Zone Coverage: 3 things we learned from the Vikings' loss to the Colts

It was ugly, ugly and more ugly in the Week 2 loss to the Colts.
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Kirk Cousins

This story first appeared at Zone Coverage and was re-shared through a collaboration with Bring Me The News

The Minnesota Vikings were dominated by the Indianapolis Colts, 28-11, falling to 0-2. They struggled to move the ball on offense, and the defense couldn’t get off the field on third down, which led to them losing the time of possession battle by almost 17 minutes. This team looks far from competitive this season.

Here are three things we learned about them in their loss to the Colts:

NEW GUARD, SAME PROBLEM

The Vikings announced earlier in the week that starting right guard Pat Elflein was being placed on injured reserve with a reported dislocated thumb. Many fans saw this as good news because Elflein had been the weakest part of the Vikings’ offensive line for over one and a half seasons. There was thought that Dru Samia couldn’t be any worse.

The jury is out on if he was worse, but he sure wasn’t any better. Samia did his best Elflein impersonation, letting plenty of interior pressure come through him. The Colts defensive line had no problem throwing the second year guard around as they blew past him on their way to hit Cousins.

Samia also was a liability in the running game, and Cook found it tough to find any holes on the right side in his paltry 63-yard performance. It’ll be interesting to see if the Vikings roll with Samia again next week or try someone different like Ezra Cleveland or Oli Udoh. The lesson learned today for the Vikings, and one that will be especially hard for many to swallow, is that perhaps Elflein is the best option when it comes to right guard. That is a scary thought.

RUN DEFENSE IS GOING TO BE A PROBLEM

Heading into this game the Vikings knew they’d be facing a rookie running back in Jonathan Taylor making his first career start. The game plan had to be to shut down this nice young rookie and force the team to throw the ball, knowing damn well that at some point Philip Rivers would have a costly turnover that could swing the game in the Purple’s favor. While they knew they had to stop the run, it turns out they couldn’t.

Taylor had plenty of room to go right up the middle and gained 101 yards on the ground. Jaleel Johnson and Shamar Stephen were man-handled by the Colts’ offensive line, and their linemen were able to get to the second level and take Minnesota’s linebackers out of the play. Unfortunately for the Vikings, this is an issue that isn’t going to go away. Stephen isn’t the run stuffer he once was and Johnson also struggles anchoring against the run. 

Things did seem to get a little better when Armon Watts got some snaps, so maybe that’s a glimmer of hope they can build off of. But at that point, it was Jordan Wilkins, not Taylor, carrying the ball. Minnesota has plenty of issues on the defensive side of the ball, but not being able to stop the run and allowing teams to control the time of possession could be their biggest one.

THE VIKINGS AREN’T A GOOD FOOTBALL TEAM

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: From coaching to special teams, the Vikings are a complete mess. The players don’t look prepared or like they to even want to be on the football field. The play calling on offense has lacked any sort of flow or creativity, and the offense has really struggled to move the ball. 

The offensive line is as bad or worse than many figured it would be, and the team can’t give its quarterback time or run the football. Cousins has had a couple of rough games and only seems to trust Adam Thielen in the passing game, which has caused him to force the ball his way even when he’s double covered.

On defense, there are issues on every level. The Vikings can’t stop the run, have trouble pressuring the quarterback and have young corners who struggle with their assignments and are getting schooled by veteran receivers. The tackling has been poor through the first two weeks, and the team has given up an embarrassing 71 points total so far.

The Vikings knew going into this season that they were taking some risks. They planned on going with an inexperienced group of cornerbacks and failed to upgrade the guard position. They are now seeing the negative impact of their decisions, and at this point in the season, it’s hard to say there is a worse team from top to bottom in the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings were a team many figured would be contending for a title in 2020, but now look like a team that will struggle to win more than five games this season if things don’t change.

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