Last week was another one of those nail biting victories for the Minnesota Vikings as they hung on to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27.
Sure, the Vikings won, but again the fourth quarter defensive scheme made the outcome of the game a lot closer than it should have been.
It seems as if the Vikings are content to play the prevent defense almost the entire fourth quarter in games that they have the lead. The secondary drops 20 yards back into zone coverage. The linebackers typically play zone coverage, and the pass rush is at a minimum. This is the defense that the Vikings are so set on running to close out games and it’s problematic.
This style of defense leaves that short dump off pass to a running back or a pass down the middle of the field to a receiver wide open. It’s hard to wonder how a team would want to give up 15 free yards on any given play.
The Chicago Bears were able to march right down field and hit tight end Martellus Bennett for a last second game-winning touchdown in week two. How about the Cleveland Browns’ new quarterback, Brian Hoyer, at the helm? Same thing, a late game-winning touchdown in week three.
If not for a fumble by Ben Roethlisberger in the closing seconds last week, Pittsburgh had a chance to tie the game at the last second, a game in which through three quarters of play the Vikings absolutely dominated. All three of these opponents found the hole in this style of defense and used it to their advantage to either win the game or come very close to winning.
Teams with big leads are usually conservative for some of the fourth quarter, but the Vikings essentially go on auto-pilot mode for 15 minutes. The offense hardly did anything in the final quarter either.
Head coach Leslie Frazier, who is already in hot water, needs to stop gambling games away in the fourth quarter. The Vikings looked tremendous for almost the entire game last week, but completely changed their style of play in the fourth.
The best NFL teams finish strong and if the Vikings want to get back into contention, the fourth quarter defensive game plan needs to be closely evaluated.