Head coach Mike Zimmer sent a message to the special-teams unit during Monday’s team meeting.
So what exactly was Zimmer’s message and who in particular was it aimed at? Let’s ask Mike Priefer.
“It’s the mistakes,” the special teams coordinator said. “It’s the penalties, to be honest. … We were not penalized very often last year. This year we have been and that’s been tough. We’ve lost a lot of hidden yardage, return yardage because of the penalties. That was the big message with the young guys. Those are the ones making the most mistakes, the young guys. That’s usually what it is. But when you’re an error-repeater, as I’ve said, you’re going to run out of chances at some point. We need to make sure we either get it corrected or we’ve got to find somebody else to do those jobs.”
Rookie defensive backs Antone Exum and Jabari Price were both flagged for penalties in the 19-13 win over the Buccaneers. For Exum, it was his third special-teams penalty in the past four weeks.
So Priefer and the Vikings this week are preparing more players for special-teams roles than they typically would as they consider possibly shaking things up for Sunday’s game against the Redskins.
Another problem that cost the Vikings field position was punter Jeff Locke’s propensity to boom the ball into the end zone for touchbacks. He booted three touchbacks after having just one all season.
Priefer said that Locke is still trying to figure out the best swings for punts from midfield based on the wind, though the weather was nearly perfect down in Tampa. Priefer said Locke needs to do a better job of gauging the field conditions during pre-game warmups to prepare for punts that count.
“He understands situational football. We preach it all the time. The head coach preaches it. I preach it,” Priefer said. “Those were very uncharacteristic mistakes for Jeff and he’s going to get better going forward.”
@MasterStrib which QB matchup is more favorable for the Vikings, McCoy or RG III? #VikingsST
— Matt Pitcher (@MattPitcher3) October 30, 2014
Robert Griffin III will reportedly start after missing six weeks with a dislocated left ankle. He’ll likely be rusty, but I’d still think Griffin is a tougher matchup that Colt McCoy, who had a nice performance against the Cowboys on Monday. Griffin is the more talented quarterback and allows Washington to expand the playbook on offense.
Washington has still been able to get big plays through the air, whether it’s Griffin, McCoy or Kirk Cousins, because of their receivers. The Vikings secondary will have to stay on top of wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcson, while tight end Jordan Reed is a very solid option over the middle. I’m not sure how Griffin looks in practice but a backup like McCoy likely won’t sustain his early success as opponents get more film on him in Washington’s offense.
@MasterStrib over/under 1.5 pro bowlers for Vikings #VikingsST
— Jonathan Judeich (@Gizanked) October 30, 2014
I’d take the over. This goes for Vikings players actually named to the Pro Bowl and not a Vikings player named as a replacement once 20 players drop out.
At this point, defensive end Everson Griffen appears to be on his way to a Pro Bowl invitation. He was just named NFC Defensive Player of the Month, leading the conference with six sacks in October. Outside of Griffen, what are the other options? Safety Harrison Smith is another good option to be named with his play and three interceptions to show for in the stats sheet.
@MasterStrib With Barr, Bridgewater, McKinnon and even 7th round DT Stephen contributing – Is this Spielman’s best draft so far? #VikingsST
— Brandon J Block (@letstalkpurple) October 30, 2014
Easy there, we’re only eight games into the season. Typically it takes three or four years to evaluate a draft class. We can’t just go off of immediate impacts because some flame out after their rookie seasons and turn into busts.
The only rookies that aren’t contributing are linebacker Brandon Watts, offensive guard David Yankey and defensive end Scott Crichton. Safety Antone Exum Jr. and cornerback Jabari Price have been receiving a heavy dosage of special teams snaps recently.
I still think in a few years the 2013 class will be tough to top considering the three first round picks selected – wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. It depends on how left tackle Matt Kalil’s career plays out, but the Vikings drafted Smith, cornerback Josh Robinson, wide receiver Jarius Wright, safety Robert Blanton and kicker Blair Walsh in 2012. That hasn’t been a bad class either.
But let’s give it some time before we make knee-jerk reactions to both classes. …Like during the offseason when we’re bored out of our minds and there’s nothing to talk about.
@MasterStrib Think the #Vikings will look at extending Harrison Smith before his deal is up? Quickly becoming a premier safety #VikingsST
— VikesGinger (@VikesGinger) October 30, 2014
He’s probably next in line after the Vikings sealed up extensions with their 2011 class during the offseason. Smith fits Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer’s scheme and has developed into a well-rounded safety this season.
Given how inconsistent Kalil has been this year, I’d think Smith will be the priority during the offseason to give Zimmer a defense to build around Griffen, linebacker Anthony Barr and Smith for the long run. Those are three good pieces to have on defense and should make Vikings fans pretty excited about potentially how good this defense could be for years to come.
There’s not much more that can be said about Madison Bumgarner after what he did in the World Series, but let’s just all agree that it is in the discussion for greatest pitching performance ever in a Fall Classic — right up there with two performances that involved the Twins.
The first was in 1965, when Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers pitched back-to-back complete game shutouts (the second in Game 7 on just two days of rest) to defeat the Twins in seven games. The second, of course, was Jack Morris’ 10-inning masterpiece in Game 7 of the 1991 series (he was 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three series starts that year, not too shabby).
Bumgarner allowed just one run in 21 innings, and throwing five innings on two days of rest is the modern equivalent of what Koufax did. It’s hard to declare one greater than the other, so let’s just say all of those performances were magnificent.
However, we do still have one giant “what-if” about the ninth inning of Game 7: what if the Royals had sent Alex Gordon home from third base after his two-out hit that rolled all the way to the wall?
Plenty of folks online have insisted he would have been out from anywhere between 15 and 40 feet, but we’re not so sure. Watch the highlight of the play and you’ll see Gordon was between halfway and two-thirds of the way to third base by the time the ball was cleanly retrieved and was heading back toward the infield. Then shortstop Brandon Crawford, fielding the relay about 150 feet from home plate, had to scoop a short-hop throw right as Gordon was slowing down upon reaching third.
We would contend that, at the very least, it would have taken a decent throw from Crawford to get Gordon. That would have been after two Giants players — perhaps with nerves frayed — had already misplayed the ball. Is Gordon probably out? Sure, seven out of 10 times. Then again, opponents had 9 hits in 21 innings off Bumgarner in the World Series. We might have taken our chances on the relay being true vs. getting a hit off of a pitcher who was locked into that kind of zone.
We’ll never know, of course, what might have happened. But at least some of us will always wonder.
Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen received NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for October. It’s the first Player of the Month award in Griffen’s career.
He recorded an NFC-best six sacks this month, along with 20 tackles, eight tackles for loss and a forced fumble in four games. Griffen ranks third in the NFL with eight sacks this season.
It’s still early, but through eight games, Griffen has lived up to a five-year deal worth up to $42.5 million he signed during the offseason. While the price tag was a shock to many, including Forbes who named Griffen as the most overpaid player in the NFL, the deal will look reasonable if Griffen sustains his early season success.