Analysis: Minnesota Vikings strengths turn to weakness

The Minnesota Vikings had several advantages entering Sunday, but they self-destructed in many of their strong suits.

The Minnesota Vikings came into Week 11 on a five-game winning streak. It ended resoundingly.

The Vikings weren’t underdogs against the Green Bay Packers for the first time in 12 games, but maybe they should have been. They just seem to perform better when they have doubters in their corner.

Instead, it was the Packers that responded to a fan base that was starting to question them, and it was the Vikings that underperformed to their expectations and didn’t play the way they have to in order to win.

Here is went wrong for the Vikings:

    • The Packers entered the game without a sack in their last three outings. They made up for it against Teddy Bridgewater. The second-year quarterback was under pressure all game long, getting sacked six times, pressured numerous other times and hit five more times. He was knocked out of the game momentarily when one hit jarred his shoulder, sending him to the locker room before halftime for a quick evaluation before returning in an attempt to find enough time to loft a Hail Mary before the half. Even that was thwarted when he was flushed from the pocket and forced to throw the ball away under heavy pressure.

      His numbers other numbers showed a solid outing, and it was a good effort considering the pressure he was under. He completed 25 of 37 passes for 296 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 100.7 rating. That was better than Aaron Rodgers, who completed less than 50 percent of his passes (16 of 34) for 212 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

      It even caused a sarcastic moment in Mike Zimmer’s postgame press conference.

      “I know we didn’t block them very good up front. We had too much pressure on the quarterback,” Zimmer said. “I thought Bridgewater played well, got us out of a lot of trouble. Everybody has been wanting him to throw for 250-270 yards, now he did. Yay! But we didn’t do enough things to win.”

    • The Vikings entered the game as the least penalized team in the NFL. That didn’t hold true Sunday afternoon. On the first play from scrimmage, Matt Kalil was flagged for holding. All told, the Vikings were penalized eight times for 110 yards, and they weren’t limited to offensive mistakes. Terence Newman was flagged for a costly pass interference penalty that netted the Packers 50 yards on a third-and-17 play before halftime. Later in the drive, on third-and-9, Anthony Barr was called for illegal contact, and three plays later the Packers took a 16-6 lead on a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb.

    • The Vikings came into the game knowing they had to keep Rodgers in the pocket. Tony Dungy said Green Bay’s opponents had figured out that is the way to stop the Packers offense. The Vikings didn’t do that enough. On Newman’s penalty, Rodgers escaped pressure, rolled to right and bought plenty of time to loft a prayer down to Jeff Janis. When Newman didn’t turn to locate the ball, he was flagged. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Rodgers again escaped the pocket to buy time before unloading a 27-yard touchdown bullet to a toe-dragging James Jones.

    • The Vikings entered Sunday as the NFL’s leading rushing offense with Adrian Peterson pacing the league with 961 yards on the ground. He was largely grounded against Green Bay. Part of that was due to the Vikings falling behind in the second half, but Peterson still only managed 45 yards on 13 carries, and his final one was a killer. He gained 10 yards to the Green Bay 22-yard line with Minnesota trailing by two touchdowns, 27-13, with more than 13 minutes to play but Peterson fumbled the ball away on a carry that gave him 1,000 yards for the season. The Packers, meanwhile, entered with the 16th-ranked rushing offense, and they outgained Minnesota 124 yards to 94 yards, with Bridgewater’s four scrambles for 43 yards needed to make it even that close.

    • Yet another Vikings strong suit – special teams – turned into a liability against the Packers. Blair Walsh started the mistakes with a missed extra point following a 47-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph in the first quarter. The Vikings also allowed backup return man Jeff Janis to take a kickoff back 70 yards to the 34-yard line, allowing the Packers to tie the game 6-6 with a 47-yard field goal three plays later. Cordarrelle Patterson was on the strong side of the ledger, however, with a 52-yard kickoff return to midfield, but even then he turned prosperity into a mistake when he head-butted Packers kicker Mason Crosby after the return for a 15-yard penalty.

  • Mike Wallace’s struggles continued. He has just two catches in the last four games and was held without a catch against the Packers. That was on him. He was targeted twice, dropping a second-down pass that was on target on the first drive, contributing to a punt two plays later. With the Vikings down 14 points in the fourth quarter, Bridgewater targeted Wallace deep down the right sideline. Wallace got a hand on the pass but couldn’t bring it in, and three plays later the Vikings turned the ball over on downs to lose their last-ditch effort to make it a game late.

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