The Buffalo Bills will wrap up their week of practice in preparation for the Minnesota Vikings early this afternoon. In the meantime, I thought it'd be prudent to do a little prep work of our own on how Chan Gailey might attack a solid Vikings defense this weekend.
Joining us one last time this week is Ted Glover of the Daily Norseman, who after the jump explains in rather excellent detail how he'd go about taking advantage of the soft spots of Minnesota's defense.
I expect the Vikings to come out in a soft Cover-2 zone, because that's their base defense. The Vikings always wait to blitz, because they want to see if the defensive line can bring pressure without any help. This is your opportunity to do damage. Match wr Steve Johnson up on the cornerback opposite Antoine Winfield, whoever it may be; Asher Allen, Chris Cook, Frank Walker, Lito Sheppard - it doesn't matter. They've all been mediocre to bad this season. Pick on him mercilessly, and make the Vikings roll safety help over to his side. When they do that, keep throwing toward his side of the field, because the safety play of the Vikings has been horrid. When the corner releases the receiver deep to get picked up by the safety, the safety is ALWAYS late, leaving a HUGE gap in the seam between the zones. If the receiver cuts his route off to, say, a middle in or middle out pattern, there will be so much room between him and the CB that you will be able to plant crops.
If or when the Vikings start bringing the linebackers or DBs to try and create pressure, let that rush put your offense in a tactical advantage. Minnesota's defensive line is coached to rush the passer first, and if they're bringing a linebacker, a tight end or running back screen could pay huge dividends, as will a hot route to the TE in the middle of the field. Jared Allen is an upfield bull rusher who tends to leave a large part of the flat wide open, and E.J. Henderson doesn't always get over in time to fill that gap.
That said, if the Vikings' defensive line can create pressure up the middle and collapse the pocket consistently, Ryan Fitzpatrick will have a tough afternoon. Allen and Ray Edwards are exceptional at trapping a QB once he tries to get outside of the pocket (well, except Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler), and if the Vikes smell blood in the water, it could be over early. I will say that "blood in the water" vibe has been largely absent this year, though.
Your running game doesn't have to be exceptional, but it must be respected, and you have to get an early lead. The Vikings defense is built to play with a lead, and they get real aggressive when they do. If you get behind and let the Metrodome crowd get into it, and the defense starts rolling downhill, you'll be in for a long day.