From the Far Hash: Breaking Down the Vikings’ Defensive Tendencies
Hey Packers fans, it’s about that time again. We get to play our hated rivals from the other side of the Mississippi River. Yep, that’s right, the MinneSODA Vikings.
Good news for you guys, unlike last week, when I didn’t have a whole lot of time to watch film of the Browns, I did have plenty of time to watch Vikings film. Because I love you so much, I sat through that dumpster fire of a game on Monday night between the Vikings and Giants. All for you.
The Vikings, despite having no quarterback to speak of, actually have a pretty decent defense. It does give up chunks of yards, and even some points, but that’s because they’re on the field way too much. Their offense can’t stay on the field to bleed the clock.
Ok, let’s get on with the defensive breakdown.
Their head coach is Leslie Frazier, who is a Tony Dungy disciple. That means his defense has some of the same tendencies:
1) They are a base 4-3. But, they play the 4-2-5 nickel substitution package greater than 50% of the snaps.
2) They play the Tampa 2 coverage.
3) When they blitz, they bring a double linebacker A-gap blitz out of a single-high safety look.
In the picture below, you’ll see their base 4-2-5 alignment. Jared Allen is the right defensive end, so he’ll certainly be a test of left tackle David Bahktiari.
Their main coverage staple is the Tampa 2. So, what in the heck is the Tampa 2? Essentially, it takes the same basic principles of the Cover 2 scheme and has two deep safeties, where each of them covers half of the deep half.
But, one of the greatest weaknesses in the Cover 2 shell is the space between the two safeties. To overcome this, the middle linebacker takes a very deep drop to guard the void between the safeties. While he doesn’t actually fill the complete space, his mere presence makes completing the post pattern much more difficult. The quarterback must throw the ball over, or through, the middle linebacker to complete a pass in the space between safeties. This is actually harder than it seems. How many batted balls and interceptions did Brian Urlacher have? Exactly. He was a Tampa 2 linebacker.
In the Tampa 2, the pass rush is generated by the four down linemen. The weak side linebacker and the slot cornerback are responsible for zone coverage of the flats. The cover cornerbacks can play a variety of coverage techniques because they are expecting safety help over the top.
If the four man front cannot apply enough pressure to the quarterback, the Vikings are extremely predictable in their blitz package. Their favorite is the double A-gap linebacker blitz. Before the snap, the linebackers walk up to the line of scrimmage and flank both shoulders of the center. The center has a A gap on each of his shoulders. The Vikings don’t even bother hiding this blitz because it is actually pretty tough to defend. The center, both guards, and running back need to all be on the same page to ensure a successful blitz pickup. When they blitz, the single-high safety helps out straight man-to-man coverage underneath.
The game against the Vikings will be a true test for the Packers’ offense. The Vikings prefer to play Cover 2, so they don’t even have to break tendency to match up with the Packers, who do have trouble moving the ball against the Cover 2. Since they like to bring pressure with only four down linemen, a lot of the game’s success will depend on tackles David Bahktiari and Don Barclay. They have the all important job of keeping QB1 upright. If they succeed at that, then the Vikings will bring their double A-gap linebacker blitz. This will certainly tax center EDS and the rookie running backs used to help out in pass pro.
On paper, this game is a very competitive match up. But, as we’ve come to see over the years, the Packers-Vikings games can quickly turn into dumpster fires in their own right, in either direction.