Vikings had deep options vs. Redskins

The Redskins were committed to stopping the Vikings near the line of scrimmage, but Minnesota didn't fully take advantage. Was it play-calling or lack of execution? Depends who you ask, but players and coaches discussed the possibilities and we break down the Redskins' approach.

While the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff concentrates on the inefficiency in the red zone, there are other statistics that the offense might need to get rectified for more consistent success in the final two-thirds of the season.

One of the keys could be the team's ability to find a more reliable passing game that can present at least a threat to go deep.

The Washington Redskins were thought to present the optimal opportunity. They had given up 26 plays of 20 yards or more through five games, with 24 of those in the passing game. That's an average of almost five per game.

The Vikings had three Sunday, but none more than 23 yards.

"You want to keep doing it, and as long as people are going to crowd the line of scrimmage, you got to hit a couple of those plays," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "We had a chance for that in the Detroit game. We had a chance for it (Sunday) as well. We saw it against Tennessee where Percy (Harvin) got behind a defensive back. So, we'll keep taking shots as people continue to crowd the line of scrimmage and we've just got to convert when we do."

Frazier and Percy Harvin both indicated that the opportunities were there. Frazier seemed satisfied with the attempts the Vikings took, but Harvin sounded like there were squandered opportunities.

"We had a lot of opportunities. We watched film. We had a lot of plays that were open. Like I said, for whatever reason we just didn't execute it. But our game plan was fine," Harvin said.

If so, the execution wasn't as good.

According to the play-by-play stats provided by the NFL, the Vikings attempted seven deep passes, defined as a pass traveling in the air at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. However, they only connected on three of those attempts. Two of them went to Harvin deep down the middle for 20 and 23 yards. A third went to Michael Jenkins for 19 yards.

But connecting three times even exceeded their average for a game. They entered Sunday's game with only six passing plays that exceeded 20 yards this season.

Frazier said QB Christian Ponder isn't reluctant to drive the ball down the field.

"No, he'll put it out there if the coverage will allow him to throw it. There are times that the coverage is good enough," Frazier said. "We had a couple with Michael Jenkins late in the game where we took some shots down the sideline and they had it covered pretty well. He threw it out of bounds, which was the right thing to do. But it depends a little bit on the coverage. If they've got good coverage, the ball may not go down the field. It may go to a check-down or it may go to the sideline or it may go out of bounds. We'll continue to take shots when they're available."

In all, Harvin and Jenkins were targeted three times each on passes that traveled 16 yards past the line of scrimmage in the air. Devin Aromashodu had the other deep target Sunday.

Part of the issue could the Vikings' top deep target, Jerome Simpson, missing all but two games because of suspension and injury. The receiver was inactive Sunday after Frazier determined his back issue wasn't good enough to play.

However, Simpson said he was ready to play.

"I felt like it loosened up a lot. I felt like I was ready but coach is just going to do what's best for the team," he said.

"I missed the first three games and I'm just a competitor and I just want to be out there playing helping my guys any way I can."

Simpson has one of the team's nine receptions of 20 yards or more, but the Vikings averaged only 6.77 yards per attempt on Sunday, their third-lowest output of the season. Their long completion of 23 yards was the second-lowest of the season, matched only by the loss to the Indianapolis, when the Vikings had a long completion of 20 yards.

Simpson said he's ready to play, but that will be up to the coaching staff once again.

"With my speed, I feel like I can (be a deep threat). I feel like with my speed I just can do that by helping this team get that extra man out of the box and that's what I'm just going to try to continue to do to my best ability," Simpson said.

Without Simpson, the Redskins essentially challenged the Vikings to try to beat them with the deep passes. The Vikings ran 84 offensive plays. The Redskins had eight men in the box, within seven yards of the line of scrimmage and near the tackle-to-tackle box, during at least 22 of those snaps. They had nine men in the box 10 times and 10 or 11 in the box another three times.

With Adrian Peterson the explosive running threat and Harvin getting most of his passes near the line of scrimmage, the Redskins were crowding the line often.

"We see a lot more single-high than some teams may, or safeties creeping into the box because of what we do in the run game or how we utilize Percy. But it does make you want to take some shots down the field and we had some plays called yesterday where we were able to get some three-level routes," Frazier said. "We have some things in place; now it's a matter of can we hit some of those big plays down the field? But as people continue to creep toward the line of scrimmage, you definitely want to be able to take some shots down the field."

Harvin credited the Redskins for disguising their look, but he admitted the Vikings have to get better in the passing game.

"They were walking around their defensive front a lot. So it was kind of hard to pick out which guys were on the front and where the linebackers were. So it was tricky," he said. "But at the same time we're professionals. We have to be able to dial it up a little better. So they got us on that point."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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We saw it against Tennessee where Percy (Harvin) got behind a defensive back. So, we'll keep taking shots as people continue to crowd the line of scrimmage and we've just got to convert when we do.\" Frazier and Percy Harvin both indicated that the opportunities were there. Frazier seemed satisfied with the attempts the Vikings took, but Harvin sounded like there were squandered opportunities. \"We had a lot of opportunities. We watched film. We had a lot of plays that were open. Like I said, for whatever reason we just didn't execute it. But our game plan was fine,\" Harvin said. If so, the execution wasn't as good. According to the play-by-play stats provided by the NFL, the Vikings attempted seven deep passes, defined as a pass traveling in the air at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. However, they only connected on three of those attempts. Two of them went to Harvin deep down the middle for 20 and 23 yards. A third went to Michael Jenkins for 19 yards. But connecting three times even exceeded their average for a game. They entered Sunday's game with only six passing plays that exceeded 20 yards this season. Frazier said QB Christian Ponder isn't reluctant to drive the ball down the field. \"No, he'll put it out there if the coverage will allow him to throw it. There are times that the coverage is good enough,\" Frazier said. \"We had a couple with Michael Jenkins late in the game where we took some shots down the sideline and they had it covered pretty well. He threw it out of bounds, which was the right thing to do. But it depends a little bit on the coverage. If they've got good coverage, the ball may not go down the field. It may go to a check-down or it may go to the sideline or it may go out of bounds. We'll continue to take shots when they're available.\" In all, Harvin and Jenkins were targeted three times each on passes that traveled 16 yards past the line of scrimmage in the air. Devin Aromashodu had the other deep target Sunday. Part of the issue could the Vikings' top deep target, Jerome Simpson, missing all but two games because of suspension and injury. The receiver was inactive Sunday after Frazier determined his back issue wasn't good enough to play. However, Simpson said he was ready to play. \"I felt like it loosened up a lot. I felt like I was ready but coach is just going to do what's best for the team,\" he said. \"I missed the first three games and I'm just a competitor and I just want to be out there playing helping my guys any way I can.\" Simpson has one of the team's nine receptions of 20 yards or more, but the Vikings averaged only 6.77 yards per attempt on Sunday, their third-lowest output of the season. Their long completion of 23 yards was the second-lowest of the season, matched only by the loss to the Indianapolis, when the Vikings had a long completion of 20 yards. 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