Vikings

The Colts Present the Perfect Get-Right Game For Minnesota's Defense

Photo credit: Robert Scheer-Indy Star via USA TODAY Sports

Through 13 games, it’s fair to say that Ed Donatell’s first year with the Minnesota Vikings has not gone to plan. The Vikings have surrendered a league-worst 5,248 yards of offense this season, including five consecutive 400-plus yard games, a franchise record.

Minnesota’s defensive deficiencies have been overshadowed by their 10-3 record and top-10 offense; however, this way of winning is not sustainable.

As I’ve written before, Donatell routinely rolls out conservative game plans. As a result, for most of the game, both safeties are in a Cover 2 look, and the corners are typically five to eight yards off the receivers.

Even though the defense has given up an average of 343.6 passing yards per game since Week 10, Donatell has not adjusted the defense. However, after this most recent loss against the Jared Goff-led Detroit Lions, Donatell must adapt.

Donatell’s defensive scheme is predicated on not surrendering big passing plays over the top and getting after the quarterback with only four-man rushes. Unfortunately, neither of those things happened last game. Goff was able to hit two deep shots for touchdowns and was standing inside a clean pocket the entire game.

Luckily enough for Donatell and Co., the Indianapolis Colts present a golden opportunity to begin to amend the league’s worst defense in yards allowed.

The Colts are currently the second-worst-scoring offense in the NFL, with an average of 16.1 points per game. Additionally, they rank bottom 10 in yards of offense this season and have allowed a league-worst 46 sacks.

Add that all together, and you have a perfect get-right game for Donatell’s defense.

But what exactly does a get-right game look like? Because the Vikings defense hasn’t looked right since Week 1. Allow me to jog your memory and show you what Donatell’s defense is supposed to be.

In Week 1, Donatell generated pressure against the Green Bay Packers multiple times, including four sacks. Not only that, but he was able to do so in different ways with various defensive looks. For example, this double A-gap look was able to notch Za’Darius Smith his first sack of the year.

Or with this stunt, he ran with Harrison Phillips and Za’Darius Smith on first-and-10.

In this game, the Vikings got all their sacks without ever rushing more than four defenders. This statistic tells me that it wasn’t the pass rush doing all the heavy lifting, it was the coverage downfield.

Rodgers routinely had time to throw the ball. The problem was there was nobody to throw the ball too. Coverage was tight downfield. If you give No. 55 and No. 99 enough time, they will eventually get home.

The following week, though, Nick Sirianni picked apart Minnesota’s defense and gave the rest of the league the blueprint on how to beat Donatell’s scheme. The answer? The quick-passing game.

With the Vikings’ corners so far off, hitting a receiver on a quick slant or a running back on a swing pass becomes as easy as ever and forces near-perfect tackling from the cornerback position. Since that game against the Philadelphia Eagles, little has changed in Minnesota’s game plan from week to week. Because of this refusal to adapt, the defense continues to surrender the same easy gains.

Donatell should look at Indianapolis as an opportunity to get more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. Play more press-man coverage and dial up some exotic looks to confuse the quarterback. Most importantly, though, take away those quick throws that have been the team’s kryptonite all year.

If Donatell cannot keep this lowly Colts offense under 400 yards, a mark they have only achieved three times this season, then it may be time to abandon this scheme entirely.

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Photo credit: Robert Scheer-Indy Star via USA TODAY Sports

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