View images from the week 12 matchup at TCF Bank Stadium between the Vikings and Packers.
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Vikings fans should be pleased with Sunday's gritty performance. Still, it's disappointing to see the Vikings miss about half a dozen plays on the field. Errant throws to wide open receivers, coupled with dropped passes and Harrison Smith's dropped interception. Can these issues be corrected with coaching and with Teddy Bridgewater spending extra time with his receivers to get their timing down? This Vikings team is definitely better, especially defensively, than last year's team. -- Gary G St. Cloud, MN
Yes, those are correctable mistakes. They are frustrating to see, no doubt, but the good news is they are correctable and more practice time will help Bridgewater and his receivers develop the kind of rapport that produces fewer of those missed opportunities. Bridgewater is a rookie quarterback who is throwing to mostly young receivers.
I thought the defense played really well in holding Aaron Rodgers and Co. to only 24 points. The offense, on the other hand, seemed to struggle again. It seems like they end up stalling drives and have to settle for field goals. Is there a way to overcome this to get the ball in the end zone more? Or do the players just need to execute better to get the touchdowns? -- Kyle C. Mora, MN
It does come down to execution and eliminating mistakes. The Vikings had a drive late in the first half where they advanced to the Green Bay 23 and had a 1st and 10. On that 1st-down play, Bridgewater scrambled for an eight-yard gain, but a facemask penalty against Matt Kalil negated the gain and backed the Vikings up to a 1st and 25 situation from the 38, eventually leading to a stalled drive and field goal attempt. Later in the game, the Vikings had a 2nd and 4 from midfield and looked to have some momentum. But a safety blitz by Micah Hyde resulted in a sack of Bridgewater, leaving the Vikings with a 3rd and 11 from their own 46 – that drive resulted in a punt. Penalties and sacks are referred to as drive killers, and those two examples illustrate perfectly that description. Eliminating those mistakes will lead to sustained drives that yield touchdowns more frequently.
Any explanation as to why Ben Tate didn't get any carries? The Patriots signed LeGarrette Blount about the same time and he had two touchdowns for them on Sunday. What's the point of signing him at this point in the season if he's not going to be used? -- Jeffrey A. Glendale, AZ
With Adrian Peterson suspended and with both Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon missing practice time early in the week, one of the Vikings primary motivations for signing Tate was the need for bodies in practice. Granted, Tate is a talented running back and a player signed just for practice, so I'm sure the Vikings intend to play him in games going forward. But he hasn't even been with the team for a week, so you can imagine why the Vikings weren't comfortable playing him in a game. It was good to see Joe Banyard get the opportunity to make some plays and I think he flashed some ability; hopefully he'll get more opportunities in the future.
It's a different situation for Blount because he was with the Patriots in 2013 and knows that offensive system already, whereas Tate is learning a brand-new offense right now with the Vikings.
With us being out of the playoff race, do you see us now catering the offense to better develop Teddy Bridgewater for next year? -- Brenton S. Joliet, MT
I understand the nature of the question, but I don't feel that being in or out of the playoff picture impacts how the Vikings go about developing Bridgewater. A long-term goal is to develop Bridgewater as the franchise quarterback, and the week-to-week goal is to win as many games as possible. To me, those two objectives can be accomplished simultaneously. In fact, winning games is crucial to the development of a quarterback because it's important for young players in the NFL to expect, prepare and feel what it's like to win games.
I'm very happy to see the coaching staff give these young guys that extra snap when they needed it on those 4th downs. I know you don't want to do that unless the circumstances are just right. When we did it today, it just made sense and gave this young group an extra chance to make the plays I'm sure you guys see in practice all the time. I'm happy to see the team stay aggressive. -- Bob T.
I couldn't agree more. The decision by Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer to go for it on a pair of 4th downs early in the game showed me two things. First, it showed me that Zimmer is able to analyze individual situations and act accordingly rather than marry himself to one kind of philosophy. Zimmer knew he was playing an explosive offense and that his team would need touchdowns to win, so he decided to go for it on a couple 4th downs. It also showed me that Zimmer feels it's important to instill confidence in his team, particularly in his young quarterback. It was good to see, and it worked out in Zimmer's favor because the Vikings converted both 4th downs and scored a touchdown on that drive.
Do you see anyone, whether a backup or practice squad member, able to step up at left tackle? The Vikings really need to bench Matt Kalil or put him in at guard. -- Mike J.
It's Kalil who can step up and be the answer at left tackle. I believe as strongly as anyone that no job is guaranteed and everyone should have to compete for their playing time and earn their place, but I also believe as strongly as anyone that Kalil can be a quality starter at left tackle. I understand he does not seem to be playing up the level we saw from him during his Pro Bowl rookie season, but I also know Kalil has a ton of talent and can be the answer at that position when he's playing well. I actually feel Kalil has been better this season than many have given him credit for, but I also know he can play better and I expect that will happen as soon as this week against the Carolina Panthers. Also, the three penalties Kalil had yesterday fall below the standard he has for himself and I'm sure that's going to bother him until next week's game.