Vikings handled Rams’ extensive pressure

The Rams blitzed early and more often than not, and the Vikings handled it well. We charted how much and when the Rams blitzed.

The execution by the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line was far from perfect, but it was effective enough against a Gregg Williams defense in the 34-6 season-opening win.

As much talk as there was about Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer bringing pressure with his defense, it was Williams, the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, that really dialed up the blitzes Sunday. Through it all, the Vikings gave up only one sack, and that came after QB Matt Cassel dropped a shotgun snap and had to race 10 yards into the backfield to cover it up.

“They did everything we expected them to,” left tackle Matt Kalil said. “Obviously with Norv Turner and then Jeff Davidson as our offensive line coach, they prepare us in a great way. We were more than ready to face the Rams.”

There had to be extensive preparation that went into the Rams game, especially with Williams being in his first year in St. Louis under head coach Jeff Fisher. Williams tried it all, as our charting of the game showed.

In 26 dropbacks for Cassel – 25 passes and the sack – the Rams blitzed more often than not, bringing five or six pass rushers on 17 of the 26 dropbacks. They brought five rushers once on first down, five times on second down and four times on third down. They rushed six once on a first-down pass, five times on second-down passes and once on a third-down attempt.

The Vikings countered with two-tight end personnel quite a bit, and also relied on running back Adrian Peterson to help out, which he did, picking up the blitz effectively often.

“I think that’s one thing he really excelled at. He had a couple key blitz pickups that allowed the ball to get out,” fullback Jerome Felton said. “Overall, I think we did a really good job of getting the ball out and picking up protections. Obviously that defense is pretty exotic in things that they do and they like to bring pressure so it will be a little bit different this week, but we did a good job picking things up.”

The Vikings weren’t without their struggles in the Edward Jones Dome. They had three false start penalties – two on Kalil – but all three of those were in the first half.

“It was just miscommunication, different cadences and stuff like that,” Kalil said.

“I think there was a lot of penalties and stuff and things we can obviously improve on and we still did as well as we did. That’s a good sign that we can definitely be a lot better than we were on Sunday.”

Kalil said he just needed to calm down, and eventually the penalties decreased. Six of the Vikings’ seven penalties occurred in the first half.

But after effectively handling the Rams’ blitz schemes, Felton says the New England Patriots defense the Vikings face this Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium features a much different defensive look.

“They don’t blitz as much,” Felton said. “The Rams obviously blitz a whole lot and they do a lot of exotic stuff. I think that’s Gregg Williams’ M.O.”

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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