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Monday Morning Mailbag: Pass Protection Issues

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag feature. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

To submit a comment or question to the mailbag, send an email to Mike Wobschall at Remember to include your name and town on the email.

I know the Lions have the top defense in the league, and have a dominant front line, but 8 sacks is unacceptable.  What changes need to be made on the offensive line in order to improve moving forward? -- Kevin M. Brainerd, MN

In what was a disappointing outing by the Vikings offense, poor pass protection was the most visible blemish in the performance. When pass protection is a problem, blame is immediately placed on the offensive line. I do feel the offensive line can play better and needs to improve for next week's game against Buffalo. But we also have to remember that pass protection is a responsibility that falls at the feet of several other positions, too. Receivers must get open, running backs and tight ends are frequently asked to pass block, and the quarterback must get rid of the ball in a timely manner. While the offensive line had failures in protection, I also saw every other aspect of pass protection fail too often on Sunday. Every aspect of the Vikings pass protection shares blame in the eight sacks allowed on Sunday and every aspect shares the burden of needing to improve immediately in order for the Vikings offense to be productive going forward.

Another rough performance by the offence overshadows the defenses' performance. The total defense and pass defense are HUGE improvements from last year's 31st ranked position in both categories. And this is with the Vikings having played Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. I better not be the only one who is excited about the improvement thus far! Skol Vikings! -- Riley S. Winnipeg, MB, Canada

Without question, the Vikings defense has made huge strides this season and is clearly going in the right direction. Yes, there are still corrections and improvements to be made, but Riley is correct that through six games the defense has vastly improved under Head Coach Mike Zimmer. A few defensive stats that particularly stood out to me on Sunday were:

-- Vikings cornerbacks allowed just 10 receptions on 20 targets, and only 6.4 yards per catch.
-- The Vikings held Detroit to just 1 of 13 (8%) on 3rd downs.
-- After allowing an opening-drive touchdown, the Vikings forced five punts in the next six possessions and didn't allow a drive of 26+ yards until the 4th quarter.
-- Lions QB Matthew Stafford was just 19 of 33 (57.6%) for 185 yards and one touchdown.

Do you think that we need to call more deep passing plays on offense? Bridgewater definitely has the arm strength to make the throws, and Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright and even Cordarrelle Patterson are deep threats. If we constantly throw short passes and screens, our offense will become predictable, like it did against Detroit, especially without a great running game. Do you think maybe we should try some deep plays against the Bills and the Bucs, which are must win games for us? -- Ben P. Australia

The Vikings do need more explosion out of the passing game, and of course the primary way to do that is with downfield passing. But in order to complete passes down the field, an offense must first protect the quarterback and then the receivers must be open. As discussed above, the Vikings are doing well with either of those aspects right now and therefore I don't feel Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner should force the deep ball.

View images from the week six matchup at TCF Bank Stadium between the Vikings and Lions.

The defense held the lions to 17 points, which should equal a win most weeks. Turnovers and bad play calling continue to hamper this offense. Why can't Norv Turner figure out how to use Cordarrelle Patterson? Couldn't they try more sweeps, screens, or put him in the backfield a few times? Maybe even try Patterson in a wildcat formation. -- Corey S. Sioux Falls, SD

I agree turnovers hampered the Vikings offense on Sunday, but I don't know how you can place any of the blame on play calling. With the eight sacks allowed and the three turnovers, there's no way to blame play calling because much of the time the plays that were called weren't executed properly. Furthermore, it has to be taken into consideration that this offense is being reinvented and therefore will take time to come together. When Turner took over the offense, everything was built around having the best running back in the NFL, a rising star at tight end, a healthy offensive line that was returning the same five starters for the third straight season, and a veteran quarterback running the show. Now, none of those components are in place, and Turner is trying his best to reinvent the offense on the fly. Players must execute better and that is the bottom line.

As for getting Patterson the ball more frequently, I can assure you the coaches would love to do that. They tried to do that on Sunday by lining him up in the backfield and by targeting him in the end zone. In fact, Patterson was targeted eight times in the passing game and only came down with two receptions. The onus is also on Patterson to do a better job of getting open and putting himself in a position to make plays.

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