The Minnesota Vikings did a lot of head-scratching things during their Monday night loss to the San Francisco 49ers. But the one thing that left people confused more than anything was choosing to throw the ball three times in a row on their first offensive series.
A year ago this wouldn’t have been much of an issue, but this was the return of running back Adrian Peterson, who missed 15 games a season ago. People wanted to see him get the ball more and the first drive seemed to dictate how the game was going to go, getting only 10 carries throughout the course of the game.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer shed some light on the situation the Tuesday after the loss, saying that there were run plays scripted but quarterback Teddy Bridgewater changed the plays based on what the defense was doing.
“The game dictated a lot of it,” Zimmer said. “We had somebody asked me about the first three plays, we had three passes, but there was runs scripted in there that we got a look that we got out of so you know it’s not always by choice. Sometimes the defense dictates what we’re doing.”
One reason this aspect of the game has been scrutinized is because the three passes Bridgewater threw on the first series were all incomplete. If he went 3-for-3 and the offense was able to get a touchdown, people probably wouldn’t be questioning the decision so much.
For years, Vikings fans have seen Peterson continuously run into eight- and nine-man boxes because there wasn’t high-level quarterback play on the team and he continually had success, so it is fair to wonder why Vikings coaches didn’t tell the second-year quarterback to just let Peterson run.
“We’re going to do everything that we can to let our best players make plays,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “We’re going to do everything we can to have balance in what we do. Obviously we want Adrian to be a big part of that.”
A year ago, Bridgewater did not have Peterson to work with and proved that he had the ability to lead the team down the field and put points on the board. Now he needs to get used to playing with one of the best running backs in the NFL and know that even if the looks aren’t the best, Peterson can still gain positive yards.
Turner shed some light on how much freedom Bridgewater has to change plays at the line of scrimmage. To sum it up, it all depends on what situation they are in.
“We have a system where we can give him free reign, we have a system where we can control it, we have a system where plays are locked in,” the offensive coordinator said. “We have a complete system, and again, we have these conversations and it’s probably not in the best interest for me to tell you specifically which plays we were checking in and out of and which plays we weren’t.”
One thing that remains constant, though, is that the coaching staff fully trusts Bridgewater’s decision-making. When asked if he was confident that Bridgewater makes the right calls in his pre-snap reads Turner simply replied, “We wouldn’t be in that situation if we didn’t.”