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Monday Morning Mailbag: Maintaining Momentum, Bye Week Effects and Role of Hercules

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How will the Denver win help the Vikings beat Seattle?

Skol from California

— Scott Shifflett

The rarity of coming back from 20-down at the half (first team to do so in a span of 100 NFL games) can continue to build momentum and confidence that, when future adversity strikes, it won't be insurmountable.

Those factors definitely help, but each NFL game occurs in an independent vacuum. Seattle will pose a whole different set of circumstances, and the Vikes must play a cleaner game on the road than Sunday at home.

The Seahawks have been pesky for us of late, where it's looked like we've had them only to have it slip through our fingertips.

It's going to be a big one, playoff vibe for sure, and the Vikings will have a chance to freshen up a little bit.

It was fantastic to win Sunday and have some momentum and control of making the postseason heading into the bye. Hopefully that continues through December and into a nice playoff run.

I am curious how the Vikings will handle practices, etc., during two weeks before their next game. What days will they work and what days will they get off? I assume some of the sessions planned are mostly mental preparation.

— Bill Andrew

This is the second-latest bye week in franchise history [Dec. 1, 1991 — bye weeks were implemented in 1990] and by far the latest under Coach Zimmer.

He gave players an extended period of rest and recharging last week. Coaches likely used some time to self-scout and hopefully took a breather after three consecutive stress inducers that were decided on the final play.

They'll hit the ground running this week, but it will be different, too, because we'll have a Monday Night Football game.

Usually a Sunday game involves specific prep on W, TH, F and it moves back a day for MNF.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Vikings work on some things they learn from the self-scout early in the week and then direct attention to the SEA game plan.

That one could be as tough or tougher than these past three.

Give credit to the opposition for a few of the "big plays" completed against our secondary. Example: Dallas #19 side-line, toes at the edge, ball in the white, completions were incredible and at that point of the play unstoppable. But, seems to be too many other times we are getting burned this season. Scheme issue for the specific players fielded? Player technique issues? Both?

— Noel from Bayfield, Wisconsin

You are correct about Amari Cooper's toe taps on the sideline. That requires precision passing by the QB and execution by the receiver.

We haven't really seen this kind of frequency of big plays allowed under Coach Zimmer [we noted this in our 8 Takeaways and most-recent Numbers of Note posts]. I'd expect he and the defensive staff used the time on the bye week to self-scout and look for the causes, which might be what you mention, possibly a combo of factors.

The good thing is we were able to overcome those and some big plays allowed in several of our other victories and were still ranked fifth in points against entering Week 12.

Our offense is clicking on all cylinders, and Stefanski and Kubiak seem to be making great adjustments during the game.

The same cannot be said about the defense. Are you concerned that we haven't been able to get off the field on D and that teams are able to throw the ball all over the field on us?

— Ryan Aho

Chisholm, Minnesota

I like that you noticed the adjustments that the offense was able to make last week to find a way to win.

Kirk mentioned it postgame:

"We started drawing stuff up. [Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski] got out a white board for the first time this year and started drawing some stuff on the white board. One of them was a big play to Dalvin. Again, that's why I'm saying our coaches did a great job of adjusting and saying, 'All right, they're taking this away, but how can we still run this but present it differently to the defense?' There were a few times they did that and ended up being big plays, which is a great job by them on the fly in between possessions to make adjustments."

We didn't focus on it as much, but Danielle Hunter mentioned that Denver did some things on offense that the Vikings had never seen early in the game.

The good part is that the defense has been buckling down in the red zone (also forced the long field goal to begin the Dallas game that was missed and the long field goal late by Denver that was wayward).

What's going on with Xavier Rhodes? Teams seem to go at him early in games often completing a long pass down the sideline or getting a PI call against him. I still feel that he's one of the best in the game, but seems to not be prepared early in the game.

— David

You aren't the only one checking on Xavier these days.

He's not playing at the All-Pro level we saw in 2017, but he's had some really great catches go against him.

The 48-yarder to Sutton had a completion probability of 23.3 percent, which was the sixth-least-likely completion in Week 11.

There, however, have been some other times when opponents haven't needed that kind of a play this season.

The PI penalties have been tough to see, and although a couple this season were a little questionable, I'm sure that will be a focus down the stretch.

Glad that you're keeping the faith in Xavier and appreciate your support of the Vikings.

Hello from Tallinn, Estonia! I've been following the Hercules Mata'afa story these last two years, and it was awesome to see him get some playing time early in the season. Any idea why he hasn't been suiting up through middle of the season? Thanks!

— Nick Puccini

Hercules Mata'afa is a great story. It was cool to see him come back from the injury he had last year, keep grinding and get some playing time.

The Vikings carried a couple more defensive tackles than normal this year, which is a testament to what they think his potential could be, as well as that of teammates at the position.

It seems like when it gets to game day the Vikings are trying to play a little bit of a matchup game, kind of like man-to-man defense in basketball...where you might try to match height vs. height or even quickness vs. quickness.

Hercules has done well when the top goal is creating interior pressure, so he is best suited to go against a team that will likely throw more than run.

Other guys like Jaleel Johnson, Jalyn Holmes and rookie Armon Watts are less likely to be asked to surge up the field. Instead, they are better candidates for anchoring against a team with a stout running game. Watts debuted at Dallas with Linval Joseph out, and the Vikings stuffed the Cowboys rushing attack.

The Vikings develop an individual rush plan for every opponent, and they have a smoothness in their rotation to try to keep players as fresh as possible.

I'd expect that the topic of trying to contain Russell Wilson will come up a few times this week.

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