Sometimes you get a real dog of a game to use for the scouting report of the upcoming opponent. There are weeks I slog through a boring game with no big plays that is one-sided or just bad football. Not so this week. I went back to watch the Vikings vs. Bears game to get a read on Minnesota and got treated to one fun football game in the process. But enough about me, on to the Vikings...
Vikings offense vs. Cowboys defense
I tell you what, there’s not a lot of mystery to what the Minnesota Vikings do on offense. They run the football, they run it a lot and they do it very well. The combo of super-rookie Adrian Peterson and steady-veteran Chester Taylor got it done against the Bears run defense. Watching the Vikings blocking scheme in the run game, they are most dangerous when they use a zone block to one side of the field and let their running backs choose to go to where the play is designed, or cutback to the other side if the opportunity presents itself. Peterson makes quick judgments about cutting to the backside and when he does it he does it with authority. On two of his TD’s he used cutbacks across the field, once at the line of scrimmage and once when he cleared the second level. When Peterson or Taylor stay with the play as designed, they are very patient and wait for the holes to open up. To combat this, Dallas needs to shoot the gaps on the frontside of the play to disrupt the running backs path, and on the backside the Dallas defenders must stay at home. Dallas is an aggressive defense that likes to run to the ball, but this week the backside must be careful about overrunning a play.
The Vikings will use a lot of 2-TE sets and they will throw or run from that formation. Also, FB Tony Richardson has blocked for some of the best in the business and should pose a big challenge for Bradie James and Akin Ayodele. They used Chester Taylor early in the games to soften up the middle but when Peterson got in the game they ran to the middle or the edge. They also like to line Peterson up as a WR, then motion him toward the QB and run a fake end-around and hand to Taylor up the middle. Dallas might want to watch and make sure they don’t actually give it to Peterson this week.
The offensive line was able to provide Tarvaris Jackson with plenty of time to throw the ball and when he needs to the kid can move in the pocket. But, he’s impatient, he gets the happy feet moving even when there isn’t pressure. It’s almost like he hears the squawk-box go off after 2.5 seconds and if he still has the ball he’ll move in the pocket. He didn’t actually run the ball even though several times he had open field in front of him. He threw a few deep balls very accurately, one for a TD, although the Vikings rarely attacked down field. He was a little less accurate with the intermediate throws but he wasn’t helped very much by his receivers. They dropped at least five balls that were catchable. They run a lot of max protect schemes sending only a couple of receivers into the pattern and they will do this from their 2-TE sets.
Vikings defense vs. Cowboys offense
You don’t want to run straight at the Williams Boys in the middle, Pat and Kevin. It’s a brick wall. Better to get out to the tackles or run toss sweeps to the edges. If you want to run on these guys, make Pat and Kevin work from side-to-side and try to wear them down. Don’t use straight ahead blocking schemes either, block down on them with the tackle or guards and pull the opposite guard to hit the hole with the FB. Use the TE to help on the DE. If you hit them from angles you can some times get them turned. The Bears were also successful running toss sweeps to the edges. As a defense, they’re very aggressive against the run and the linebackers are usually coming forward on running downs before the handoff is made. The Cowboys may be able to hit play-action passes over the middle regularly.
They are not a blitzing defense although later in the game they started to bring more guys in the pass rush. Early they were content to rush the front four and every once in a while try some stunts. The Bears’ line was able to give the QB plenty of time and the only real pressure came when they brought LB Ben Leber on the blitz or some combination of linebackers. They had problems in the passing game because they didn’t cause enough pressure and parts of their secondary can be exploited. If Dallas runs into trouble early, they could probably spread the Vikings out on defense and attack the secondary to move the ball. Young cornerbacks Cedric Griffin and Marcus McCauley probably aren’t ready to shut down the passing game of the Cowboys.
On defense, play a little aggressive with the secondary. If Jackson doesn’t see his target open up right away he gets nervous in the pocket. Make him think about things and then hit him with the pass rush. But, the safeties can’t sleep on the long ball because he can throw it. Against the run, be very aggressive on the frontside and try to shoot the gaps, on the backside make sure someone is home to stop the cutback. Stack the line until they hurt you in the passing game. Oh yeah, you must tackle well, especially Bradie James and Akin Ayodele.
On offense, run to the edges and try to tire out the big boys in the middle. Use block downs on the DT's to get them turned and get some pulling linemen to the edges. Even if you do that, attack them in the passing game and they will eventually have to loosen up. They like the linebackers to be very aggressive on running plays so utilize play-action to go over the top of them. Attack their young corners and stay away from Antoine Winfield.
Bonus tip: Watch out for Peterson when he returns kicks, he does that well, too.