Vikings Film Review: Minnesota relies on their vets to beat Dolphins

(Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images) Patrick Peterson
(Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images) Patrick Peterson /

The Minnesota Vikings were able to withstand the Florida heat and defeat the Miami Dolphins 24-16 at Hard Rock Stadium this past Sunday.

Not all wins are pretty. However, in the NFL, winning is not easy. All wins are good, no matter how they look. The Minnesota Vikings currently sit pretty at 5-1 and with a two-game lead for first place in the NFC North after a win over the Miami Dolphins this past Sunday.

This was a complete team win for the Vikings, who had 10 offensive drives result in 3-and-outs. Despite the offensive struggles, the team was picked up by great special teams play by punter Ryan Wright, who kicked a ball nearly 75 yards in the air, and the defense, which generated three turnovers.

The Minnesota Vikings were able to rely on their veterans to get the win over the Miami Dolphins

Minnesota safety Harrison Smith was outstanding against the Dolphins. The Vikings were forced to play a lot of quarters coverage due to the speed of Miami receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Smith, as the safety in quarters coverage, had the responsibility to cover a deep fourth of the field. That is, his job was to not get beat deep.

While the Dolphins were able to string together some chunk plays, Smith did his job and kept plays in front of him.

Smith came away with one of the more unusual interceptions the NFL has seen this season. Leading 7-3 just before the end of the first half, the Vikings were playing cover-4 (aka quarters coverage) to not allow themselves to get beat deep and for Miami to put a drive together with what little time remained on the clock.

A key indicator of the quarters coverage here is the depth and eyes of the corners. They do not even try to disguise the coverage given the situation and are playing at a tremendous depth from the wide receivers. This gives defensive backs a “cushion” when guarding receivers, which is advantageous when trying not to let a receiver get behind them.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

As seen in the frame above, in quarters coverage, there are two high safeties over the top of the defense patrolling the secondary. You can see Smith shading towards the boundary side while the field safety – Cam Bynum, is deeper and out of the frame.

While quarters protects defenses from getting beat deep over the top, it leaves them vulnerable to underneath routes and routes that go over the middle, such as crossers, posts, and seams.

The Dolphins did a nice job attacking the middle of the field against the Vikings’ quarters looks, but Minnesota made the big plays when they needed to.

As former Viking quarterback Teddy Bridgewater attacked the seam after completing a big play over the middle on the previous play to Waddle, the Vikings were ready for it the second time around.

As Bridgewater tried to attack the seam again, Bynum came up and made a big hit on Waddle, who was running a post to split the two safeties. The hit jarred the ball loose, and Smith was able to keep possession of the ball for the interception after practically wrestling for it with Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks.

The interception set up a Vikings field goal and a 10-3 lead going into the half.

Smith would have his fingerprints back on the ball in the second half when his strip on Waddle gave the Vikings the ball back with just over four minutes to play. The strip could not have been more picture-perfect, and it was something coaches will certainly be showing players at all levels.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

As Smith goes to tackle Waddle, he targets the ball and wraps Waddle up to punch it loose. He wrapped up Waddle with the other arm to secure the tackle and ensured Waddle would not be in a position to recover his own fumble.

This was a huge play in the game and an incredibly clutch play by Smith, who has been so consistent for the Vikings over the years.

Another veteran in the secondary the Vikings leaned on to secure the win was Patrick Peterson, who arguably played his best game in purple.

Peterson intercepted Bridgewater late in the fourth that all but sealed the game. While the Dolphins did score later in the game, it was too little too late at that point, largely in part thanks to Peterson’s pick.

As the Dolphins began their comeback march, the Vikings sat back in their quarters coverage. The Dolphins ran a flood concept, which is a go route by the No. 1 receiver, an out or corner by the No. 2 receiver, and a flat route by the No. 3 receiver.

This concept covers all three levels of zones in the defense. The flat, the intermediate zone, and the deep zone. Because of this, a zone defense, typically cover three, has to choose who to cover, and it leaves one of the three options open.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

The Vikings were in cover four, so Peterson was supposed to carry the No. 1 receiver on his go route. However, Peterson recognized the flood concept coming similarly to how a quarterback recognizes what coverage the defense is in.

Peterson read the out route coming, and he jumped it, passing off his go route to the safety to make the play.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

Not to get lost in all the secondary talk is the complete dominance of Za’Darius Smith, who led the Vikings in PFF grading with a 92. Smith had two sacks and an incredible 11 pressures, he was a force and took advantage against an injured Dolphins offensive line.

Over the past few weeks for the Vikings, one of the most encouraging aspects of the season is the way the team is able to pick each other up during games. When the offense is not clicking, the defense and special teams have picked up the slack until the offense makes the plays it needs to make.

The Vikings now take their 5-1 record into their bye week and will return to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, October 30th, inside U.S. Bank Stadium.

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