It has been an exciting week for Packers fans as we relished in the win over the Chicago Bears. As crazy and exciting as the win was, it is time to move on and channel the focus the Minnesota Vikings. I broke the tape down of the Packers-Bears game for several days and then went on to breaking down the tape of the Vikings win over the 49ers. One thing I noticed right off the bat about this Vikings offense is it will be much different than we saw last week in Matt Nagy’s offense in Chicago. Here are some quick things I noticed shortly after turning the film on:
- 2 tight end sets are big in this offense
- Zone running concepts are relied on much more than BOB (big on big) blocking
- They like to use drags and curls in the pass game
- Running backs are used often in the pass game
The Run Game
Lets start with the run game. Here the Vikings come out in 12 personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends). Watch how the offensive line takes a hard lateral step and tries to work up field. The backs run track is the outside shoulder of the tackle. The Packers defense will see a lot of this on Sunday. Zone runs are a staple in this offense. The front has to work on not letting the offensive line reach their outside shoulder. The idea is to beat the offensive lineman to the point of attack. It is critical that force players keep the shoulder free. If the tackle or tight end reach them then the edge is completely vulnerable. They have to work it down the line and string the play out toward the boundary. Even though Matthews had an off night last week, I still think he is one of the best at not getting reached.
Here is another example of a zone concept, only this time under center. Again, we see a hard lateral step and working to the outside shoulder. The uncovered lineman – which would be the playside guard and tackle – work to the second level to find someone to block. This is one reason I think it is important that Pettine stacks the box early on to try and test the run game. I don’t think that he needs to send many stunts against stretch or inside zone plays, they just need to play fundamental defense.
3X1 Bunch Set
A few times on tape I noticed Minnesota come out in the bunch set, as shown above. The 49ers go with one of the best ways to defend it with a cover 3 look. I like cover 3 against the bunch because it covers all areas to the 3 receiver side. The strong safety will play as the flat defender and pick up anything his way. The field side inside linebacker will play his hook/curl responsibility. He will usually take away any quick inside releases by one of the bunch players. The key for the inside linebacker is to get wide enough to take away an early look. Lastly, the corner is there to play the deep third.
Playing solid pattern match defense is crucial when playing zone coverage. There are essentially 2 types of zone defense concepts. The first is known as the spot drop. In a spot drop players will simply drop to the area that they are responsible to cover at the snap of the ball. I think this is good if you are playing a team that likes to throw quick passes because defenders are getting to their zones and not having to think much about it. Overall though, I’m not a big fan of spot drop coverage.
The second zone coverage concept is pattern match. When players are playing pattern match they are reading one specific player to tell them what to do. The strong safety, for example, will have his eyes on the #3 receiver and then quickly get eyes on the #2. If 3 runs to the flats, the strong safety can jump it and pass the #2 on to any of the deep third players or the strongside linebacker. The linebacker will push hard to the #3 receivers side and the corner will usually read 2 to 1. It is a good concept that will put players in the best possible position to defend certain route concepts.
It’s no secret that Stefon Diggs is the Vikings best receiver. One of the most important things in this scouting report is that the Packers defense has to find a way to shut him down. Granted, Diggs had 43 yards receiving in this game, but he is still a huge asset to the Vikings passing attack. He does so many little things well. Look at what he does to Richard Sherman in the above clip. He has a good release, quick stop, and finishes plays. Diggs vs Tramon Williams will be a great battle to watch. Williams is the best defensive back that the Packers have in my opinion, and that is why I would keep him locked in on Diggs all game. Alexander would do well on Diggs but I wouldn’t put too much responsibility on a rookie. Williams is the best bet to get Cousins attention away from his #1 receiver. It’s a simple philosophy; find their best player and find ways to shut him down.
Backs in the Pass Game
One thing the Vikings like to do is get their premier back, Dalvin Cook, involved in the pass game. Against the 49ers he had 55 yards receiving, 2nd most for the Vikings that day. He was had 6 receptions and was targeted 7 times. Blake Martinez has to be quick to read Cook and get on him when in man coverage. Usually Pettine will play with Martinez alone as the one inside linebacker on the field when facing one back sets. This will put Martinez directly on Cook. We might see more man coverage simply for shutting this down. Cook is a good athlete with impressive acceleration.
The main thing for the defense is starting out sharp. The defense didn’t have the best start against the Bears last week but picked things up in the second half. We didn’t see many stunts, line games or zone blitzes, just sound defense. I think that is a big part of Pettine’s coaching philosphy. He wants to beat offenses with simple defense doing the fundamental things well, such as playing good gap defense, forcing runs inside and locking down things in the secondary. I’m confident that the defense will get things done Sunday and get another win over their rival.
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