What Went Wrong With the Offense?

What Went Wrong With the Offense?

Climbing The Pocket
Climbing The Pocket
What Went Wrong With the Offense?

In a 17-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills, the Minnesota Vikings had many plays that stood out and others that did not as much. The first-team offense sputtered, gaining just one first down and giving up two sacks.

What happened during those two sacks of QB Sam Bradford? Let’s take a look.

Sack No. 1 : First quarter – 12:09 remaining – 3rd-and-7 – Minus 37 yard line

The sixth play of their first drive, Bradford was sacked for the first time of the night. Third down ineffectiveness was one of the biggest points of emphasis the team has reportedly wanted to improve upon. After successfully getting a new set of downs during their first set, the next set of downs they were unable to.

Running a five-man protection, right tackle Mike Remmers was beaten by Eddie Yarbrough, an undrafted free agent from Wyoming.

NEW.gif Every type of pass protection is split into segments and categorized into types.

In the play above, there are two sides to this pass protection. One side is a man-to-man side, while the other is known as a “slide ” side. There are always two lineman (left or right guard/tackle combo) on the man side, while there are three (center, right or left guard/tackle combo) on the slide side. The three blockers on the slide side are responsible for the A, B and C gaps to their assigned side.

The A gap is the space between the center and guard, the B gap is the space between the guard and tackle, while the C gap, in this formation, is anything outside of the left hip of the left tackle.

On the man side, the two offensive lineman are responsible for the two down defensive lineman to their side.

In this case it is the nose tackle (No. 99, Marcell Dareus) and Yarbrough (No. 75). Being that Remmers is on the man side of this protection, he is responsible for the widest rusher, who is Yarbrough.

Remmers is blocking the widest rusher, meaning that he must successfully set back vertically in his pass set in order to properly account for the speed of his assignment.

Yarbrough gives a slight head fake inside before dipping back out, causing Remmers to take a slight step inside.

Where Remmers really lost was when he became off balance. With him unable to maintain his balance, the rusher is able to display solid hand usage, enabling him to get past Remmers.

He was never able to recover.


Sack No. 2 : First quarter – 8:08 remaining – 1st-and-10 – Minus 22 yard line

The team took the field for their second drive of the first quarter, aligned in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers), offensive coordinator Pat Shumur calls a split zone play-action protection.

Split zone is an inside zone running concept.

Normally in an inside zone running concept, the QB would read the backside defensive end or rusher that the play is going away from. If the defensive end crashes down or chases the ball carrier, the QB would pull the ball and run where to the voided area left by the end.

If the rusher stands flat footed or doesn’t chase the ball carrier, then the signal-caller would simply let the running back keep the ball.


The “split” term used in front of split zone is for the tight end.

In this case Kyle Rudolph, the tight end is responsible for blocking the backside (side away from the play) defensive end, inside-out.

Why inside out? The one thing he can not allow the defensive end to do is cross his face because it is an easier path to tackle the ball carrier.

The play above is not a normal “split zone” run though. It is a six-man play-action pass protection imitating the actual intended run (split zone) concept.

Rudolph is still responsible for the backside defensive end, but now he must “base block” him, meaning he has to square the defender up and do his best to keep him off of the QB.

The purpose of running this type of play-action is to influence the second and third level defenders with the run-action (split zone) fake, thus opening windows for the targets running downfield.

The offensive lineman are responsible for blocking the defender in their nearest gap. In this case, it is a run imitation to the left, so the offensive front is responsible for the defender that is nearest to their left.

The running backs responsibilities is to simply give a good run action fake as if he was running split zone and he must cleanly getting to the flats because he is the outlet, or check-down for the QB in case no one is open downfield.

Where does the breakdown in protection happen on this play? 

Rashod Hill (left tackle) whiffs on his assignment, which is the defensive end to the left (his gap), resulting in Sam Bradford getting sacked.

Yes, Dalvin Cook (running back) could’ve chip blocked the rusher to slow him down, but completely blocking him was not his responsibility. He has to get to the flats or else the QB does not have a check-down option.


For NFL news and draft analysis, follow J.R. on Twitter @JReidDraftScout.

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