The Minnesota Vikings are in a slump. Getting ready to host the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, they know that they can’t go on playing the same brand of football they have over the last month or so. The Vikings started the season 5-0, since then they are 1-5. Their defense is still stout, but their offense has collapsed. Something needs to change.
Based on what they’re saying up north, that change will be testing the Cowboys deep. The Dallas secondary is banged up. They are without Morris Claiborne, Barry Church will be playing his first game in a month, J.J. Wilcox seems unlikely to play, and Orlando Scandrick has been in an out of the lineup all year. What was once a strength of the defense has been taken down a peg or two thanks to injuries.
Sam Bradford used part of his weekly media session to call for more downfield passes in the Minnesota Vikings’ offense.
The quarterback’s message was just as clear to the Vikings’ battered offensive line as preparations began for Thursday night’s showdown with the NFL’s hottest team.
“This week especially, (Bradford)’s put a lot of emphasis on us that we need to do more,” Vikings guard Alex Boone told USA TODAY Sports. “He came to us and said, ‘Hey, listen, we need you guys to sustain, and we need you guys to be tough, and you’ve got to be some bad (expletives) this week for me, because there’s some things I want to do and there’s some plays that might take longer.’
That’s the problem. The Vikings would love to try some more downfield passing, but their battered offensive line is making that exceedingly difficult. You can;t throw deep if you can’t protect your quarterback. Of course, they may be catching a break in that department this week as the Cowboys pass rush is big weakness.
Whether it will work or not, the Vikings are practicing it.
Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford said after last week’s 16-13 loss at Detroit that the Vikings must be more explosive on offense, and [OC Pat] Shurmur agreed Monday. [WR Laquon] Treadwell said it’s evident there has been a change in practice heading into Thursday’s game against Dallas at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“More shots down the field, that’s the biggest thing,’’ Treadwell said. “We’re going to have a chance to make plays down the field. We’ve been testing the waters this week.’’
The Vikings also plan to use more play-action in their passing offense, but without a credible running game, it’s hard for that to be overly effective.
Another day of practice for wide receiver Stefon Diggs on Tuesday makes it likely he will return to the Vikings’ lineup for Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Diggs has been limited the past two days, but his participation signals the Vikings are preparing to have their top pass catcher after he missed the Thanksgiving Day loss at Detroit because of a knee injury.
They also hope to get more out of first-round drat pick Laquon Treadwell. He’s been invisible for much of the season as he tries to get back in playing shape after injury.
Treadwell was taken with the No. 23 pick in the draft this year out of Mississippi. He admitted in June he played last season not fully recovered from a gruesome injury suffered Nov. 1, 2014 against Auburn in which he broke his left tibia and dislocated his left ankle.
Treadwell said the injury is fully behind him now. Zimmer said Treadwell’s explosiveness has increased over the past few weeks.
“His quickness, his stop and starts, his acceleration,’’ Zimmer said.
It was a shock when OC Norv Turner resigned mid-season. They hoped that Pat Shurmur would be able to spark something in Sam Bradofrd since the two had a history together. At this point, there is very little difference stats-wise between Turner’s offense and Shurmur’s.
Under Turner, the Vikings averaged 19.8 points, 293 yards per game and .71 turnovers a game. Under Shurmur, the Vikings have averaged 19.8 points, 298 yards per game, and .75 turnovers per game.
One issue for the Vikings has been a lack of big plays, something quarterback Sam Bradford bemoaned after the team’s 16-13 loss in Detroit Thursday.
“I think we’ve got to find a way to create more explosive plays, whether that’s mixing in more of our play-action game, which we’ve kind of gotten away from,” Bradford said. “However we do it, we’ve just got to figure out a way to make sure that it happens.”
The Vikings hope going deep will be the answer on Thursday.