Missed tackles a sore spot from Sunday

The Vikings, especially rookie Anthony Barr, missed too many tackles Sunday and that will be a point of emphasis this week.

The proof is there on film for all to see. The Minnesota Vikings defense gave up 330 yards passing and 468 yards total to the Chicago Bears on Sunday in a 21-13 loss.

The point total isn’t that egregious from a defensive standpoint, but the opportunities were there for the Vikings to make plays and stop the Bears short numerous times when a missed tackle allowed the first-down conversion.

The Bears ended up converting 10 of 17 third downs (59 percent) compared to the Vikings being successful on only 2 of 11 (18 percent). In a nutshell, that may have been the decisive factor in Minnesota’s loss.

“I feel the same way. I felt they game-planned, ran a lot of quick screens, a lot of quick passes and we missed a lot of tackles,” defensive tackle Linval Joseph said. “They were throwing 1-yard routes and we just could have made the tackles. And then the missed tackles are what hurt us and this week that’s what we have to work on because we have Green Bay, because they pass the ball pretty well and they run the ball pretty well, too. They’re going to watch the film and, hey, it’s a copycat league. Now we know what we have to do because we have it on tape.”

If the Vikings are looking for a sequence on film to capsulize their problems, Chicago’s first drive would be an ideal place. On their initial third down of the game, third-and-4, QB Jay Cutler completed a short pass to tight end Donte Rosario, who made rookie linebacker Anthony Barr miss and picked up 7 yards to extend the drive. Four plays later, on third-and-12, Barr missed a tackle on RB Matt Forte, who ended up with a 30-yard gain to put the Bears in scoring position. Three plays later, Barr missed another tackle on a short pass to Forte.

“He had a couple of alignment errors (on Sunday), but the missed tackles were more about over-running it or being in the wrong position,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.

The defenders were well aware of the issues after studying film of the Bears game on Monday.

“Too many missed tackles, too many mistakes on defense,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “Some guys blowing assignments on a few plays here and there. When you play like that, you give up almost 500 yards, you can’t expect to win a ballgame.

“It’s just missing the tackle. Sometimes you miss them, sometimes you make them. You’ve just got to wrap up tight and bring them to the ground.”

According to Pro Football Focus, no outside linebacker in a 4-3 defensive scheme has more missed tackles than Barr, who is credited by the statistical website with 19 of them. In fact, Barr has four more missed tackles than any other defender, according to PFF.

“At this point in time, you either know how to tackle or you don’t,” Robison said when asked how to fix missed tackles. “Sometimes you can credit the running backs for what they do. Obviously, Forte is a good back and makes people miss, but we’ve got to wrap up better. We’ve got to definitely bring him to the ground.”

Forte is sixth in the league among running backs at creating yards after contact (with 416). As receiver, STATS credits Forte with being the league leader with 581 yards after contact. But the Vikings face another strong back in that area this week, too – the Green Bay PackersEddie Lacy, who is tied for six with averaging 2.7 yards after contact, according to PFF.

Barr missed five tackles on Sunday, but one play in particular showed just how elusive Forte can be. At the end of the third quarter, facing second-and-6, he took a carry around left end and made Jasper Brinkley, Barr, Robert Blanton and Harrison Smith all miss before Brinkley caught up with Forte again after a 32-yard gain. That led to Chicago’s final touchdown.

“It’s all about position. If you’re in better position, then you don’t have to work as hard to make tackles,” Joseph said. “That’s what we’re going to have to work on this week – everybody working together to be in the right spots so we can make that tackle for a 1-yard gain instead of missing it and he gains 5 and the first down.”

Zimmer said the missed tackles “steamrolled” on the Vikings Sunday, but given the restrictions on fully padded practices during the season, there is a limited amount of time coaches can spend on that once the regular season starts.

“I feel like we didn’t have our best game. We didn’t run the lane to where we should have. We left a lot out on the field,” Joseph said.

“It’s just a lot of missed tackles and they rushed for 122 yards, and as a great defense, teams aren’t supposed to do that on you.”

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