Jerome Felton became used to Adrian Peterson’s burst, but his timing changes with Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata. Plus, get league rankings for the Vikings and Bills.
With all the changes that have taken place with the Vikings team that broke training camp until now – the loss of Adrian Peterson
, Matt Cassel
, Kyle Rudolph
and Brandon Fusco
to the offense – for those remaining, the new-look Vikings offense is going through some growing pains.
Among the players dealing the most intimately with it is fullback Jerome Felton
. For most of his Vikings career, his job was to be both snow plow and bodyguard for Peterson, opening holes that could spring the game’s most explosive running back into the open.
Without Peterson, Felton’s role on the offense has been diminished. Last season, he was on the field between 30 and 50 percent of plays every day. In Week 1, his only game with Peterson, he was on the field for just five plays (7 percent of the team’s snaps).
In four games since, he has been on the field for a total of 13, 11, 12 and five plays – which correspond to 23, 14, 15 and 7 percent of the offensive snaps.
It would seem that, while the Vikings still use a fullback, without Peterson it clearly hasn’t been as necessary because Felton hasn’t been asked to give Matt Asiata
or Jerick McKinnon
the kind of blocks that A.P. would routinely use to break long runs.
Not only has Felton’s playing time changed, so has his job description.
“It’s a little different,” Felton said. “I may try to hold my blocks a little longer with those guys than I did with Adrian. With him, it was just a matter of creating space. It wasn’t about maintaining your block. It was just about getting him space to run in. With these guys, I’m thinking more about getting to my man and staying on him longer.”
The bad news for him and the Vikings offense is that, just when the gauntlet of Pro Bowl quarterbacks stopped attacking the defense, the league’s top-rated defenses have now hit the schedule.
Detroit came into TCF Bank Stadium as the league’s No. 1 defense and did nothing to dissuade the ranking. Sunday the Vikings face the league’s No. 1 run defense in the Bills, who have allowed an average of less than 68 rushing yards a game in a schedule that has included Chicago, Miami, San Diego, Houston, Detroit and New England – all teams known for running the ball effectively.
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Perhaps for that reason, after studying film on Buffalo, Felton is convinced that the front end of its defense is every bit as good as the Lions group that tracked down and feasted on Viking meat last week.
“I think, as a whole front seven, this one (in Buffalo) is better than Detroit’s,” Felton said. “Obviously, when you look at them individually, guys like (defensive tackle Ndamukong) Suh is better than anyone Buffalo has and the same could be said for (linebacker DeAndre) Levy. But these guys are strong everywhere and they work together well as a group. They’re going to be a challenge because, from what I’ve seen, I’d rank them higher Detroit.”
How much Felton will be on the field Sunday plowing the road for the Vikings running backs isn’t certain, but if the Bills defense brings it like Detroit did, the offense may be advised to use him more.
VIKINGS-BILLS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 27th-ranked offense (13th rushing, 30th passing) and the 8th-ranked defense (20th rushing, 6th passing).
The Bills have the 25th-ranked offense (22nd rushing, 19th passing) and the 11th-ranked defense (1st rushing, 26th passing).
Minnesota is averaging 315 yards of offense per game (195 passing, 120 rushing). Buffalo is averaging 327 yards a game (226 passing, 101 rushing).
The Vikings are allowing 332 yards a game (220 passing, 118 rushing). The Bills are allowing 337 yards a game (269 passing, 68 rushing).
The Vikings are at or near the bottom in just about every offensive passing category. The team is 30th in passing yards, 31st in average yardage per pass play, 31st in sacks per pass play and 32nd in interception percentage per passes thrown.
Buffalo is tied for eighth in giveaway/takeaway ratio at plus-3 (seven giveaways, 10 takeaways). The Vikings are tied for 26th at minus-5 (10 giveaways, five takeaways).
Both teams are near the bottom of the league in red zone offense. The Vikings are 27th with a 43.8 percent touchdown ratio (seven touchdowns on 16 possessions). The Bills are 28th at 42.9 percent (nine TDs on 21 possessions).
Buffalo is 18th in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on eight of 14 possessions (57.1 percent). The Vikings are 26th at 68.8 percent (11 TDs on 16 possessions).
The Bills are 25th in third-down offense, converting 33 of 88 chances (37.5 percent). The Vikings are 30th at 33.8 percent (27 conversions on 80 opportunities). The league average is 41.8 percent.
The Bills are fifth in third-down defense, allowing conversions on just 28 of 81 chances (34.6 percent). The Vikings are 13th at 41.3 percent (33 of 80).
The Vikings are fifth in average starting position following kickoffs (the 23.4-yard line). Buffalo is third (24.5-yard line). The league average is the 21.3-yard line.
Defensively, Minnesota allows an averaging starting position after kickoffs at the 20.3-yard line. Buffalo is 17th (21.0-yard line).
League-wide, the average percentage of kickoffs that are touchbacks is at 60.9 percent. The Vikings are at 88.5 percent, behind only Indianapolis (89.2 percent).
Teddy Bridgewater and Kyle Orton each have one 300-yard passing game. Buffalo has allowed two 300-yard passing games. The Vikings haven’t allowed a 300-yard passer this season.
Jarius Wright has Minnesota’s only 100-yard receiving game. The Bills have two – one from Sammy Watkins and one from Scott Chandler. The Vikings haven’t allowed a 100-yard receiver and Buffalo has allowed one.
The Vikings have two 100-yard rushing games – one from Jerick McKinnon and one from Cordarrelle Patterson. The Bills haven’t had a 100-yard rusher. Minnesota has allowed two 100-yard rushers. Buffalo hasn’t allowed any.
Bridgewater ranks 32nd in passer rating at 70.8. Orton hasn’t thrown enough passes to qualify for the overall league rankings.
Orton is fourth in the league in fourth-quarter passer rating at 113.6. Bridgewater is 14th with a passer rating of 90.5.
C.J. Spiller leads the Bills with 234 rushing yards, which ranks him 29th in the league. Fred Jackson is 32nd with 227 yards. Matt Asiata leads the Vikings with 226 yards, which ties him for 33rd place.
Jackson leads the Bills with 30 receptions, which ties him for 21st in the league. Watkins is tied for 32nd with 26 receptions. Greg Jennings leads the Vikings with 20 receptions, which ties him for 64th place.
Watkins is tied for 39th in receiving yards with 311. Jennings leads the Vikings with 268 yards, which ties him for 56th place.
Asiata is tied for 17th in scoring among non-kickers with 24 points (four touchdowns). No Bills player has scored more than two touchdowns.
Blair Walsh is tied for 14th in scoring among kickers with 42 points. Buffalo’s Dan Carpenter is 10th with 48 points.
Both kickers have had to earn their points via field goals. Of Walsh’s 42 points, 33 have come from field goals. Of Carpenter’s 48 points, 39 have come from field goals.
Walsh is tied for fourth with 23 touchbacks on kickoffs, along with Buffalo kickoff specialist Jordan Gay.
Jackson is 21st in yards from scrimmage with 472 (245 receiving, 227 rushing). Asiata leads the Vikings with 355 yards from scrimmage (226 rushing, 129 receiving), which ties him for 49th place.
Jeff Locke is 19th in the league in punting average at 44.2 yards. Buffalo’s Colton Schmidt is 24th with a 43.9-yard average.
Locke is 15th in net punting average at 39.3 yards. Schmidt is 19th at 39.1 yards.
Marcus Sherels is 14th in punt return average at 8.1 yards. Leodis McKelvin leads the Bills with an average of 7.3 yards, which ranks 17th.
Patterson is fourth in kickoff return average at 27.0 yards. Buffalo hasn’t had enough return attempts to qualify anyone for the league lead.
Harrison Smith is tied for the league lead with three interceptions. Josh Robinson and McKelvin are tied for eighth with two interceptions each.
Marcell Dareus is tied for sixth in the league in sacks with five. Everson Griffen is tied for ninth with four.
No team has allowed more points in the first quarter than the 51 allowed by the Vikings.
The Vikings have just three touchdown passes all season and haven’t thrown a touchdown since Matt Cassel threw one in the first quarter of the Week 2 game against New England – a span of 19½ quarters.
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