Clutch Encounters: Week 14 MIN-ARI
by Scott Kacsmar
On paper, this should have been one of the best Thursday night games of the season between two NFC contenders. But on paper that shows more than just team records in boldface print, this should have been a lopsided contest. Arizona's defense only needed a simple game plan: contain Adrian Peterson, expect Patrick Peterson to shut down Stefon Diggs, and pressure Teddy Bridgewater in a very limited passing game. As if the highest-scoring team in the league needed any more advantages, Minnesota's defense was shorthanded with starters Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith all inactive. If you are lacking at safety and cannot get pressure, then Carson Palmer should feast on the defense with the vertical passing game. How was Minnesota, after Sunday's 38-7 loss to Seattle, going to keep up on a short week on the road?
Naturally, Minnesota almost pulled off the upset. Both offenses were flowing all night, combining to score 43 points on a very efficient 17 possessions. The big plays mostly came from yards after the catch instead of bombs, and Bridgewater passed for a career-high 335 yards in nearly leading the comeback win. Nearly. Almost. These are words Minnesota fans have long grown tired of while consistent winning is still so new to Arizona fans. The Cardinals have won 11 games for the second year in a row after posting just three 11-win seasons from 1920 to 2013. Bruce Arians should be allowed to wear whatever he wants on the sideline. He is having a Coach of the Year performance for the fourth season in a row, though Thursday night was not his sharpest job, hence the finish.
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We will work our way through a special Friday edition of Clutch Encounters for one of the best Thursday games of the past few seasons. The rest of Week 14's close games will be recapped on Tuesday as usual.
Game of the Week
Minnesota Vikings 20 at Arizona Cardinals 23
Head Coach: Bruce Arians (12-8 at 4QC and 18-8 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Carson Palmer (19-45 at 4QC and 30-45 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Shrinking the number of possessions in a game with runs and high-percentage passes is a good underdog strategy, and one the Vikings are equipped to execute. The more chances you give the superior team, the more deep shots for Palmer to eventually hit. However, the Cardinals started the game in that mode, consuming half the quarter for a field goal. The drive flirted with scoring nothing after Jaron Brown, flexed like a tight end, took a screen and appeared to fumble inside the 10-yard line. Minnesota challenged, but the referees were off to a good start as he was clearly down on replay before losing control.
So that was never a fumble, but did David Johnson have a clean drop on third-and-goal? Johnson skirted past Chad Greenway with ease, but Palmer's pass hit the rookie back's shoulder. He never got his hands on the ball.
I wouldn't chart this as a drop for David Johnson. Think Palmer just missed the throw. Wide of the mark. pic.twitter.com/fZgoNfU9IM
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) December 11, 2015
Adrian Peterson: Definitely Not "All Day" Production
Peterson did not back down from his comments that the Vikings were outcoached against Seattle last week. He was clearly frustrated with his 18-yard rushing day, the third-lowest output of his career. He looked fresh and fantastic on Minnesota's opening drive here, rushing for 38 yards on four carries, including a 9-yard touchdown.
Unfortunately, that means the rest of the way Peterson gained 31 yards on his last 19 carries. Minnesota entered the week as the most run-heavy offense on first down at just over 63.2 percent, but ranked 15th in DVOA. Arizona's first-down run defense was 17th in DVOA, so this matchup was fairly even. Arizona clearly caught on after the first drive as Peterson's 15 remaining first-down runs gained 21 yards, including five stuffs for losses.
In the second half, Arizona took advantage of the speed of Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon and their ability to play like linebackers in this scheme. Their run stuffs and pressures are critical against an offense built around the run and lacking quality receivers. Four years ago, a defense would be crazy not to keep a safety deep at all times against Mike Wallace, but this is 2015. Some of Minnesota's biggest pass plays were screens or dump-offs to backup tight ends and backs. Defenders like Bucannon and Mathieu speed up the play, which can force an offense into mistakes. Bucannon forced a fumble by Jarius Wright at the Arizona 15 when it looked like the Vikings were going to regain the lead in the second quarter.
The defensive backs definitely helped in making Peterson have an ineffective finish, but it was an unorthodox play that Minnesota would most like to have back. The offense was moving to start the third quarter with the game tied at 10, but at the Arizona 35, Norv Turner dialed up a reverse for Wallace to get the ball from Peterson. Left guard Brandon Fusco was unable to get a finger on Josh Mauro, who blew up Peterson in the backfield for a fumble. It is the seventh fumble of 2015 for Peterson, his most since 2009. That was a big turning point as the Cardinals began to take some control of the game.
No one has hit the large volume of deep throws with the consistency of Palmer this year, and his two longest gains of the night went for touchdowns. However, these were not the bucket throws from past weeks. Late in the first quarter, John Brown ran an incredible route to beat Captain Munnerlyn in coverage. Palmer stepped up in the pocket to avoid pressure to find Brown at the 45-yard line. He had the speed and got enough blocking from little J.J. Nelson to run down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown.
On a third-and-8 in the third quarter after the Peterson fumble, Minnesota had one of the oddest blown coverages you will ever see. Arizona lined up three wide receivers to the right. Jaron Brown was the furthest out wide, but he ran to the inside, drawing all three defenders to him. No one picked up Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald, who were all alone for an easy completion. Floyd made the catch and Fitzgerald was a great blocker for him, clearing a path to the end zone on a 42-yard score.
You just don't see blown coverage like this in the NFL every week. pic.twitter.com/uLFu789zJe
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) December 11, 2015
It is so unusual to see two receivers that close together on a route, but you'll take it any time you get it, especially when one is willing to block. That play broke the Arizona single-season record for touchdown passes as it was Palmer's 31st of the season.
Manage Your Aggression, Master Bruce
Arizona followed up the score with a methodical drive, including a no-brainer decision to go for a fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 38. Johnson converted for two yards, and later nearly had another touchdown before being ruled down at the 2-yard line. He was dealing with a health issue after his 24-yard run, which can explain why Stepfan Taylor was in the game. I would have a hard time not running the ball on all four downs in that situation, but would probably prefer Kerwynn Williams. On second down, Palmer was sacked on a play-action pass. After all the controversy in Detroit last week on the face mask penalty that was called, can you believe the referees missed one that was so obvious?
If the outcome is binary, you should be able to challenge it. This is obviously a face mask penalty. pic.twitter.com/BLBtJqaWr5
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) December 11, 2015
Arians never used his two challenges or three timeouts in the second half. Think he would like to be able to challenge this missed call? Does anyone seriously think the game would be negatively impacted if there was an average of two more challenges per game to get game-changing plays right? Maybe the NFL can start small next year with penalties available for challenges, but one as binary as "face mask or no face mask" should be right near the top of the list. Not long after this one, the officials missed another face mask, this time on Bridgewater, which was worse than Detroit's incidental contact on Aaron Rodgers. Bridgewater even looked for the flag during the play.
Teddy Bridgewater not waiting till the play is over to complain about a missed facemask pic.twitter.com/dN7SIB2yeQ
— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) December 11, 2015
Arizona led 20-10 after a field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. Blair Walsh answered that with a 54-yard field goal. While Williams is better than Taylor for Arizona, I am not sure why he got a whole series of runs when you have a quarterback who should be leading the MVP race. The runs are a good strategy at the goal line, but stick to what you do best in conventional field position. Williams was stopped on third-and-1 and Arizona punted from its own 29 after a quick three-and-out that really bugs me.
Why not go for it again? At worst, you end up in a tied game with plenty of time left. If you trust your offense and defense, then the game should not get to 20-20 because of this call. Convert the yard or hold them to a field goal. By going for it you can get to 23-13 or 27-13, or at least burn off several more minutes of clock. This is the fourth-and-1 call -- let's use inside your own 35 with a one-score lead in fourth quarter -- I want to see start happening in the NFL. John Harbaugh just did it against the Browns from his own 24 while leading 24-20. Maybe he never does if the Ravens were better than 3-7, but he did it and it worked. Jeff Fisher even let his Rams try that ballsy fake punt to help beat Seattle in 2014. The only other recent time was also a team leading 24-20 on a Monday night like the Ravens were: Marc Trestman's Bears in Green Bay (2013) on the night Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. A 20-13 lead should be even more reason to do it, but coaches are embarrassingly conservative with the lead. If guys like Fisher and Trestman can do it, what is stopping Arians?
Well, Arians has some history on his side. Since 2012, his teams are 30-1 when the defense has to protect a one-score lead in the fourth quarter. No one has done better than that.
|Bruce Arians Defenses: Fourth-Quarter Comeback Attempts (Leading by 1-8 PTS), 2012-2015|
|10/7/2012||IND||GB||A.Rodgers||30-27||W 30-27||0:35||M.Crosby 51 yd FG is no good w/0:03 left|
|10/21/2012||IND||CLE||B.Weeden||17-13||W 17-13||-||Stops CLE on five drives in quarter|
|11/4/2012||IND||MIA||R.Tannehill||23-20||W 23-20||2:39||R.Tannehill 14-yd pass on fourth-and-15|
|11/25/2012||IND||BUF||R.Fitzpatrick||20-13||W 20-13||4:31||3-and-out after Buffalo recovered fumbled INT|
|12/9/2012||IND||TEN||J.Locker||27-23||W 27-23||3:48||J.Locker incomplete on third-and-10; punt w/2:42 left|
|12/23/2012||IND||at KC||B.Quinn||20-13||W 20-13||4:03||3-and-out w/2:30 left|
|9/8/2013||ARI||at STL||S.Bradford||24-24*||L 27-24||1:45||G.Zuerlein 48-yd game-winning FG w/0:40 left|
|9/15/2013||ARI||DET||M.Stafford||25-21||W 25-21||1:59||M.Stafford 3-yd pass on fourth-and-4|
|9/29/2013||ARI||at TB||M.Glennon||13-10||W 13-10||1:29||P.Peterson INT w/0:48 left|
|10/6/2013||ARI||CAR||C.Newton||12-6||W 22-6||13:11||C.Newton sacked on third-and-7 (red-zone INT on previous drive)|
|11/10/2013||ARI||HOU||C.Keenum||27-24||W 27-24||2:06||C.Keenum incomplete on fourth-and-3 at HOU 35|
|12/15/2013||ARI||at TEN||R.Fitzpatrick||34-34**||W 37-34 OT||14:52||OT: A.Cason INT returned to ARI 46 to set up game-winning FG|
|12/22/2013||ARI||at SEA||R.Wilson||17-10||W 17-10||2:06||K.Dansby INT w/1:56 left|
|9/8/2014||ARI||SD||P.Rivers||18-17||W 18-17||2:25||P.Rivers incomplete on fourth-and-2 at SD 40 w/1:49 left|
|9/14/2014||ARI||at NYG||E.Manning||22-14||W 25-14||3:19||4-and-out w/2:36 left|
|9/21/2014||ARI||SF||C.Kaepernick||20-14||W 23-14||6:54||C.Kaepernick incomplete on third-and-19; punt w/3:57 left|
|10/12/2014||ARI||WAS||K.Cousins||23-20||W 30-20||0:29||R.Johnson pick-six w/0:18 left|
|10/19/2014||ARI||at OAK||D.Carr||21-13||W 24-13||9:59||D.Carr 3-yd pass on third-and-7; punt w/7:22 left|
|10/26/2014||ARI||PHI||N.Foles||24-20||W 24-20||1:21||N.Foles three incompletions from ARI 16 as time expires|
|11/2/2014||ARI||at DAL||B.Weeden||14-10||W 28-17||11:00||D.Murray no gain on fourth-and-1 run at ARI 34|
|11/9/2014||ARI||STL||A.Davis||17-14||W 31-14||6:31||P.Peterson pick-six w/5:13 left|
|11/16/2014||ARI||DET||M.Stafford||14-6||W 14-6||4:34||M.Stafford incomplete on third-and-12; punt w/2:42 left|
|12/7/2014||ARI||KC||A.Smith||17-14||W 17-14||1:09||A.Smith incomplete on fourth-and-15 w/0:07 left|
|12/11/2014||ARI||at STL||S.Hill||12-6||W 12-6||2:52||S.Hill incomplete on fourth-and-3 at ARI 43 w/1:23 left|
|9/13/2015||ARI||NO||D.Brees||24-19||W 31-19||2:12||D.Brees incomplete on third-and-6; punt w/1:49 left|
|10/26/2015||ARI||BAL||J.Flacco||26-18||W 26-18||1:53||T.Jefferson INT in end zone w/0:06 left|
|11/1/2015||ARI||at CLE||J.McCown||24-20||W 34-20||15:00||R.Johnson INT in end zone w/14:52 left|
|11/15/2015||ARI||at SEA||R.Wilson||32-29***||W 39-32||8:36||R.Wilson incomplete on third-and-15; punt w/6:02 left|
|11/22/2015||ARI||CIN||A.Dalton||31-28****||W 34-31||2:45||M.Nugent 43-yd game-tying FG w/1:03 left|
|11/29/2015||ARI||at SF||B.Gabbert||19-13||W 19-13||2:21||B.Gabbert 18-yd pass play on fourth-and-20 w/1:12 left|
|12/10/2015||ARI||MIN||T.Bridgewater||23-20||W 23-20||1:23||T.Bridgewater strip-sacked at ARI 31 w/0:05 left|
|Not all qualified drives are shown for each game|
|*Led 24-13 to start 4th quarter|
|**Lost 34-17 lead in final 6:13 before rebounding with overtime interception|
|***Led 25-17 to start 4th quarter; two C.Palmer fumbles led to 12 points for Seattle before offense regained lead|
|****Led 28-14 to start 4th quarter; CIN scored 17 points in quarter before offense had GW field goal w/0:02 left|
I was trying to recall the last time the Vikings had a double-digit 4QC on the road. The CBS broadcast supplied the answer with a reminder of an incredible rally: the Vikings beat the Eagles in 1985 after trailing 23-0 in the fourth quarter. Over 30 years have passed without something even half as big as that miracle.
But this was within reach, even after the Vikings had to start at their own 12. A soft 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer sure helped after some incidental contact to the head. You just wonder if officials got flag-shy after that call, as the aforementioned missed face mask on Bridgewater happened just four plays later. Thankfully that concludes the referee discussion for this one as Wallace made a rare impact on this drive. He had a 23-yard gain after forcing a missed tackle and finished with a 7-yard touchdown. If the play looked familiar, it was the same concept Minnesota used to free up Wallace for a wide-open touchdown against the similarly aggressive Broncos in Week 4.
Knew that Mike Wallace TD looked familiar. Same concept vs. Broncos in Week 4. pic.twitter.com/kZe6mKC7Tq
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) December 11, 2015
We had a 20-20 game with 4:55 left, so I again ask what is the harm in going for it on Arizona's previous possession?
The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad GWD
Like any stat, a game-winning drive can come cheaply and fail to impress. We had a few of those in Week 10. What Arizona did here was so poor that it would have felt right for Minnesota to force overtime or score a touchdown so that this did not win the game. Let's count the mistakes.
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First, Williams fielded the kick return deep in his end zone and only reached his own 16. On the first scrimmage play, the Vikings were offsides, but Floyd may have cut off his route, watching Palmer throw an interception that thankfully did not count. Trusting the referees to get the call right every time is a heroic gesture. At least Floyd made up for it with a great 22-yard snag.
Palmer's next pass was tipped at the line and bounced fortuitously to guard Mike Iupati, who actually got a 10-yard gain out of the play. You cannot deny Arizona got the bounces between that first down and recovering all three of Minnesota's fumbles. The Iupati catch also took so much time that the Cardinals did not need to run another play before the two-minute warning (one-second difference). The game was tied, the Vikings had all three timeouts and the ball was at their 41. There is no way you run a play there, yet Arizona snapped the ball at 2:04. Horrible clock management. Palmer forced a pass on second-and-6, but Daniel Fells failed to hold on in tight coverage. On third down, Palmer found Johnson for the first down, but the rookie went out of bounds to stop the clock even though he had room to keep the clock running. This is happening all over the league this season and it makes no sense.
If we assume Minnesota uses its timeouts and Arizona runs the same sequence of plays, but manages the clock correctly, then the Cardinals should have been able to run the ball three times and kick the winning field goal with about 15 seconds left. This stuff is not that hard to figure out, yet Arizona nearly blew it. The mistakes kept coming too as Williams managed to lose 8 yards on a run where he needed to just cut his losses sooner. Palmer tried to throw for the first down on third-and-16, which I applaud, but the Cardinals had two receivers in the same area again and Fitzgerald could not come down with the ball. That saved Minnesota a timeout and 1:23, but the Cardinals saved them so much more than even that on this drive. Credit to Chandler Catanzaro for the great 47-yard field goal that was never in doubt the moment it left his foot.
For Palmer, this is his 30th game-winning drive, making him only the 19th quarterback to hit that mark, and in the eighth-fewest games (159). He was not the problem on this sloppy drive.
Carson Palmer: 19th QB to reach 30 game-winning drives (done in 8th-fewest games). pic.twitter.com/Gq2sRbxfZw
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) December 11, 2015
The Last Shot
Only needing a field goal, this was more than doable with 83 seconds left. A sack by Tony Jefferson could have been crippling, but that was where having the timeout Arizona gift-wrapped several times really helped. After the first considerable gain (14 yards) of the drive, Bridgewater spiked the ball and the Cardinals were penalized for 12 men on the field. When do you ever see a team substituting in an obvious spike situation? That was another weird Arizona thing in the final minutes.
Bridgewater found Wright for 22 yards at the Arizona 31 and this was looking destined for overtime with 23 seconds left. Arizona only rushed four and Bridgewater threw a high pass, followed by a throwaway to set up third down. You would like to get a shorter field goal. You know you probably cannot hold the ball long enough to throw a 31-yard touchdown, and any completion has to get out of bounds or the game is over. Minnesota was really limited on what it could do here. If you had a brilliant fake field goal pass in mind, this might have been the time for it.
The worst possible outcome was the actual outcome. Dwight Freeney's highlight package added another spin move for a game-clinching strip-sack. If the Matt Kalil lowlight reel was turned into a full-length film, only director Lars von Trier would be able to properly capture the sadness.
The Cardinals forced a last-second fumble to down the Vikings on Thursday: https://t.co/JvnupAMy32 pic.twitter.com/CUsQyHG4CT
— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) December 11, 2015
It is too hard to tell from the television angles what the Vikings were trying to do, but at least three of the five eligible receivers looked like they were headed to the sidelines. Bridgewater had enough time to take two steps forward after his drop and pad the ball. He needs to show better pocket presence and situational awareness than that, but this was a hit from behind. He did not just cough up the ball this time.
Just like in Denver in Week 4, the road-dog Vikings erased a 20-10 deficit in the fourth quarter, allowed the go-ahead field goal, and then watched Bridgewater lose the ball on a strip-sack in the final 30 seconds of a 23-20 defeat.
Both games really paint the same picture of where the Vikings are this season: good enough to hang with some of the best teams in the league, but not great enough to win these games yet. Arizona is a great team that won without playing its best football.
Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 59
Game-winning drives: 69 (plus six non-offensive game-winning scores)
Games with 4QC opportunity: 120/193 (62.2 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 28
Historic data on fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives can be found at Pro-Football-Reference. Screen caps come from NFL Game Pass.
29 comments, Last at 12 Dec 2015, 12:03pm
#1 by Boots Day // Dec 11, 2015 - 10:47am
Repeating my comment from the other thread:
Is there any precedent for how Bruce Arians has been using Dwight Freeney? I haven't seen every Cardinals game, but in the ones I've seen, he hasn't been deployed until the fourth quarter, which for the Cardinals means the other team is likely to be trailing and passing a lot.
That means he's just being asked to play one quarter like the Dwight Freeney of old, and he's been up to the task. He's like the George Blanda of defense.
#2 by Will Allen // Dec 11, 2015 - 11:06am
The biggest issue I have with Norv's last call was that it probably didn't have a route that could have won the game. Yeah, Kalil getting destroyed likedly means the result is the same, but if you are going to take the risk of a sack (the Cardinals aren't so dumb as to let you complete a short sideline pass in that situation, a 48 yard field goal isn't a gimme, and ot definitely favored Arizona), you may as well be trying to definitively win the game with that play. Rudolph can likely run 31 yards, to the middle of the goal line, in about 3.5 seconds, meaning Bridgewater can release the ball in less than 3. The prospect of Rudolph outfighting a shorter guy at the goal line, to definitely win the game, isn't a bad one, relative to other options.
The reverse call that produced the fumble was the worst call of the night by Norv. Asking Brandon Fusco to demonstrate above average athleticism, or have the risk of turnover hugely increase, is, er, poorly considered.
#3 by MilkmanDanimal // Dec 11, 2015 - 11:17am
People here in the Twin Cities are (not shockingly) furious about that last play, but, considering the Vikings' deep passing game is terrible and Walsh has been pretty shaky, picking up even 6-7 more yards for a shorter FG attempt made lots of sense. Kalil has been a bit better this year than the last couple, but, wow, that was some epic-level terrible OT play. Bridgewater should have better pocket presence, but I'm pretty sure "guy responsible for protecting my blindside falls flat on his face pretty much at the snap" was not something really occurring to him. Kalil didn't really even slow him down, it was just godawfully terrible.
If he just sends out Walsh and he misses a long FG (really quite possible), Norv gets vilified for not being aggressive enough. I have no issue with the call, I have issue with Matt Kalil suddenly deciding to put in his candidacy for the Sabby Piscitelli Memorial "Worst Individual Play Of The Year" award.
#5 by Will Allen // Dec 11, 2015 - 11:46am
People really are overrating the strength of the Vikings position on that last pass. Yes, you are within Walsh's range. Everything else strongly favors the Cardinals, including winning in ot. When a good defense knows you have to get out of bounds, or score a td, from 31 yards out, and the qb likely will have a short time to survey the field, the area of he field that needs to be defended shrinks a huge amount, and absent upper-echelon receivers, you just aren't in a good situaton.
With the old ot rules, relying on the 48 yarder to tie makes more sense. You win the coin toss, Patterson gets a good return, "drive" 20 yards, and win the game. I like the current ot rules better, but they do reduce variance, which reduces upsets.
(edit) To add on, PFR's win probability, prior to Freeney's sack, has the Cards with about a 75% chance to win. I think that may be understating things, because I'm not sure if PFR's win probability model factors injuries, other than the fact that the betting line at the game's outset is affected by injuries.
#4 by Tundrapaddy // Dec 11, 2015 - 11:41am
We focus on the last play, but I thought they could have handled that whole last drive better. Bridgewater is still not remotely efficient running the 2-minute offense. The team should have tried to take advantage of the fact that Arizona was playing to defend the pass at least once. Instead, they started with two rinky-dink 5-yard passes, which burned up 31 of the precious 83 seconds. Then the sack, followed by their final timeout.
If you know the defense is almost sellign out against the pass...why not try at least 1 run?
#6 by Will Allen // Dec 11, 2015 - 11:54am
They just aren't good enough, across the board, to function well in this situation against a good team. When their defense doesn't have a good game, the offense, with the talent it has, or, to be more accurate, with what talent it doesn't have, really can't function at all, which is why they were so non-competitive against the Seahawks. However, would you agree with me that, no matter what DVOA says, Seattle's defense is clearly superior to the Cardinals', especially against playoff teams, since the Cards defense is so much more reliant on scheme, as opposed to across the board athletic superiority?
#9 by Tundrapaddy // Dec 11, 2015 - 12:13pm
I would agree that Seattle's defense (my 2nd team, after the Vikes; last week was challenging) is far better than the Cards'.
Still, I think the Vikes could have helped themselves immensely on that first series. Having 1 timeout and 83 seconds, and needing to go 50-ish yards (?), they could have called a run. Asiata and Peterson, both of whom are known to catch the ball and pass block, in the backfield. As I said (in the earlier comment and at the TV last night), the Vikes had enough time to take the weak spot that the Cardinals were offering.
And their defense had been doing its fair share. They held the Cards to 23 points over most of 4 quarters.
To be clear, I though this game would be out of hand in the 3rd quarter.
#11 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 11, 2015 - 12:17pm
"Peterson... known to catch the ball and pass block"
Those are things he's been criticized almost his whole career for not being as good at as you'd hope. According to Will, his pass pro has taken a huge step back this year too after reaching average-to-pretty-good.
#14 by Will Allen // Dec 11, 2015 - 12:28pm
Yes, especially in the first 5 or 6 games of the year he was back to the pass blocking he had his first two or three years in the league, which was really bad. It's the thing that has most irritated me about him through the years, and most reminds me of Randy Moss; if it doesn't result in everybody cheering wildly, or focusing their attention on him, he just isn't nearly as motivated to be as good at it, as his ridiculous physical talents allow.
#10 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 11, 2015 - 12:14pm
This offensive line reminds me of the worst part of the Cutler-Lovie era. Except that Norv doesn't feel compelled to get his QB turned into mashed potatoes like Mike Martz.
They seem to run remarkably few screens to AP though, which surprises me. Get your best runner the ball in a situation where 8 defenders are not immediately keyed in on him seems like a no brainer (as well as reducing the need for traditional offensive line blocking).
Regarding the Cardinals defense, I think they schemed a little too smart for their own good last night. There was a play where they rushed only 3 and got pressure in just a second or two. All those blitzes were just opening up holes in the secondary for Bridgewater when they're going to get pressure anyways.
As far as scheme vs player talent, I think you always want player talent, but sometimes coaches can get really creative and relying on scheme might mean you can be more flexible. Basically, everyone knows what Seattle is going to do on a given snap and they just need to find one spot where they win. The Cardinals might be able to pull Belichickian scheme and give offenses what they don't expect.
#15 by Will Allen // Dec 11, 2015 - 12:35pm
Outside of Clemmings, who is woefully raw, they really lack the athleticism among their o-line whch facilitates a screen game. Asking those guys to block in space is like asking my dog for a good game of checkers. Actually, that may be unfair to my dog; chess might the better analogy.
#8 by MilkmanDanimal // Dec 11, 2015 - 12:11pm
Peterson had been terrible since the early TD, and, sure, he's AP and all, but he's had so many "run into his linemen and fall down" plays this year that I wouldn't have run him. Short pass to him and hope for the best? Sure, maybe, but he'd had a lousy game regardless of the defense.
Dinky passes aren't ideal, but the same crappy offensive line that pretty much got Bridgewater shoved onto the execution block on that last play of the game was still "protecting" him earlier in the drive. There really aren't any good scenarios for the Vikings in that situation; Patrick Peterson isn't going to let Diggs beat him, AP wasn't running well, and the Vikings just don't have a deep game.
#12 by Tundrapaddy // Dec 11, 2015 - 12:19pm
Very true - as Mr. Kacsmar points out, the Cards noticed how often the Vikings run on 1st down. Peterson was bottled up.
There's a fair difference, though, between 'running when its expected', and running when everyone and their uncle think you'll pass.
Hell, even having a designed QB draw would have been useful to force the defense into a bit more honesty.
As it was, the Cards simply dialed up a variety of pressure packages. The worst part remains the fact that they burnt over a third of their time gaining 10 yards on 2 plays, then burnt their final timeout after a sack.
#13 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 11, 2015 - 12:26pm
Given this team, don't they pretty much need to expect they'll have to use a timeout after a sack?
I suppose that's the argument against running.
Also, they had to spend so much time because the receiver ran to the middle of the field instead of even trying to get out of bounds. Or running up field for that matter, just wasted time getting horizontal yards.
#16 by MilkmanDanimal // Dec 11, 2015 - 1:04pm
Yeah, not getting out of bounds is just so dumb. It's not like he had a realistic chance to break it for 40 yards. I'm sure the Vikings would have greatly preferred getting a chunk, but that's a pretty good secondary.
It's not that I'm defending the Vikings' playcalling as much as understanding it was a pretty ugly situation. It's just not the kind of offense where a two-minute drill seems likely against a good defense.
#23 by Joe Pancake // Dec 11, 2015 - 2:59pm
This is precisely what I was thinking. Given Minnesota's personnel in the passing game and the Cards propensity for blitzing, going to the end zone was a very low percentage move, meaning you might as well play for the field goal. When there was 18 seconds left on 2nd down, I was thinking a run to AP followed by an immediate spike was the best course of action. When that didn't work, kicking the field goal on third down, was clearly the right move, in my opinion.
#19 by jmaron // Dec 11, 2015 - 1:23pm
"You cannot deny Arizona got the bounces between that first down and recovering all three of Minnesota's fumbles."
Minnesota also dropped a pick six - that was perhaps the biggest play in the game. Rhodes simply had to catch a ball right in his hands and that's seven points. DBs that can't catch, and Rhodes appears to be one of them, are so darn frustrating.
#25 by Tundrapaddy // Dec 11, 2015 - 5:03pm
That was after an earlier drop of what should have been an interception (per recollection, the DB got both hands on the ball). That one was towards the Cards' end zone, so it would have been more like a 'premature punt', and not a pick six. But still - I counted two shoulda-INTs.