It’s hard to pinpoint where the Minnesota Vikings 27-6 loss started spiraling out of control. Was the dysfunctional defense a product of dysfunctional offense or vice versa?
Clearly, both units had one of their worst days, as the Vikings were nearly shut out in their home building by an 0-2 team.
We outlined yesterday in this space how Josh Allen’s mobility gave the Vikings defense fits at several key moments. Today we’ll flip to the offensive side of the ball in our “Second Look” article, which focuses on one element of the game based on film review.
According to Pro Football Focus, Riley Reiff allowed 12 pressures in yesterday’s game, the highest number permitted by any tackle this season and the most allowed since Week 1 of the 2017 season when John Wetzel and Breno Giacomini gave up 13.
Reiff had registered just four pressures through the first two games and was one of the Vikings steadier lineman a year ago, so to see him repeatedly beaten wide by Jerry Hughes was jarring. If there’s any justification, it’s that very few teams are forced to throw the ball 55 times and run it just six. That’s the situation the Vikings put themselves in with a 17-0 deficit less than 10 minutes into the game.
“It’s not fun,” said Reiff after the game. “We’re going to get back to work. I didn’t have a good game at all. I’ll admit it.”
While not all of the 12 pressures negatively impacted the play’s result, Reiff still found himself on the wrong end of several key plays, starting with Kirk Cousins’ second fumble in the first quarter. With the Vikings already trailing 10-0, Hughes blew past Reiff — who might’ve been thrown off by the threat of another blitzer — and stripped Cousins on third down to set up Buffalo with its second straight short field. Trent Murphy had stripped Cousins on a scramble the drive previously.
“[We] put together a third-down group, a group of guys that can pin their ears back and get off the quarterback,” said Hughes after the game, “and it’s something we really put a focus on this week.”
Hughes ranked third in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, in edge-rushing pressures for all Week 3 games, most of them coming against Reiff.
The left tackle was partially responsible for a 3rd and 1 sack early in the second quarter when Hughes cruised around him and swiped Cousins with his left arm. Mike Remmers was also beaten by Kyle Williams, who finished the sack and forced another Vikings three-and-out.
A three-play sequence in the third quarter further summed up Reiff and Hughes’ days. With the score 27-0, Hughes got past Reiff on first down and hit Cousins around the ankles as he threw a checkdown to Latavius Murray. The next play, Hughes beat Reiff again and got a full hit on Cousins that sent him flying into right tackle Brian O’Neill, who was slow to get up but stayed in the game.
One play later, the Vikings moved Kyle Rudolph to give Reiff some assistance on the left side, but Hughes went around Rudolph and forced a tipped pass, essentially wrecking the series by getting to the quarterback for a third straight time.
“Their defensive line is really good,” said head coach Mike Zimmer. “I said, ‘This defensive line is going to come after you. They’re not going to sit in there and read; they’re going to come after you and after you.'”
Minnesota must now prepare to face a Los Angeles Rams defensive line featuring Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers. Right tackle Rashod Hill’s health is in question, and the Vikings have to decide which center to start: Pat Elflein or Brett Jones.
That’s plenty to digest for the Vikings, who leave for L.A. on Tuesday night.
“Definitely know we’ll sit down and watch the film today and keep moving forward with that,” said Jones. “I think that anytime we lose, there’s obviously something you didn’t do right, and we’ve got to fix those things moving forward.”