The situation: With the Vikings up 16-10, the Bills faced a 2nd and 20 at the Vikings’ 30 with 27 seconds left.
The reason: The Vikings caught a break on the previous drive with quarterback Kyle Orton called for intentional grounding, pushing the Bills back 10 yards and burning 10 seconds on the clock. The Bills needed to gain a decent chunk here for a manageable third down and no timeouts.
The result: Orton found wide receiver Chris Hogan for a 28-yard gain that brought the Bills down to the 2.
How it happened:
The Bills have trips left bunched tight in the formation with rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins isolated on the right. They’re in an “11″ personnel, with running back Anthony Dixon in the backfield and tight end Scott Chandler lined up between wide receivers Robert Woods and Hogan.
The Vikings were in the nickel package, subbing out linebacker Jasper Brinkley for cornerback Josh Robinson. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn slid into the slot with Robinson covering Watkins.
It appeared that the cornerbacks were in man coverage, while linebackers Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway dropped into zone to cover the middle of the field. Woods (circled in black) and Hogan (circled in red) both initially appeared to run “out” routes near the sideline. The Bills didn’t have any timeouts and needed to get out of bounds to stop the clock. Munnerlyn (circled) in blue and Rhodes (circled in yellow) both broke on the coverage with Chandler drawing linebacker and safety attention on his post route down the middle of the field.
Except Hogan did not run an “out” route and made a double move on Rhodes, who was initially out of position but caught back up with his speed. This was the point when Orton released the ball. It’s tough to tell but Rhodes has a step on Hogan at this point.
What happened from there was pretty unbelievable given where Rhodes was at this point. Here’s the GIF of the play to follow along with three screenshots of a great angle from the broadcast.
Again, Rhodes was in good position to make a play. He was in front of Hogan and tracked the ball down. He had his inside shoulder in front of Hogan, which was exactly how Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer taught his cornerbacks since Day 1 in terms of technique.
But Hogan had better anticipation and caught the ball at its highest point, which is exactly what a receiver is supposed to do. He bumped into Rhodes while leaping for the catch, which threw Rhodes off balance. He didn’t get vertical on the ball as a result. Some might think that’s offensive pass interference, but it was a good no call.
“[Rhodes] recovered [from the double move], he pinned the guy on the sideline, had him on his back and the guy went up and made a catch,” Zimmer said. “Other than when you get in that position, making the play, and that’s the thing I talk to the players about – part of my job is to get them in the right position to be able to make the play and when they get in position their job is to make the play. He’s been in those positions a lot and made an awful lot of plays. With the receivers in the NFL and the quarterbacks, they’re going to make some plays too.”
Blanton was late to help, a he had to account for Chandler running down the middle of the field. Safety Harrison Smith had to help Robinson over the top to cover Watkins on the other side of the play.
“These things are all learning experiences for them,” Zimmer said. “Like with Xavier Rhodes, he’s played very, very well the last four or five ball games and there is a couple of situations there at the end that he needs to realize where he’s at. I think all of those things are going to come from experience of being in these situations, understanding the clock and the timeouts, and the field position, and everything else.
The 4th and 20 play was definitely the biggest blunder for the Vikings on that drive, but it amazes me how Rhodes didn’t make a play on the ball. I’ve felt like I’ve said this a few times already this season, but Rhodes should’ve had his first career interception. But even if he deflected the ball, the Bills would’ve faced a 3rd and 20 with about 15 seconds left.
Instead, the Vikings suffered their third consecutive loss.
When the Wolves were finally able to announce the blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cavaliers, two of the three pieces they received in return were easy to categorize.
Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, was the clear jewel of the trade. He was the deal-maker and the deal-breaker. His superstar potential made it possible for the Wolves to feel good about dealing an established star player.
Thaddeus Young, a power forward with credentials, came over to fill Love’s spot in the lineup, contribute points and rebounds, and help mentor some of the team’s younger players. He was the known commodity in the deal.
The third piece, though, was Andrew Bennett. He was the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, then had a disastrous rookie year. The only thing you could say about him was that he had the potential to be a boom or a bust — a true wild card. But his potential was intriguing, nonetheless.
In early preseason action, Bennett — now healthy — has shown off some of those skills that led the Cavs to make the power forward the top pick a year ago. He plays with energy, he has a nice mid-range jumper and he could be a fan favorite. His nickname, “Big Daddy Canada,” is also fantastic.
We don’t imagine a strong contribution from Bennett will make much of a difference in the bottom line for this year’s Wolves team. It’s still a group that will struggle to win 35 games and likely will settle in more around 30 by season’s end.
But if Bennett can continue to contribute when the real games start, he certainly has the opportunity to make the Wolves better in the future — and to make the Love trade look even better as well.
Teddy Bridgewater finally threw his first career touchdown pass in Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Bills. Before that, though, the rookie quarterback threw a pair of picks, pushing his season total to five.
All that got me thinking today about how long it has taken other recent first-round picks to throw their first touchdown passes and whether they threw a handful of picks early in their first seasons, too. And because I couldn’t think of anything more relaxing to do on an off day than dig through box scores and write blog posts, I decided to share what I found. You can draw your own conclusions.
ANDREW LUCK, COLTS: The first overall pick in 2012 started from Day One and was asked to throw a lot. He got his first TD pass on the 37th throw of his debut. He threw five picks in his first four games, with the fifth coming on his 159th career pass, but had seven touchdowns over that span.
ROBERT GRIFFIN III, REDSKINS: Griffin, the No. 2 pick in 2012, got his first TD pass the quickest out of the eight QBs taken in the first round the past three years. It took him just seven passes. He only threw five interceptions as a rookie, the fifth one coming on his 373rd pass as a professional.
RYAN TANNEHILL, DOLPHINS: It took Tannehill, who was also part of that 2012 quarterback crop, 65 passes to get his first touchdown. His fifth career interception came on his 133rd career throw.
BRANDON WEEDEN, BROWNS: I’ll be honest, I forgot Weeden was a first-round pick just two years ago and giggled a little bit when I saw his name. It took him just 111 throws to chuck up his fifth pick and his first touchdown came on his 58th throw. Weeden, of course, is no longer in Cleveland.
EJ MANUEL, BILLS: Manuel, the only first-round quarterback in 2013, threw his first career TD on the 15th pass of his debut. He was actually pretty cautious with the football as a rookie, throwing his fifth pick on his 258th pass, second to only RGIII. Manuel, of course, was benched early in 2014.
BLAKE BORTLES, JAGUARS: Bortles, the third overall pick in May, took just 14 passes to get his first career touchdown. Unfortunately, it only took him 74 passes to throw his fifth interception, fewer than even Bridgewater. Bortles has five touchdowns and 10 picks through his first five NFL games.
JOHNNY MANZIEL, BROWNS: Manziel, the latest QB of the future for the Browns, has only attempted one pass — an incompletion. But he could soon take over as Cleveland’s starter.
TEDDY BRIDGEWATER, VIKINGS: Finally, we have reached Teddy Time. Bridgewater, the 32nd overall pick in May, needed 101 throws to get his first touchdown pass, the most of the eight guys I looked at. He actually threw five interceptions before getting it. His fifth interception came on his 98th throw. Go ahead and draw conclusions on Bridgewater if you want, but I still need to see about 800 or so more throws before I’m ready to say whether he’s the Vikings’ long-term answer at QB.
One year ago today, a group gathered at Legends Bar and Grill in Minneapolis to watch the Monday Night Football game between the Vikings and Giants. The impetus for the gathering, aside from camaraderie, was a mixture of curiosity and real excitement for the debut of new quarterback Josh Freeman, a midseason pickup the Vikings decided to throw into the mix only days after signing him (after Freeman’s release from Tampa Bay and introductory, whisper-filled news conference in Minnesota).
What transpired was a debacle of a game – the low point in a lost season, a low point for the Vikings, period. Freeman, who had one very good season and one pretty good season with Tampa Bay, looked completely lost. He completed 20 of 53(!) passes for 190 yards. Despite the game being within two scores throughout – the Vikings lost 23-7 – Minnesota attempted just 14 running plays. Freeman never threw another pass for the Vikings and is not currently with any team.
To commemorate that experience, we gathered the core people who watched the game one year ago for a reunion Monday at Legends – also during Monday Night Football, this time a much better game between the Steelers and Texans. We put together an oral history, of sorts, of the experience of watching the original game a year ago. Be aware that the conversation veered off-topic so many times we lost count. Maybe it was more fun to be there than to read this transcript. But we hope you enjoy it.
The participants are:
Aaron Gleeman (@aarongleeman), a noted baseball blogger and brunch enthusiast. (First picture, right)
Maggie LaMaack (@MaggieLaMaack), a millennial who in 2013 was watching her first full season of Vikings football. (First picture, left)
Jim Andrews (@realjimandrews), a dedicated Vikings fan who played the game. (Second picture, left)
Jake Nyberg (@jakenyberg), who set the tone Monday by ordering a vodka Red Bull. (Second picture, right)
Michael Rand (@randball), who is us, which is to say, me.
Here we go:
Rand: You were legitimately excited for the game before it happened, right?
Andrews: I was excited for the prospects of an actual Vikings quarterback, that being Freeman. But I didn’t expect them to throw the ball, what, 41 times?
Rand: 53 times.
Andrews: 53 times! That’s an insane amount. Was Adrian Peterson playing?
Gleeman: Yes! That’s the research I did. Freeman threw it 53 times and Peterson ran 13 times for 28 yards.
Nyberg: It almost seems like someone was trying to prove something that night.
Rand: You think? But who?
Nyberg: My crosshairs would go on Leslie Frazier. He’s saying, “You wanted this guy on my team, you want to start him? I’m going to have him throw it 53 times.” He was daring (Rick) Spielman to fire him.
Gleeman: I found a good quote from Frazier after the game. He said, “I thought about taking him out, but we were really close.” And Sherels did have a punt return for a touchdown early on, so it was close for a long time. That’s how we got our mystery shots.
Rand: Did you turn down the mystery shot?
Gleeman: The waitress wouldn’t give it to me, and I was very upset. But then we decided, “well, they just scored. They’re probably going to score four or five more times, so we’ll have more chances.”
Rand: Because of Josh Freeman.
Nyberg: This vodka Red Bull, by the way, wasn’t part of my routine last year. But it should have been. Because I’m soaring right now.
LaMaack: I think my only real contribution to that day was finding a picture of Josh Freeman dressed like the Michael Jackson Thriller cover.
Rand: I forgot about that! By like the third quarter, that was all I cared about.
LaMaack: Why did he actually take that picture? Because it had an actual tiger in it.
Rand: Maggie, last year was your first year as a Vikings fan. How did that game make you feel?
LaMaack: I have watched one Vikings game so far this year – the one where Teddy Bridgewater did a good job.
[Three minutes of discussion of all that has gone wrong this year]
Nyberg: I love how the Vikings have managed to remain such a train wreck that we’ve gathered to talk about something that happened a year ago, and we’re all in on this year. It’s unbelievable. Twins fans can only dream of such a mess.
Rand: Back to Freeman, why do you think they played him in the first place?
Gleeman: Yeah, I mean, if Frazier is daring Spielman to fire him, what’s his end game there?
Rand: Well, his end game happened. He got fired.
Gleeman: Do you think he thought Spielman would get fired and he would stay?
[Long discussion of whether Raffi, the musician, is still alive. He is.].
[Long discussion of whether the Gophers can contend in the Big Ten. There is optimism among the group].
Nyberg: Did we go totally off the rails here? I feel like we’re totally off the rails with the original discussion.
Rand: It’s OK.
Gleeman: There really were no rails.
Rand: We can only talk about the Josh Freeman game so much. I didn’t expect us to talk about it for two hours. This was an experiment. But I do want to hear from Nyberg. What was your expectation going into that game last year?
Nyberg: I thought, to me, how in the world could they just get him for nothing. This guy is a 10-year franchise quarterback, minimum. He was young. … OK, but my real expectations were what your expectations have to be for anything for the Vikings now: the unexpected. Honestly, I’m glad right now that Teddy Bridgewater right now looks raw and young. Because if he was lighting it up every game, you would expect the ACL injury to be two weeks away. You’d be like, “here it comes. Wait for it.” When the highs start to creep towards fun, boom. Here’s what I wish we had the benefit of: I wish I could live a mirror image of the last 7 to 10 years in another NFL market to find out if this is just a Vikings thing or is it an NFL thing. Someone gets arrested (for example) for shoplifting a carabiner. Is that just a Vikings thing, or does that happen everywhere?
Andrews: You mean, do other teams handle their problems head-on instead of dancing around them?
[Discussion of Ray Rice. Inconclusive.]
Rand: Maggie, why did you even start watching the Vikings in the first place last year?
LaMaack: I don’t even know. I think I was briefly dating a guy the season before and he was always watching football. I just started watching it.
Rand: That was quite a year to pick to watch every Vikings game.
Gleeman: It really was. Initially, I blamed (Maggie) for the season. But they’re bad now, too.
LaMaack: I think I’ve just been busy this year. I haven’t been actively trying not to watch.
[Good story from Nyberg about underage drinking in Wisconsin].
Rand: OK, one last try to get us back on topic: I just remember sitting here last year, thinking, “What is going on?”
Gleeman: We must have been excited at one point.
Rand: We congregated. It was a Monday Night game and we were like, “Josh Freeman. Let’s watch this.”
Gleeman: And it was a great turnout, obviously, with five of us.
LaMaack: Also, it was one of the first times I had met Aaron, and he had his Blackberry.
Gleeman: I sat down, and I was like, “Hey Maggie,” and she just stopped and gave me this look and said, “Is that a Blackberry.”
Rand: When did you get rid of the Blackberry? That was your signature for a while.
Gleeman: Like, March.
Rand: That was a big day. With the game, though, I do think we were excited and intrigued. This wasn’t like we were going to get together and make fun of the Vikings.
Andrews: I remember there was a guy in a Wild jersey playing Big Buck Hunter. He was vaping all night. Everything seems so weird when you look back on it.