The Minnesota Vikings have to hope a repeating philosophy won't yield a repeating result.
The Vikings could see more of the same offensive philosophy from their next opponent, the Chicago Bears, as they did in their 34-24 loss to the Detroit Lions.
Just replace the name Calvin Johnson with Brandon Marshall at receiver, and Reggie Bush with Matt Forte at running back.
The Lions stretched the field and exploited the Vikings' concentration on Johnson. With the Vikings defense often double-teaming Johnson, Bush found open areas to work his shifty magic.
A Lions offense that once moved consistently only when Johnson was a big factor now had a high-low combination that worked efficiently with the addition and implementation of Bush.
"If you know Detroit, even last year, they're known for having a prolific pass game. When you throw (Bush) in there, it just gives them another dimension to their offense," defensive end Brian Robison said.
The Lions targeted Johnson nine times and he had four catches for 37 yards. Counting rushes, Bush was targeted 29 times. He rushed 21 times for 90 yards and caught four of the eight passes thrown his way for 101 yards and a touchdown.
It was more than just the five plays that went for 20 or more yards that hurt the Vikings, it was the consistency. The Lions had 28 first downs compared to Minnesota's 16.
"They didn't have a lot of drop-backs," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "There was so much checking off to the backs, whether it was to 35 (RB Joique Bell), to 21, Bush, not a lot of drop-backs. So they were getting the ball out of their hands fast, and we knew it. We knew it would be the case going in. We saw their offensive line. We felt like we had an advantage there. A lot of quick throws. We did get some hits on them. But there were not a lot of drop-backs over the course of that game."
The Vikings had only one sack (by Jared Allen) and four quarterback hits (three by Allen).
But the Lions used a quick-strike passing game to keep the Vikings' defensive line from getting to QB Matthew Stafford too often. Essentially, the Vikings conceded that they weren't going to get to Stafford even if they did blitz.
"You've got to give your hats off to Stafford and that offense. They were getting the ball out of there so fast. I think they had three or four passes where he held it for more than 2½ seconds. He did a great job," Robison said.
"You think about it and if you blitz, if he's throwing it in under 2 seconds, blitzing is not going to do any good because he's not going to get there anyway. Bottom line is we had the opportunity to make plays. We had the opportunity to get Bush down many times on those screen games and we just didn't get him down. Credit to him, he made people miss, but bottom line is we've got to make them plays."
Of the 48 times Stafford dropped back, the Vikings blitzed only seven times, with five of those coming in the second half. They only rushed three defenders on four occasions, opting for more coverage than pass rush.
It was the quick release of Stafford that kept him generally upright while neutralizing a formidable pass rush with quick passes.
"We've encountered that before. It's not the first team to use that strategy. There are some things that we've got to do better to help us when teams do that," Frazier said. "I would not be surprised if we see some of that this coming weekend as well, and we'll have to devise a better plan for teams to do that, that will not let us rush the quarterback.
"We've got to take a look at our strategy. Obviously it wasn't very effective with what we wanted to do with Bush. We're facing a back this next week who is similar catching the ball out of the backfield. We gave some explosives to a running back and we've got to do better."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings ‘have to devise a better plan'
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