10 [Brandon Powell] and 13 [T.J. Jones] in there. All of those guys have played for them and have been successful for them. Also, the use of their backs in the passing game. They’ve done a good job of using them, utilizing them in the passing game, whether it’s been screens or check downs or just the option routes out of the backfield.

“The quarterback can get the ball to any of them. You see all the big plays they’re making down the field with 11 [Jones. Jr.] and 19 [Golladay]. We’ve got our work cut out for us this week.”

A win on Sunday would…

- be the Vikings fourth in the last five games

- keep the Vikings undefeated in division play (1-0-1)

- improve Mike Zimmer’s home record to 27-11

Mailbag

Why didn't the Vikings trade for another offensive lineman or a running back? I really thought they would make a move to improve their chances for the Super Bowl this year. Finish strong, Vikings!

-- Eric Graygill

Kreamer, PA

Had an offensive linemen been made available, perhaps the Vikings would’ve been interested. But because quality linemen are so valuable and hard to find, it’s unusual to find a team willing to trade one away in the middle of the season. As for running backs, the Vikings have good talent and depth on their depth chart so a trade at this position would’ve have made sense for the Vikings.

Quotable

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer was asked this week about the risk-reward relationship associated with the choice of being aggressive or conservative with kickoff return philosophies. Priefer’s answer provides interesting insight into the factors that go into the decision-making process for teams.

“Our mentality here is that we’re going to be more on the conservative side let’s take the field position. We’ve got a really good offense, we’ve got a great quarterback let’s put the ball at the 25 and lets go. Where in years past we weren’t as strong on offense we were trying to make a big play with our return game so I think it depends on the team you have, it depends on the returner you have, depends on who you’re playing, who your opponent is, how well they cover, how great the kicker is – if he line drives one five deep or does he put it at a 4.3 hang time five deep? That all comes into play.”

Stat of the Week

Kyle Rudolph has started a League-leading (among tight ends) 57 consecutive games, which is the longest streak for any tight end all-time in Vikings history. Rudolph has also caught 17 touchdowns since the start of 2016, tied with Jimmy Graham and Cameron Brate for the most among all tight ends.

Broadcast Information

National TV: FOX

Play-by-Play: Thom Brennaman

Analyst: Chris Spielman

Sideline: Jen Hale

Local Radio: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130

Play-by-Play: Paul Allen

Analyst: Pete Bercich

Sideline: Greg Coleman, Ben Leber

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