The Vikings Offensive Line May Cost Them Everything

Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Minnesota Vikings were shocked on Monday Night be the Chicago Bears, losing 20-10 on the national stage. The Bears only had one win coming in, and the Vikings have looked like contenders all season due to surprisingly decent play by quarterback Sam Bradford and possibly the best defense in the NFL. Their defense played well Monday, but they received little help from their offense, specifically the teams underperforming offensive line.

Sam Bradford was pressured 12 times on his 42 dropbacks on Monday, and had trouble getting any time in the pocket. This was despite the Bears only choosing to blitz 3 times the entire game. Their minimal pass rush still managed to sack Bradford five times and totally disrupt him on many plays.

The Bears first sack of the game came as a result of them not blitzing.

The Bears only rushed four on the play, and the Vikings offensive line did a decent job picking up the rush and keeping Bradford safe at first. The Vikings pass protection slid towards the right, but on the weak side the Bears Cornelius Washington (#90) overpowered Tight End Rhett Ellison (#85) after Matt Asiata (#44) vacated the back field in order to run a route. This forced Bradford to take off on his feet.

Bradford is not very fast.

He turns and scrambles towards his left, away from the rush, but Lucas manages to drag him down before he can get across the line of scrimmage for the Bears first sack.

But how did Lucas even have enough time to blow up the play?

Because of what was happening down field.

With only four men rushing the Bears were able to drop seven men back into coverage. It was a 3rd down and 8, so the Bears anticipated a pass play. Only three receivers ran routes off the snap, all to Bradfords right.

As you see from this angle (and Soldier Fields odd coaches cam), the Bears zone defense picked up all three of the Vikings initially run routes. None of the Vikings receivers could gain any separation on the play, and despite the slide protection doing its job, a Tight End losing a one on one on the weak side blew the play open.

The Bears second sack of the game came early on in the second quarter, and yet again came on a play where they did not blitz.

Both of the Bears edge rushers, Willie Young (#97) and Leonard Floyd (#94), are quick to get around their opposition and quickly closed down on Bradford. Interestingly enough Rhett Ellison, Kyle Rudolph (#82) and Ronnie Hillman (#33) all ran routes right by Young, and none of the three made any sort of effort to slow Young on his way to the quarterback. TJ Clemmings (#68), who has shifted from left to right tackle due to an injury too Jeremiah Sirles, was entirely outmatched by Young, and Will Sutton (#93) man handles Brandon Fusco (#63) on the interior. This stops Bradford from looking downfield in an instant, and forces him to step towards his left. On his left, though, Floyd gets inside leverage on Jake Long (#72), a usual backup filling in Clemmings spot, and got to Bradford for the Bears second sack.

Even though Floyd got the sack, majority of the pressure was provided by Young. Young lined up across two Vikings Tight Ends, yet neither they nor a Vikings running back made any sort of effort to help Clemmings. The Vikings offensive line could have done a much better job on the play, but they were failed by a lack of effort by their skill position players.

The Bears got another sack on the Vikings next possession, and yet again they only needed to rush four to get there.

Minnesota’s protection shifted towards the right, while Asiata occupied the empty space on the left to pick up a potential blitz before running a route. Clemmings yet again got beat on the edge, this time by Pernell McPhee (#92), and McPhee got to Bradford as he pulled back to throw and forced a fumble.

Clemmings yet again being beaten is still and issue, but two of the Vikings interior linemen also failed miserably. McPhee’s path towards the quarterback would have been a lot trickier had Akiem Hicks (#96) had not caused havoc in the middle. Hicks was matched with Joe Berger (#61). Berger did a decent job holding back his opponent, but Hicks managed to draw the attention of both Alex Boone (#76) and Brandon Fusco. Hicks distracted Fusco, drawing him away from helping Clemmings on the edge.

Fusco was lost, though.  He is caught between Hicks and McPhee and for a split second is just standing there as the play goes by him. Boone, on the other hand, whiffs while attempting to throw a block onto Hicks and ends up on the ground.

A communication failure on the part of the Vikings offensive line, and Clemmings lack of speed on the edge was nearly devastating for the Vikings, as if Hicks did not give up on the play, a Vikings receiver eventually recovers Bradfords fumble, the Bears may have even scored on the play.

With the second half winding down, the Bears fourth sack of the game was just more of the same. Hicks ends up with the sack on the play, but three of the four Bears pass rushers erupted into the backfield with ease.

TJ Clemmings had trouble staying within arm’s reach of Willie Young on one end, Fusco was again lost in a zone blocking scheme, Hicks made quick due of Joe Berger on his way to the quarterback and Sam Acho (#49) manages to shove Jake Long back into Bradford. The play may have cost the Vikings points, as they failed to convert a 3rd and goal from the two and were forced to kick a field goal to end the half.

Minnesota managed to go the entire third quarter without giving up a sack, and may have gone the entire second half without giving up a fifth sack if not for an incredible effort by Akiem Hicks.

The Vikings shifted their protection to Bradfords left. Hicks started on the right side of the Vikings interior line, but ran a stunt towards the left and easily discarded of Fusco before jumping on to the quarterback.

Despite rarely bringing any major pass rush throughout the game, the Bears still managed to pressure Bradford on more than a quarter of the Vikings passing snaps. Their offensive line failed to handle anything Chicago threw at them. With the Bears not having to commit much towards their pass rush, they were able to drop defenders back into zone coverage further hindering Bradford’s ability to move the ball downfield. Their offense did not reach the end zone until the fourth quarter against a bad Bears defense as they were completely exposed.

The Vikings offense was never the main reason for their victories tis the season, but their offense needs to be able to get something going in order to continue winning games. After a 5-0 start they have dropped 2 straight and offensive coordinator Norv Turner has even stepped down. Minnesota’s defense is good enough alone to drag a mediocre offense to victory, as we saw during their hot start to the season, but with Jordan Howard having a career game for the Bears offense, they needed help on the other side of the ball.

 

Header via Fox Sports

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