Game narratives often derive from a handful of plays. Quality play for 98 percent of snaps can be perceived negatively if one off play has a disastrous result. It is simply the nature of the way fans ingest sports. Because of that, post-game analysis of the big picture plays a significant role in determining true overall performance, as opposed to picking plays here and there to draw conclusions.
With that in mind, each week we will look at some key performance numbers to get a better idea of how players and position groups performed. This week, not much went against initial perception, but there were still some statistics that jumped out.
All numbers from STATS.
Defensive Line Transcendant
Upon first look, the starting defensive line looked to control the line on virtually every down. The numbers bear that out. The four starters accounted for six run disruptions, five hurries and eight knockdowns. Everson Griffen and Sheldon Richardson led the way with two run disruptions and three knockdowns apiece, while Danielle Hunter recorded the most hurries with three.
It was also worth noting how often the second unit defensive line shuffled in. While none of them recorded a run disruption, hurry or knockdown, the Vikings went with wholesale changes several times throughout the game. That is something that rarely happened, if at all, in close games last season and is a good sign for the Vikings’ young depth.
Offensive Line Pass Protection Serviceable
The final totals with regard to pass pro indicate that a few bad plays can trump decent play in a game’s narrative. Yesterday, this writer noted that the Vikings’ line, particularly Tom Compton looked over-matched against DeForest Buckner. And while that was true on a few occasions, for the most part, the line actually performed reasonably well, as far as pressure goes. Overall, the line surrendered only five hurries and one knockdown on Sunday. Compton accounted for one knockdown, nothing more. All other pressures and hits on Kirk Cousins were the result of schematic disadvantage, as opposed to poor pass protection.
Cook Made a Lot on His Own
That said, the line struggled a bit more in creating space for Dalvin Cook. Ultimately, he had to make a lot of plays on his own. Including tight ends (and Adam Thielen on one play, who was motioned in tight to block), the front surrendered a whopping 12 run disruptions. Still, Cook found a way to be productive, forcing nine missed tackles, five as a runner, four as a receiver.
Rhodes Literally Perfect
One target. That is all Xavier Rhodes saw from Jimmy Garoppolo on Sunday. The result of that target? An interception. That is a passer rating of 0.0 when targeted. So when we say perfect, we mean Rhodes was perfect.
Hughes Gave Some and Made Some Big Plays
Rookie Mike Hughes had a fine debut. He made several big plays, including a pick-six and a pass defense in the end zone, and also played on the outside most of the game after Trae Waynes exited with an injury. That is not to say it was all perfect. Hughes also surrendered a few receptions, including two that went for over 30 yards. All told, however, it will go down as a solid day in coverage: 3/7, 88 yards and in interception when targeted, which amounts to a rating of 50.3.
Kearse Breaking Out?
It was a bit surprising that the Vikings employed Jayron Kearse, not George Iloka, when they went to their three safety sets. However, Kearse was more than adequate in the role. He played five snaps in three safety looks. On those five snaps, the play results were incomplete, interception, interception, incomplete and sack. Kearse and Iloka are built similarly, so at the very least, those results should guide Zimmer in how to proceed with the package. But even without Iloka, Kearse is showing some development as a defensive player after a few years of being only a special teamer.
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