Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY

Minnesota Vikings film review: Pass protection improves

The Minnesota Vikings improved their protection despite consistent blitzes from the Lions. We break down the numbers and reaction after our film review.

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer says he sees encouraging signs with his offense, the same one that is ranked last in the NFL.

But when looking at the film, there actually are reasons to be encouraged with the Minnesota Vikings offense, especially the improved pass protection.

After Sam Bradford was sacked 11 times in the previous two games, he was sacked just twice on Sunday against the Detroit Lions, despite the Lions consistently bringing the blitz.

Of the 42 times Bradford dropped to pass, he was sacked just twice and the Lions blitzed more than half the time, according to our film study of the game.

Zimmer was clearly more pleased with the pass protection than he has been in some time.

“I thought we had good communication. We had 79 percent of the time the pocket was clean for the quarterback, 61 percent of the time we had efficient runs,” Zimmer said. “I thought we had good communication from the coaches to the offense. I thought the adjustments that we made were good, and I thought we had like 360 yards or something. I thought there was a lot of good things.”

Certainly there were when it came to handling Detroit’s blitzes and the way Bradford excelled against it.

The Lions sent five pass rushers on 17 of Bradford’s 42 dropbacks and he completed 13 of those passes for 142 yards. They sent six pass rushers on five of his attempts and he completed all five of them for 33 yards and a beautifully executed touchdown that drew defenders to the line of scrimmage with Linval Joseph (at fullback) and Matt Asiata showing run with Kyle Rudolph slipping behind the coverage for a wide-open touchdown catch.

When the Lions sent five pass rushers, Bradford had a 100.6 pass rating; facing six rushers he was at 133.8. Combined, when he faced more than four pass rushers, his rating was 112.9.

With a new offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, there were bound to be some new plays. One of the changes was an increased used of Rhett Ellison, the Vikings’ best blocking tight end. He played in 26 snaps, the most he has all season.

“I think it was some of the packages that we had in this week,” Zimmer said when asked about Ellison’s increased action. “So it all changes.”

According to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings had allowed pressure on Bradford on 40 percent of the passing plays in their previous two games. On Sunday, that number was decreased to 26 percent.

Some of the credit should go to the running backs. Asiata had several blitz pickups, and Jerick McKinnon and Ronnie Hillman each contributed in picking them up.

But the offensive line seemed to hold up throughout the pressure, too. T.J. Clemmings gave up one sack to Haloti Ngata when the Lions ran a tackle-end stunt, and Jeremiah Sirles, filling in for Alex Boone at left guard, also allowed Kerry Hyder to get to Bradford once. But, overall, the protection issues seemed to improve, despite the increased blitzing.

“I thought he did better this week,” Zimmer said of Clemmings. “… I thought overall we protected a lot better. I thought the quarterback had a good pocket the majority of the day.”


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