In between a barrage of media tweets about sponsors distancing themselves from the Vikings and the NFL as if they were on fire, the Vikings tweeted an announcement of a minor roster move.
The Vikings added fullback Zach Line to their practice squad today, a few days after they were forced to release him following the deactivation of troubled running back Adrian Peterson.
When Peterson was declared out of the game, the Vikings cut Line and promoted Joe Banyard from the practice squad so they had three tailbacks available for the home opener against the Patriots.
Banyard is still on the 53-man, so the Vikings gave the vacant spot on the practice squad to Line.
Line played three games for the Vikings last season. He made the team out of camp despite the presence of starting fullback Jerome Felton because head coach Mike Zimmer said good fullbacks are hard to find. But the 24-year-old did not play in Week 1, in part because of a minor ankle injury.
For the first four months of the 2014 season, the Twins bullpen was among the team’s bright spots. Even as the starting pitching faltered yet again — outside of Phil Hughes and every other Kyle Gibson start — the ‘pen was holding things together and keeping Minnesota at least somewhat competitive.
The bullpen ERAs, by month this season:
March/April: 3.42; May: 3.86; June: 2.96; July: 2.53. The MLB average for the season is 3.58; the Twins were better than that mark three of the first four months, and certainly better than that overall number through the end of July.
But now we are seeing, yet again, the burden of an overtaxed bullpen. Early in the season, arms have an easier time compensating for the short starts (and therefore long bullpen nights) created by an underwhelming starting staff. But now? The Twins’ bullpen ERA soared to 5.09 in August and has ballooned to 5.70 so far in September.
Being overworked doesn’t explain all of it, since September callups can also contribute to a swollen ERA, but watching Casey Fien give up back-to-back homers in the ninth last night in his 71st game of the season (tied for third-most among pitchers in the majors) was another piece of anecdotal evidence that these lads are tired.
The same thing happened last year, with very good bullpen numbers through August before the ‘pen ERA bloated to 4.96 in September.
This year, Minnesota’s bullpen is tied for the second-most innings pitched in MLB. Last year, the Twins led the majors in that category, with the next-closest team a full 24 innings behind them.
It’s yet another reason the Twins need to figure out this rotation. Not only has another disappointing year from starting pitchers wasted an unexpectedly good offensive showing, it is helping to turn another positive year from the bullpen into a negative finish.
Each week, beat guy Matt Vensel will highlight five Vikings stats that really mean something.
one — complete pass thrown beyond 10 yards by Matt Cassel this season.
Cassel didn’t complete a single pass beyond 10 yards in the 30-7 loss to the Patriots, according to ESPN Stats and Info — well, unless you count the three caught by the other team, but we wouldn’t advise you do that. Through two games, the Vikings QB is just 1-for-13 for 18 total yards on passes thrown at least 10 yards downfield. That continues a troubling trend from a season ago, when he completed just 46.4 percent of his throws beyond 10 yards, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
2.8 — yards per carry for the Vikings in Sunday’s loss without you-know-who.
With star running back Adrian Peterson deactivated, the Vikings struggled to run the ball against the Patriots. Matt Asiata got the start and rushed for just 36 yards on 13 carries. The Vikings as a team averaged 2.8 yards per carry and their longest run was a 13-yard scramble by Cassel. The biggest difference came after contact. The Vikings had just 26 yards after contact, according to Pro Football Focus. Peterson had 34 by himself in Week 1 — and that was an off day for him.
eight — quarterback pressures allowed by Matt Kalil through the first two games.
Kalil has allowed two sacks and eight total pressures this season, according to Pro Football Focus, the most on the team. Those numbers aren’t exactly becoming for a former fourth overall pick and a player who is counted on to protect the quarterback’s blind side. Kalil was beaten twice by Patriots pass rushers — and that’s not including Kalil’s whiff on the blocked field goal — for sacks and allowed four other pressures. As a result, Kalil is PFF’s lowest-graded NFL offensive tackle.
32 — percentage of third-down opportunities converted by Vikings opponents.
It’s early, but the Vikings defense has been much better on third down in 2014. In 2013, the Vikings allowed opponents to convert 44 percent of their third-down opportunities, which ranked 30th in the NFL. This season, under new head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings have been much improved. Sure, they have been aided by some early-down penalties, but their opponents have converted just nine of their 28 third-down opportunities. That 32 percent conversion rate ranks sixth in the NFL.
1.73 — yards allowed by Captain Munnerlyn per coverage snap in the slot in 2014.
The Vikings signed Munnerlyn, a free-agent cornerback, in part because they hoped he could limit the damage done by slot receivers. But so far this season, Munnerlyn has struggled in that regard. In 40 coverage snaps in the slot, Munnerlyn has been targeted six times, allowing each of them to be completed for a total of 69 yards. Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman’s touchdown Sunday came when he lined up across from Munnerlyn in the left slot and lost him on a corner route.
It’s dangerous reading too much into TV data from one week, since so many factors can influence viewing habits and skew comparisons even between similar time frames.
That said, given the tumultuous NFL week that led up to the Week 2 games, it’s at least worthwhile to take a look at the TV numbers to see if the raw data tells us anything about the impact on viewership
Awful Announcing breaks it down here, time slot by time slot, and finds that in most cases TV ratings were down in Week 2 this year compared to Week 2 last year. The most notable drop came in the late afternoon time slot (3:25 p.m. Central games), which CBS had this past week. Per AA:
CBS saw the biggest drop of any window, as they had Broncos-Giants — AKA Manning Bowl III — in this window last year. That said, it’s a little surprising that a window mostly led by Chiefs-Broncos and Jets-Packers drew only a 14.6 overnight, still leading the weekend but down 18 percent from this window last season.
Again, the 18 percent drop could be chalked up primarily, if not entirely, to less-enticing matchups this year when compared to a major story line a year ago. Still, as the site notes, an 18 percent drop is significant (and, on a personal note, fits neatly into the time we turned the TV off after the Vikings instead of watching more football, as had been our previous custom).
The noon time slots on Fox and CBS were down 4 percent and 7 percent from this time last year. Sunday Night Football was up slightly from a year ago (3 percent), though it was noted on Awful Announcing that last year’s Week 2 game went up against a big episode of Breaking Bad and also featured a rare weather delay.
What do these numbers mean? Probably not much given that it’s only one week. What will bear watching, however, is whether it marks the start of a trend in which ratings are consistently dropping when compared to last season. The overall NFL TV numbers are still so massive that a small drop doesn’t really dent the big picture of how popular the sport still is, but a little drop here and a little drop there could add up to trouble. We’ll try to check in on the numbers periodically throughout the season to see if there are any larger trends at play.