There is good news ... you cannot relive that experience back in San Francisco ever again, except in your head and on film. If what Bill Belichick's statement is true that, "Players win games where coaches can lose them", then the Vikings coaches got their hind-ends handed to them. It was clear that Kaepernick didn't beat us with his arm ... he beat us with his legs thereby maintaining drives that would have otherwise ended. Kaepernick legs turned a dysfunctional offense into a functioning machine.
There were two major mistakes made on that day. The defensive line, shifted from maintaining Kaepernick in the pocket at all times to selfishly chasing after sacks ... looking for some pro bowl birth. Well that dream ended on Monday night ... didn't it. The second mistake was in not starting Eric Kendricks as on that day, we needed a spy to cut into Kaepernick like Harrison Smith did. In other words, either Kendricks is the real deal ... which he is, or he is not. The question is, did we need the brute force of Hodges or the "Johnny-on-the-spot" of Kendricks. Sure he would have made mistakes but I understand the kid can also tackle. Let's not even get into not playing our rookies, to get them experience, because that might lose us the game ... hey we lost the game anyway.
As far as the defensive performance, giving up all those yards on the ground to what might be a very good back in this league, a great deal of that rest on the offense, as it disappeared for the entire first half. Subjecting our defense to sustained drive after drive is going to wear them out. One 3rd down conversion in the entire game also indicates "beyond" a major problem. The game plan versus our offense didn't change much. Load the box with 8 defenders to stop Adrian Peterson, drop into zones when he isn't given the ball, and shift into a blitz often to overwhelm and inexperienced offensive line.
There was one glimmer of hope, and it returned to the field when Cordarrel Patterson ran right, followed by Adrian Peterson's biggest gain of the evening right up the middle. Both Patterson and Peterson are game breakers where it's time to stop punishing Patterson by incorporating him into the run game often and early. There was also a major disruption on the field when Adrian Peterson caught the ball down the field, blowing up the mismatched secondary ... pushing them back. These are all effective wrinkles that worked very well and had the potential of bringing us back to Patterson's 100 yard plus performance on the ground versus the Rams.
So where did Teddy go? Well he was forced to deal with an offensive line that has never played together in a real game. To be direct, what I saw was impressive, but it also had glaring weaknesses when faced with multiple fronts. The good news for Teddy is that he lost the most unimportant game of the year, "the first one", where he and the offense have time to correct from the deer-in-head-lights, back to being a team again.
From Adrian Peterson's perspective, let me get this straight, "I've got to protect Teddy at all costs, where you're taking away meat and potato blockers away from the run game from me". The answer, "right". There is a cost to be paid for Adrian Peterson missing 15 games. There is also a cost for him never playing with Teddy before, as there is buy-in that can only happen with success on the field. That success hasn't happened yet and as such, there is no buy in. If you see someone like Zach Line lining up in front of Peterson, the defense is going to load the box to stop him. When Rhett Ellison dropped that ball, I could only imagine what might have happened if that ball was thrown to Jerrick McKinnon, after lining up in the slot. To be direct, Zach Line is a threat only if you use him as a runner slashing opposite Peterson, and that assumes that Line can beat the defender that was to take-on his block. I'm not sure Line can do it. Ellison is nothing more than an Adrian Peterson pacifier, used to keep him quiet unless its a 3rd and 1 or a goal line punch in. Let me say this again, so that it is clear. If you can put Ellison and Peterson on the field at the same time, you can also put McKinnon and Peterson on the field at the same time, understanding that McKinnon is an Edelman representative. Could McKinnon be the key to unloading the box? Stated as directly as I can, McKinnon is a thrashing threat anywhere that he is on the field whereas Ellison is not.
Until Norv Turner unloads that box, Peterson should not be unleashed. As the season goes on, regardless of the score, Adrian Peterson's touches in the 3rd quarter have to increase. If Teddy had executed on those first 3 pass plays, with Adrian Peterson held in reserve, it would have unhinged the 49ers defense. This was truly an opportunity missed. You have no idea how important this was as Detroit is going to be telling themselves this week, the Vikings will never do that again, where we can expect, "Adrian Peterson up the gut for 2 yards on 1st down ... and you can take that to the bank. Teddy's no elite quarterback in this league".
There was also a major missing ingredient opposite Kyle Rudolph on Monday. Where was the blocking of MyCole Pruitt. Sure he could of cost us the game that we lost anyway but when exactly will the Vikings realize that it's not about winning the first game ... it's about winning the last game. Will Newman be there or will it be Trae Waynes? Will Ellison be a key player on that day? Let me answer that ... I don't think so?
The Viking Ghost Writer
Date: September 16, 2015