Vikings Film Review: Minnesota was defenseless in their final game of 2022
The Minnesota Vikings season is officially over after a 31-24 loss to the New York Giants in the first round of the 2022 playoffs.
It’s over Minnesota Vikings fans. It took a few days to summon the strength in order to rewatch the horror of this playoff loss to the New York Giants.
The 2022 season is in the books. The Vikings certainly have a lot to hang their hats on this year. Their offense proved to be dominant, their young head coach proved to have incredibly strong leadership in the toughest moments, and the whole locker room seemed to be revitalized. There is a very bright future in Minnesota.
A season for the Vikings that started out strong with some incredible highs while sprinkling in very low lows is now over. A defense that was generating an abundance of sacks and turnovers came back down to earth. An offense dependent on its stars was able to find new ways to win and leverage key role players. It will be a fun season to remember, but deep down Vikings fans know the ugly truth.
Minnesota Vikings defense was not sustainable enough to beat New York Giants in the playoffs
An average Giants offense, that found itself ranking 16th in touchdowns scored and 17th in yards per game during the regular season, scored on all but three possessions against Minnesota, with one being a kneel-down before halftime.
New York head coach Brian Daboll coached circles around Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell (who has since been fired by Minnesota). A neat wrinkle in the Giants’ offense was the utilization of star running back Saquon Barkley as a decoy to assist a receiving core that has struggled this year.
After a holding penalty on their first play from scrimmage, New York faced a 1st-and-20 on their own 15-yard line. They ran an orbit motion with Barkley, bringing him from the slot, but orbiting behind the quarterback into the flat.
The play looked like a swing pass to Barkley, which drew Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks over immediately while Giants quarterback Daniel Jones ripped a slant to wide receiver Richie James for a 13-yard gain.
This was a great play design and got New York back on schedule while showing Minnesota’s hand defensively early. It was no surprise the Vikings were going to key in on Barkley, but at this point, the Giants knew they had the defense on its heels.
To start the Giants’ second drive, they ran a very similar concept to a play on their first drive that was completed for 22 yards on a crossing route by wide receiver Darius Slayton. They then came right back to this play later in the game for a 47-yard gain to Slayton.
The first time against this look, the Vikings were in Cover-1 “Robber” with safety Cam Bynum over the top and safety Harrison Smith playing as the hole defender. New York ran a crosser from the boundary to bring Smith across the field and had Slayton running a deep cross behind the veteran safety. Smith runs with the boundary cross, and Slayton wound up wide open for a big gain.
On the second look, the Vikings were in Cover-2 “X”, meaning they are playing Cover-2, but cornerback Patrick Peterson is manned up with the boundary, or the X receiver. It’s Cover-2 because Smith and Bynum are at equal depth at the snap and they play over the top. The field corner is also playing the flat zone while Peterson is manned up.
This time, it looks like Smith recognizes that the cross is coming and tries to bait Jones to throw it by running with the post and then trying to baseball turn to jump the cross. However, when Smith tries to baseball turn, he runs right into Peterson, and the result is a wide-open Slayton for a 47-yard gain.
The Giants wound up taking a 14-7 lead a few plays later on a touchdown pass from Jones to wide receiver Isiah Hodgins.
These types of miscues happened all game on the defensive side of the ball for Minnesota as the Giants rolled for over 400 yards of offense. New York receivers were wide open all day, and the Vikings did not have an answer for Daboll’s scheme.
Minnesota’s loss hurts for a plethora of reasons. A starved fan base witnessed another disappointing playoff loss. A 13-win season ends in flames. But the Vikings were not as talented a team from top to bottom as their record showed. They were gutsy and fought hard for each of their 13 wins, many of them coming in theatrical fashion.
It was a season to remember for Minnesota as they finished their first year of the Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell era. A Vikings fan base that longs for a Super Bowl win can be rest assured that their favorite franchise is in good hands.
There is a lot of room for improvement here, but Minnesota’s competitive rebuild may be a shorter rebuild than we previously thought.