Many People are blaming the Vikings defense for the “collapse” on sunday against Detroit. While placing blame on the defense is convenient for fans, it is far from the truth. The Vikings defense did not play bad they just happened to be playing against one of the most highly skilled and nuanced offenses in football as relates to play-calling, perimeter conceptual design, route running, intelligence, toughness and formation multiplicity. For times sake we are going to look at a defining play from the All-22 vantage point – Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate for the win in OT. (All visual content courtesy NFL Game Pass)
On 3rd and 8, Minnesota comes out in a single high safety look with 7 interior defenders threatening rush. Detroit deploys (11) personnel with their X WR, Golden Tate in a fairly tight alignment while CB Xavier Rhodes is assigned to him at the top of screen
As we can see, the Vikings have allocated 7 defenders threatening to blitz pre snap. Harrison Smith however has curl to flat responsibility so Stafford knows he is stunting.
As the Ball is snapped, Harrison Smith is now retreating back into coverage at SS and CB Xavier Rhodes (Top of Screen) is not playing man to man but is actually retreating into Cover 3 responsibility.
Detroit is able to protect Stafford well as evidenced by their textbook looking offensive line deployment. By now, Xavier Rhodes (Top of Screen) has turned his hips and is sprinting down the field giving Golden Tate his inside. Harrison Smith, due to faking blitz pre snap has been forced to turn and run to cover the flat with his back to the ball because he was out of position pre snap.
Golden Tate tilts his route angle to threaten the possibility of running across the field with subtle nuances such as shoulder dip, angled release and eye/head deception. As we can see Harrison Smith and even Rhodes are influenced slightly by Tate’s route stem development.
More of the same here as Tate continues to deceive the Viking Secondary of Smith and Rhodes as we see again their positioning becoming compromised within the Cover 3 design. Smith has now fully turned his back and is playing catch up and guess against Tate.
Harrison Smith again is out of position as Stafford begins his release of the ball. Rhodes has been pushed vertically by Tate and Smith is clearly fooled as well with his wide leg cuts.
Rhodes is STILL retreating into deep third protection as Tate begins his out break. Notice how Tate does not press to the sideline during the build up to his break rather though Tate leaves ample room to the sideline for Stafford to lead him to, which will come in handy later.
Smith again is out of position as he has been fooled further by Tate. Remember Harry was playing catch up from the get go due to attempting to show blitz only to retreat back into coverage with his back to the ball.
As Tate Catches the ball, Smith is still running full speed go as he has been in a dead, out of control sprint since the snap.
Tate stops on a dime While Rhodes attempts to put a shoulder to where he thought Tate would end up after the reception.
More of the same from the sideline angle.
Harrison Smith in full sprint mode attempting to throw his out of control body into the ever aware and controlled Golden Tate.
Tate delivers a punishing and humiliating stiff-arm to Smith on his way for six points.