The Tampa Bay Buccaneers apparently emptied their blitz packages against the Minnesota Vikings on a short week, knowing it would be hard for the Vikings to fully prepare with only four days between games last week.
The Bucs brought down Christian Ponder three times for sacks and pressured him numerous other times, and it was no accident.
"The big key was the Buccaneers, they told us that at the end of the game, they just threw all the blitzes they had and just knew we didn't have enough time to prepare for all of them and it was either going to be a hit or miss. That's exactly what it was," Vikings receiver Percy Harvin said. "If we would have got the ball off, it would have been an 80- or 70-yard bomb, but we weren't able to and the plus went to them."
Ponder ended up completing 19 of 35 passes for 229 yards, but the three sacks he took brought his three-game total to 10.
"We knew that their front four were really aggressive and that they were going to get back and apply the pressure," Ponder said.
After starting off the season with four straight games without an interception and being the last starter in the league to throw one, Ponder has now thrown seven interceptions in the last four games. But Frazier said the struggles in the passing game don't lie solely on his quarterback. Percy Harvin said receivers are working on their route-running, and the timing of routes was clearly an emphasis in Wednesday's practice.
But blitz pickup is a concern for Frazier, as well.
"We're going to work extensively on blitz pickup because I'm sure that other people will see what happened (Thursday) night and say, ‘You know what? That's probably the blueprint – put a lot of pressure, some extra guys in the box, and make the offensive line has to adjust and the quarterback throw on the run a little bit,'" Frazier said. "So we'll have to a better job of blitz pickup and when we have an opportunity to make some plays down the field with our receivers, we've got to find a way to connect."
Ponder admitted that he needs to do a better job connecting with receivers downfield. He threw two of those attempts out of bounds last Thursday.
Frazier insisted that teams are blitzing just as heavily to stop Adrian Peterson, the league's leading rusher with 775 yards, and the Vikings' ground game.
"Sometimes when people are blitzing us, it's not so much because of the pass, but they want to blitz the run game as well. They're trying to get everyone in the gaps to thwart our run game because Adrian is really coming along, so it's not so much about confusing our offensive line and I don't think they've been confused, it's just at times, some people call some good pressures at the right time and they've had some success," Frazier said. "But I don't think it's anything about the confusion part of it. When I look at the tape, I see situations where it's clear that it's designed to stop the run and not necessarily pressure the quarterback and we do the same thing, we do the same thing at times."
He admitted that if the Vikings handle the run blitzes better, there are creases that can be exploited. But with Peterson leading the league with 775 yards rushing, it would seem to be an ineffective strategy employed by defenses if that is, indeed, why teams are blitzing. Peterson also has eight rushes over 20 yards and leads the league in yards after first contact.
Frazier said the Seahawks don't blitz as often as Tampa Bay, but the Seahawks have proven they have the manpower to apply pressure. Defensive end Chris Clemons often lines up across from the open side of the offensive line so he doesn't have to contend with a tight end. He leads Seattle with seven sacks, including four of them in a Monday Night Football game against the Green Bay Packers. All four of those sacks came in the first half of that game, tying the NFL record for most sacks in the first half of a game.
And then there is Bruce Irvin, who has also had game-changing performances as a rookie. He has only played in 41.2 percent of the Seahawks' defensive snaps this season, but the pass-rushing specialist is second among NFL rookies with 4.5 sacks.
"They're not a big blitz team, but they are so active with their front," Frazier said of the Seahawks. "They do a good job of creating some problems with the athleticism of Clemons, along with their first-round pick. So they do a good job of doing some things on the edges. The tackles are tough, physical guys inside. And their linebackers run very well. They do some things with their front seven that create problems with your offensive line. They're one of the best teams in the league stopping the run, so we'll have our hands full getting done some of the things we want to get done."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Blitzing a concern for Vikings offense
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