We noticed on a couple of occasions Sunday that Tampa Bay center Evan Dietrich-Smith appeared to scoot the ball forward before the snap.
You see this fairly regularly; usually, it’s a matter of an inch or two — not much of an advantage gained, and likely explained by the center trying to get a better grip on the ball.
But it appeared to work to Tampa Bay’s benefit on one play we remembered from early in the first half, when the Bucs made the decision to go for it on fourth an inches. After the Vikings’ victory, we sort of forgot about it, but thankfully reader Ted Jacobson not only remembered but sent a screen shot of the play in question. We’ll let Ted explain:
So the blue line is the line of scrimmage where the ball should have been to the right of. The red line is the 1st down line. (I verified that those lines were pretty accurate – 1st down marker was just shy of the 44.)
So the refs placed the ball just to the left of the red line, then they let the center move it another foot or two forward, which is common, but usually not quite that far. So in the photo, all Bucs should have been fully to the right of the blue line.
The play was a QB sneak, and Glennon made a little on it, but I’m not convinced he would have had enough had the ball been correctly placed. From this vantage point, he could almost have done a kneel-down for a -1 and still made it. Almost.
Indeed, we went back and watched the play. Ted was correct about the spotting and the first-down line. We created a three-photo collage sequence.
1) Officials marked the ball six inches to a foot short of the 44 yard line to set up 4th-and-1.
2) By the time it made it was re-spotted on the hash, the tip of the ball was on the 44.
3) And by the time it was snapped, it was moved forward at least another foot, if not more, by Dietrich-Smith.
Maybe Dietrich-Smith — who was with the Packers from 2010-13 before signing as a free agent with Tampa Bay — does it without realizing it?
Again, moot point now that the Vikings have won and the game is over. Tampa didn’t even score on the drive, as Glennon was intercepted shortly after the conversion … but still interesting when a 4th-and-1 play starts from past the marker, as shown in the screen grab Ted sent.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson took off the walking boot on his left foot Monday. He said Patterson suffered just a “bruise” on his left ankle during his final kickoff return in the 19-13 overtime victory over the Bucs on Sunday.
Patterson said after the game he wore the boot just as a precaution. He remained in the game after the injury on the offense’s final drive to force overtime.
Zimmer said he hasn’t talked to guard Vladimir Ducasse yet about the knee injury that kept him out of the game. He wouldn’t give any further details on who he planned to play at right guard this week against Washington.
Zimmer also spent part of the press conference defending punter Jeff Locke, who had three touchbacks and averaged just 35.1 net yards on eight punts.
“I really think Jeff’s a good punter,” Zimmer said. ”I really do. I think he’s a very, very good punter. I think he tries to be too precise sometimes.”
It took time for Sharrif Floyd to adapt to what Mike Zimmer and the new Vikings coaching staff were asking him to do, but the second-year defensive tackle has really come on strong recently.
Floyd was credited with eight tackles and a sack, his third of the season, in Sunday’s 19-13 overtime win over the Buccaneers. That performance came a week after Floyd had five tackles and a sack against the Bills. He now has a sack in three of his past four games.
But Sunday’s game was Floyd’s best of the season, according to defensive end Brian Robison, and Floyd didn’t argue with him when Robison’s comments were relayed to him.
“Just playing ball,” he said. “I felt free. I felt like nothing could stop me or nothing could stop our defense.”
That is noteworthy because even as recently as a couple of weeks ago, Zimmer remarked that Floyd was still guilty of overthinking things and trying to be perfect, something Zimmer has talked about since he arrived.
Zimmer wants Floyd to trust his instincts and just let it flow. And now that Floyd is getting used to the techniques — such as using shorter, quicker steps when defending the run — that Zimmer and defensive line coach Andre Patterson have been teaching him, he is apparently doing just that.
“The technique that we’ve been learning his year, I’m more comfortable with it, and I just understand everything that is going on now,” Floyd said.
The Vikings shouldn’t just give Anthony Barr the game ball in Sunday’s victory for his direct impact on the winning touchdown. Instead, the congratulations to Barr should extend even further for changing the entire narrative of Monday’s conversation. The dominant story line, and rightfully so, is the emerging playmaking ability of the rookie linebacker — and his role in a revamped defense that turned in another very good performance Sunday in spite of allowing another late regulation rally.
Without Barr’s play — let’s say the Vikings manage to lose that game 16-13 — the overwhelming discussion would be about the team’s offensive futility, not the defensive breakthrough. While we saw a few good things on Sunday as the day progressed, let’s not forget the Vikings scored a mere 3 points in the first half and just 13 (on offense) for the game against one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
The play-calling was often timid, Teddy Bridgewater’s decisions were often safe but mild, and if not for that final drive in regulation to tie the game at 13, Minnesota would have lost and been held under 300 yards and 17 points for the sixth time this season. Indeed, if Bridgewater’s gift-wrapped throw had been picked off in the final minute, the story line would be so much different.
We’re not suggesting fans should be dwelling on all these negatives. It’s nice to talk about something positive, and a victory fueled by a huge play by Barr certainly qualifies. But let’s also not forget about the offensive deficiencies. There is a tendency to do that after victories (Gophers deficiencies, for instance, were glossed over after the Purdue win but came back to haunt again in the Illinois loss).
A softer schedule presents itself to the Vikings in the second half of the season, but it likely will mean nothing if the offense continues to sputter as it did Sunday.
While counting snaps from Sunday’s 19-13 win at Tampa Bay …
OFFENSIVE SNAPS: 70.
OFFENSIVE LINE: LT Matt Kalil 70, LG Charlie Johnson 70, C John Sullivan 70, RG Joe Berger 70, RT Phil Loadholt 70, G Vladimir Ducasse INA, G David Yankee INA.
THOUGHTS: None of us talks a great deal about him, but Berger has tremendous value as a 10-year veteran with starting experience who can back up all three interior positions. A week after playing 51 snaps at center for the injured Sullivan, Berger played 70 offensive snaps for injured right guard Ducasse and four additional special teams snaps. Sullivan returned from a concussion to also play 74 snaps, including special teams. Berger, the third player to start at right guard in eight games this season, was beaten on a sack. But it was the only sack allowed after the team had given up 19 in the previous three weeks.
QUARTERBACKS: Teddy Bridgewater 70, Christian Ponder DNP.
Thoughts: Bridgewater looked good at times and bad at times. In other words, he looked like a rookie QB making his fourth career start. He needed to connect on the deep ball more consistently and overthrew a wide-open Charles Johnson on a play that would have scored. On the flip side, his touchdown throw to Greg Jennings was placed perfectly over two defenders into the end zone.
RECEIVERS, TIGHT ENDS: WR Greg Jennings 57, WR Cordarrelle Patterson 53, TE Chase Ford 50, WR Jarius Wright 45, TE Rhett Ellison 34, WR Charles Johnson 20, WR Adam Thielen 4, TE Kyle Rudolph INA.
Thoughts: In his fourth game, Johnson played a season-high 20 snaps a week after playing only one. He caught two balls, including a 12-yarder on third-and-seven. He also showed some unexpected speed for a guy his size. Even when Rudolph returns from hernia surgery, there will be room for Ford in the offense. There has to be. Defenses underestimate him, but that could change. He caught passes under pressure in each of the three offensive scoring drives.
RUNNING BACKS, FULLBACKS: RB Jerick McKinnon 43, RB Matt Asiata 27, FB Jerome Felton 16, FB Zach Line INA.
Thoughts: Felton’s 16 snaps were the most since he had 18 in the season opener. He’s also had two games in which he has played only five snaps. Using Felton on 23 percent of the snaps showed the Vikings, at some point, decided they needed to assert themselves as a running team, even though they don’t have Adrian Peterson. Felton and McKinnon were a big part of the team’s only touchdown drive. A drive that started with four consecutive runs.
DEFENSIVE SNAPS: 60.
DEFENSIVE LINE: DE Everson Griffen 56, DT Sharrif Floyd 46, DE Brian Robison 40, NT Linval Joseph 39, DE Corey Wootton 24, DT Tom Johnson 18, NT Shamar Stephen 18, DE Scott Crichton INA.
Thoughts: The Vikings might be concerned about wear and tear on Robison, their oldest lineman. After four weeks in which his snap percentages were 93, 85, 93 and 93, Robison has season lows for snaps (40) and percentage (67) on Sunday. Wootton, the backup left end, returned from missing last week’s game (lower back) and played 24 snaps, his highest total since the season opener. Johnson played only 18 snaps, his second-lowest total behind the 16 he played in Week 2 against the Patriots.
LINEBACKERS: OLB Anthony Barr 60, OLB Chad Greenway 59, MLB Jasper Brinkley 28, OLB Audie Cole 1, OLB Gerald Hodges INA, OLB Brandon Watts INA.
Thoughts: Ah, it’s not only good to be really good, it’s good to be really young, too. The Vikings routinely play Barr in 100 percent of the defensive snaps and he shows no fatigue. And, as you can tell, it pays to have him on the field in every situation. Greenway left the field only in a short-yardage situation in the red zone near the end of regulation. Hodges missed his second straight game because of a hamstring injury.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: SS Robert Blanton 60, CB Xavier Rhodes 60, FS Harrison Smith 59, CB Captain Munnerlyn 59, CB Josh Robinson 32, FS Andrew Sendejo 1.
Thoughts: Eight games into the season and Blanton still hasn’t missed a defensive snap. He’s the only player on the team that can say that. Rhodes’ health has been holding up. He draws too many penalties, but they aren’t stupid mistakes. They’re the result of a physical player pushing Mike Zimmer’s aggressive techniques to the limit. Robinson was questionable because of an ankle sprain, but handled his usual workload. The Bucs completed a 40-yard pass on him, but the ankle didn’t appear to be an issue because he had tight coverage on the play.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Highest snap total: 21 (72 percent) – WR Adam Thielen, CB Shaun Prater, TE MarQuies Gray, S Antone Exum.
Thoughts: Exum is a promising young player, but flags follow him far too often on special teams. Gray tied for a team-high 21 special teams snaps, a first for him.
HIGHEST SNAP TOTAL: 74 (70 offensive, four special teams) by Kalil, Sullivan, Berger and Loadholt.