December 11, 2017

Vikings can’t overcome offensive line injuries, lose 31-24 to Carolina Panthers

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Minnesota Vikings visit the Carolina Panthers, hoping to keep their winning streak going and clinch the NFC North division title. Things started off badly, as the Vikings were already missing right tackle Mike Remmers (out for the fifth consecutive game) and centre Pat Elflein was ruled out with a shoulder injury, so the offensive line started with two back-ups (Easton moved to centre, and Jeremiah Sirles filled in at left guard, while Rashod Hill plugged in again at right tackle). During the game, left tackle Riley Reiff was injured, leaving only Easton and Berger of the starting OL still in the game. If nothing else, this showed how much the Vikings depend on their linemen giving the quarterback and running backs the time to set up plays.

And that doesn’t even get into the uncharacteristic penalties and miscues by ordinarily dependable players that kept the Vikings from their normal game plan.

At 1500ESPN, Judd Zulgad panders to the purple pessimists:

The Vikings extended their winning streak to eight games a week ago with an impressive five-point victory over the defending NFC champion Falcons in Atlanta. This did little to calm the nerves of many Vikings fans.

The optimist saw the win as the latest accomplishment by one of the NFL’s best teams and also as the victory that gave Minnesota the edge for home-field advantage in the NFC, at least temporarily.

The Purple Pessimists, meaning a large number of those who follow the Vikings, saw it as an opportunity to pump the [brakes] and warn of trouble ahead.


Things got worse for the line late in the third quarter when left tackle Riley Reiff left because of an ankle injury on a play on which Keenum was sacked. Reiff, who has been outstanding for much of the season, was taken to the locker room on a cart and the Vikings’ line issues suddenly went from a problem to a major worry. If Reiff is lost for an extended period, it would be a huge loss.

Keenum spent much of the remainder of the afternoon using his quick feet to try to avoid pressure that was often too much. Hill was now playing left tackle, Danny Isidora was the left guard, while Sirles moved to right tackle. Easton and right guard Joe Berger were the only two to stay put.

Keenum ended up being sacked six times after not being sacked more than twice in a game in his previous 12 appearances. If Reiff ends up being fine and Elflein’s absence only lasts a week, the Vikings should be fine and Sunday’s loss, while disappointing, will be far from devastating.

However, if the injuries on the line continue, and this begins to look like 2016 again, there will be little hope of the Vikings making a deep playoff run, much less becoming the first team in NFL history to host a Super Bowl.

Just before I was going to shut it down for the evening, I saw that Ted Glover’s Stock Market Report for the Carolina game had just been posted, so here’s (just a portiong of) the Buy/Sell section for your entertainment:

Buy: Stefon Diggs’ six catches for 64 yards. Diggs’ six catches against Carolina was the most since his epic eight grabs for 173 yards and two TD’s against Tampa Bay way back in week three. His longest reception was only 22 yards, but he was a consistent target in the offense and had a few big grabs.

Sell: Stefon Diggs’ hitting the deck right after a couple of said catches. But there were a couple times when Diggs caught the ball and went right to the deck. One of them seemed legit; there were three Panthers defenders around him, so yeah, just take what you can get and don’t risk a fumble. But on one grab, he caught the ball near the sideline, and it looked like he had some real estate in front of him. But instead of pivoting and going upfield, he just hit the deck. I didn’t see any impending hit or tackle coming from a defender, so it looked unusual. I’m not saying it was a lack of hustle or taking a dive or anything like that, it just seemed like a weird choice.

Buy: The Vikings have a slew of sure handed receivers. Between Diggs, Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, Jarius Wright, and Laquon Treadwell, the Vikings have a bevy of sure handed receivers. Coming into today, Vikings receivers had only dropped five passes all year. That’s an amazing statistic, and goes to the quality depth the Vikings receivers have.

Sell: The Vikings had sure handed receivers today. The Vikings had as many drops today as they’ve had all year, and no one was immune. Kyle Rudolph dropped what would have been a HUGE play on the Vikings second drive that if he caught, I think he’d still be running. The Vikings ended up having to kick the ball, and on the heels of two facemasking penalties on the previous Panthers drive that ultimately ended in a Carolina TD, it felt like we were in for ‘one of those’ kind of games.

/Narrator voice: They were in for one of those kind of games.

Adam Thielen had an uncharacteristic drop on what would have been a touchdown, and instead of six, the Vikings had to settle for a field goal. And don’t worry, we’ll talk about his nullified TD in a little bit.

And finally, Stefon Diggs had what was I thought the play that sealed the game for the Panthers. Case Keenum threw him a screen pass in the flat, and it was high. Diggs was able to get both hands on it, though, and he should have caught it. He didn’t, and when it bounced off his hands it landed in the arms of James Bradberry. The Vikings were still able to rally, but that was really brutal as the Vikings had driven down to the Carolina 26, and were in line to at least get a field goal.

Diggs also had a drop in the end zone that would have given the Vikings a late lead after the Andrew Sendejo interception. Keenum’s throw was a little more inside than it should have been, and the defensive back got his arm in there, but even with all that I thought Diggs had a chance to bring the ball in.


Buy: Case Keenum was just okay today. A lot of today’s issues with the Vikings offense weren’t Case Keenum’s fault. But on a day when the Vikings defense couldn’t get it done, Keenum had to be laser-accurate on almost all his throws, and he wasn’t. His receivers failed him, as annotated above, but he also made some bad throws, too. His first interception on Minnesota’s opening drive was a WHHHHAAAAAAAAAAT throw, he lost a fumble, and on the 4th quarter interception that Diggs bobbled, he threw the ball way too high. Even if Diggs comes down with it, the play goes for either no gain or a short loss because Diggs had to jump for the ball. After Sendejo’s pick, Keenum had Diggs in the end zone, and if he throws the ball two feet to the right it’s a touchdown. But he threw it too far inside, and it was broken up even though you could make an argument it could have been caught. Yet, for all those issues, his TD throw to Rudolph was money, and he had 280 yards passing today, drops, bad protection, and all.

Sell: Teddy Bridgewater should have played. All those issues aside, pulling Keenum for Teddy Bridgewater would have taken a bad situation and made it worse, I think. as bad as the offensive line was playing, I think Teddy going in would have been setting him up for failure. Keenum wasn’t great, but for the most part, he ended up making lemons out of five 55 gallon drums of lemons that were trying to protect him today.

Buy: Case Keenum, escape artist. Because Case Keenum was ducking and moving like Muhammad Ali in his prime. On a day when Carolina had six sacks, you could argue they should have had at least three more, if not more. But thanks to Keenum’s duck and move game, he turned several big losses into positive plays.

Sell: Case Keenum cannot escape an onslaught. But no one can withstand an assault forever, and Keenum was hit early and often. It was far and away the worst performance of the offensive line this year, and Keenum paid the price. I honestly believe that if Riley Reiff, Mike Remmers, and Pat Elflein are back in the lineup soon, the line will be fine.

But if they don’t…yeah.

/sobs, throws up, rolls into the fetal position

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