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Published: Tue, 12 Dec 2017 21:45:19 GMT2017-12-12T21:45:19Z


Film review: Why Case Keenum, Vikings sputtered against blitz-happy Panthers

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 20:32:21 GMT2017-12-12T20:32:21Z

Case Keenum was on the type of streak that had him next to Tom Brady, at least through broadcast crews isolating his image and stats comparing their similar four-game runs. His past month included: four of his top 11 career passer ratings (all above 100 now), 10 touchdowns to just two turnovers and nearly 1,100 passing yards with a 74-percent completion rate. The Vikings’ skill position players had the fewest drops in football. The offensive line was opening holes and protecting just long enough. Until Sunday’s 31-24 loss in Carolina, where Keenum was sacked six times, had five passes dropped and committed three turnovers. “Quite honestly, we didn’t execute in a lot of areas,” head coach Mike Zimmer said Monday. “Some guys played well, some guys didn’t play well. Collectively as a group, we didn’t execute well enough really on either side of the ball.” The Panthers’ defensive front seven might be the best the Vikings face this regular season. Keenum still threw for 280 yards, but it didn’t come easy while needing 55 dropbacks. He felt heat on nearly half of them against the blitz-happy Panthers. “I keep hearing about, because I get these little things from [Vikings PR director] Bob [Hagan], ‘he didn’t throw the ball deep,'” Zimmer said. “Well, he got about a 50-yard touchdown with Adam. We try to take what the defense gives us. I thought he made some really, really good plays on a couple third downs. He made a couple bad throws.” Let’s take a look at how Keenum and the Vikings’ passing game sputtered, a key to Minnesota’s loss in Carolina. Here to help is Dan Hatman, a former NFL scout and Director of Scouting Development at The Scouting Academy. You can follow Dan on Twitter @Dan_Hatman. — A balanced Vikings offense became unbalanced, which will happen when Minnesota’s 8 first-down runs amassed 11 yards (total!). Dropping back to pass 55 times with just 16 handoffs is not the Vikings’ blueprint followed during an eight-game winning streak. So don’t let this passing breakdown let you overlook their need to get Latavius Murray, who had just 14 yards, going again. Down 24-13 at the end of the third quarter, the Vikings handed it to Murray on first down. He was stuffed for a loss of three. An incompletion later, they’re staring at third-and-13 when the Panthers blitz again. Carolina made the right call. With Vikings linemen prepping for a screen pass, and Jerick McKinnon forced to pick up pressure, heat quickly gets to Keenum. This counted as one of Keenum’s six sacks. Kai Forbath missed the ensuing 54-yard field goal attempt. Click here if this video is not displayed. “Looks like a slow screen weak to the running back, but there is still a three-man route concept working the field,” Hatman said. “Clearly, the pressure was called at a good time as the protection doesn’t have the numbers. I want to be surprised Case escaped to his right [and not left], as there was no checkdown with the running back [McKinnon] engaged, but it’s so heat of the moment.” — The Panthers stymied the Vikings’ effective play-action pass, as Keenum entered Week 14 trailing only L.A.’s Jared Goff in yards off play-action passes, according to Pro Football Focus. Whether it was Keenum’s poorly-thrown deep ball on the first interception, or tight end Kyle Rudolph’s drop down the seam, the Vikings were largely unable to create off one of their staples. Only Marcus Mariota (in a Titans’ 12-7 loss) had a worse passer rating off play action last week than Keenum, in part because of poor protection seen below. Yet this was one of the few examples that worked. On this second-and-3, Rudolph misses a blitzing Captain Munnerlyn and then needs to bail out Keenum, who ducks the pressure. Click here if this video is not displayed. “With the six-man protection, they should have been able to handle the slot blitz with the blockers,” Hatman said. “It looks like Rudolph does not see [Munnerlyn] inching in, nor does he see him actually blitz off the edge. Keenum should not have to throw [...]

John Randle, Vikings' legendary trash-talker, advises players to not escalate ugly fan behavior with retaliation

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 20:36:39 GMT2017-12-12T20:36:39Z

An ugly finish between Seattle and Jacksonville could have gotten worse if equipment manager Erik Kennedy hadn’t stepped in.

Vikings' suddenly unstable offensive line feels all too familiar, no early speculation on Riley Reiff's status

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 12:39:58 GMT2017-12-12T12:39:58Z

Injuries and an unimpressive display in Carolina have revived a major story line from 2016.

Here's how it could be Vikings vs. Packers in NFC Championship Game

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 00:15:44 GMT2017-12-12T00:15:44Z

Teams that have broken long championship curses in recent years have tended to do so in dramatic fashion. When the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, it was only after becoming the first MLB team to rally from a 3-0 playoff deficit, which they did after winning four straight in the ALCS over the Yankees. When the Cavaliers delivered Cleveland its first major men’s championship in more than a half-century in 2016, they did so by overcoming a 3-1 series deficit against the greatest regular-season team in NBA history, the 73-9 Warriors. And when the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, the also overcame a 3-1 World Series deficit — including a dramatic extra-inning victory in Cleveland in Game 7. This could mean nothing and it could mean everything if you follow the Vikings. If you do, of course, you know the Vikings have never won a Super Bowl. If you believe in the drama angle, it’s hard to imagine a more dramatic way to win a first Super Bowl than by becoming the first team to win one in your home stadium, as the Vikings have a chance to do in a couple of months. But if you really want to add another layer, how about this: to get there, make the Vikings defeat the Packers in the NFC Championship Game at U.S. Bank Stadium. A couple weeks ago, the notion of the Packers reaching the postseason was preposterous. Even now, it’s unlikely. But still, a few things have happened recently to move the meter from impossible to improbable when it comes to the chances of these two teams meeting with a Super Bowl berth on the line. *The Packers won back-to-back overtime games against subpar teams to get to 7-6. Even though FiveThirtyEight still gives them just a 6 percent chance of making the playoffs, the Packers could get injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers back this week for a game at Carolina. *The Vikings lost Sunday. While they still have an 83 percent chance of getting a first-round bye (per 538), they’re now a game behind Philadelphia and trail in the tiebreaker. Getting the No. 2 seed and the second bye is the most likely scenario for Minnesota. *The Eagles lost Carson Wentz to a torn ACL on Sunday, making the likely No. 1 seed in the NFC vulnerable. So let’s play this out. Let’s say the Packers win at Carolina on Sunday. That would boost their playoff odds to 21 percent, while a loss would put them at less than one percent. So that step has to happen. Let’s also say the Vikings defeat the Bengals at U.S. Bank Stadium, clinching the NFC North and moving them closer to a bye. Then let’s say the Vikings lose at Green Bay in Week 16, then beat the Bears in Week 17 to finish 12-4. There’s a good chance that will be good enough for the No. 2 seed. Now let’s give Green Bay a win at Detroit in Week 17 and sneak them into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed ahead of a team currently ahead of them like Seattle (with whom Green Bay owns a tiebreaker edge in head-to-head). The Vikings would have a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed, with the Eagles No. 1. The Packers, as the No. 6 seed, would open on the road against the No. 3 seed — the best division winner not to get a bye. That will be a good team, for sure, but it would probably be someone like the Rams or Saints — a potentially vulnerable overachiever. Let’s say the Packers win that game to get to the divisional round. As the lowest remaining seed, they would then play the top-seeded Eagles in Philly — but not the injured Wentz. Philadelphia is clearly the more well-rounded team and would likely still be a decided favorite in that game, but Green Bay’s chances of pulling an upset would be much greater than they would be if Wentz were healthy. So let’s say Green Bay wins that game, and the Vikings win their playoff opener at home against the winner of the game between the lowest division winner and top wild card (which again, will be a good team and is certainly no gimme). That would give the Vikings home field advantage in the NFC title gam[...]

NFL Week 15 power rankings: Vikings fall, Steelers climb, everyone jockeys for playoff position

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 20:36:15 GMT2017-12-12T20:36:15Z

The Vikings fell two spots in this week’s power rankings while the Patriots slip from No. 1 for the first time this season.

Pats defense again looking vulnerable with Steelers up next

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 21:45:19 GMT2017-12-12T21:45:19Z

Don't assume Carson Wentz's injury means Vikings will take home field from Eagles

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 00:23:54 GMT2017-12-12T00:23:54Z

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz walks off the field after injuring his leg against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS) ORG XMIT: 1218182The morning after each Vikings game, beat writer Ben Goessling dives in for a deeper look at a key aspect of how the Vikings played, and what it means for the team going forward: There was a slight air of despondence around Vikings fans after the team fell to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon, dropping to 10-3 and giving up a potentially important tiebreaker in the race for home-field advantage in the NFC, It continued into the early stretch of the Philadelphia Eagles’ game with the Los Angeles Rams, as Carson Wentz directed the conference’s other 10-win team to an early lead in California. But then Wentz got hit in the knee as he dove for the end zone in the third quarter, and ominous reports began to surface that the quarterback had sustained a serious injury. It appeared not only that the Eagles might lose, but that the Vikings might be chasing a team about to run out of gas. Philadelphia, of course, rallied for a late score behind Nick Foles to improve to 11-2, even as initial reports suggested Wentz might have torn his anterior cruciate ligament. That diagnosis could be confirmed on Monday, but Vikings fans would be wise not to assume a Wentz-less Eagles team is about to hand back its one-game lead in the conference. As much as the North Dakota State product has done to power Philadelphia’s rise in his second season, the Eagles have more than just Wentz. Their defense, ranked sixth in the league before Sunday, held the Rams’ top-ranked offense to a modest 307 yards, with one of Los Angeles’ five touchdowns coming on a blocked punt return. And though part of it had to do with Wentz’s ability to execute the zone read handoffs the Eagles have employed this year, the Eagles also have the league’s second-ranked run game, which posted 139 yards on Sunday. Foles has been a middling NFL quarterback, apart from his outstanding first year as a starter. But the Vikings, of all teams, should know a knee injury to a starting QB doesn’t stop a team from coalescing around its backup. Case Keenum — who supplanted Foles as the Rams’ starter during their last season in St. Louis — has taught them that. On a more practical — and perhaps a more important — level, the Eagles’ win on Sunday means they don’t exactly have to perform a Herculean feat to secure the top seed in the NFC. They face the 2-11 Giants next Sunday, before coming home to play the 6-7 Raiders on Christmas night. Their Week 17 game against the Dallas Cowboys would be Ezekiel Elliott’s second week back from suspension, and they could face an opponent making a desperate push for a wild-card spot. But if Philadelphia wins its next two games, the Vikings can’t claim the No. 1 seed in the NFC North, since they’d lose the common-opponents tiebreaker with the Eagles. Now, it’s possible the Eagles could claim the No. 1 seed, only to lose their first playoff game with Wentz, and the Vikings could play the NFC Championship Game at home if they claim the No. 2 seed and win in the divisional round. But as the Vikings get back to work on Monday, they likely won’t be thinking about their home-field prospects, or hoping the loss of Wentz will automatically bring Philadelphia down in time to flip the NFC’s top two spots. It’d be wise for fans to follow their lead and maintain a narrower focus for the time being.

Today's Video

Tue, 05 Sep 2017 05:09:15 GMT2017-09-05T05:09:15Z

Three important takeaways from the Vikings' 31-24 loss at Carolina

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 05:40:17 GMT2017-12-12T05:40:17Z