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Final Game Analysis
Pass Offense: Adding another interception to his total, Matt Cassel's turnovers would only be acceptable if they were paired with high-volume passing, but at 5.5 yards per attempt, his stats will likely be among the worst of any starting quarterback this week. Having failed to put up any points, the passing offense has been plagued by bad quarterback play, receivers who have struggled to make key catches and a pass protection scheme that seemed confused by Carolina's blitzes and stunts.
Run Offense: Adrian Peterson was limited to 10 runs, so there isn't a large sample of runs to evaluate. At 6.2 yards per carry, it seems like a good total, but 31 of those yards came on one run. It's a decent anomaly when there are a lot of carries, but not really a sign of good performance when the team doesn't run the ball much. He averaged 3.4 yards per carry otherwise, and the Vikings weren't successful on the majority of their runs.
Pass Defense: The Vikings' second half was a catastrophe in pass defense compared to an already awful first half, and allowing Cam Newton to climb from under seven yards per attempt at halftime to over nine at the end of the game speaks to how poorly Minnesota adjusted to the Panthers and how well they did in response. Newton was able to close out the game through the air and the Vikings let him.
Run Defense: Minnesota's run defense did much better in the second half, but not well enough for the Vikings do to much about it. Aside from a good run or two by DeAngelo Williams, the second half saw less explosiveness and consistency in the Panthers' running game. At the expense of pass defense, this was likely not worth it. The Vikings filled in gaps even after Desmond Bishop left due to injury and the Panthers' only room was outside.
Special Teams: Again, the Vikings special teams didn't see the field often enough to really grade well, largely due to their inept play overall and the low number of total possessions. Nevertheless, their limited looks were good. Despite Locke kicking off instead of Blair Walsh, the Carolina kick return unit didn't get much done and the punt return unit was similarly stifled, both as a result of good coverage and good punting.
Coaching: There's no excuse for the Vikings coaching staff coming out of the game. Not only did they insist on playing underperforming players at critical positions despite having better backups at their disposal, they called poor plays with a low likelihood of success on both offense and defense. Combined coverages were easily exploited on defense, while the offense continued to plug a short passing game when longer passes were required. They did ramp it up late in the game, but by then it was too late.
Pass Offense: Aside from the last drive, which was aborted in the red zone, the Vikings passing game has been anemic. It started by immediately turning the ball over on of a bad pass by Matt Cassel. While the receivers have done fine getting open and catching the ball, the pass protection has been confused—despite potentially good individual performances across the line. Cassel's 5.8 yards per attempt has been inflated by the last drive, but has been weak and ineffective for the most part.
Run Offense: The run offense has been what people have come to expect from the Vikings; inconsistent but potent. Despite a 4.0 yards per carry clip, Adrian Peterson looks as good as ever, but with only seven carries, it will be difficult for him to rack up the yardage that everyone knows he can. A linchpin for the team, Peterson will need some more help from his offensive line if he is to continue being the feature of the offense—a potentially unlikely outcome given how much the Vikings are trailing.
Pass Defense: Cam Newton hasn't been particularly stellar today, but that doesn't matter when the defense continues to give away penalty yards on otherwise positive plays like sacks or deflections. Having created good pressure but unable to capitalize on it, the Panthers have been able to march up the field with high-percentage passes. Even poorly designed plays have been successful against the Vikings.
Run Defense: Their run defense has been even worse than their pass defense. DeAngelo Williams has been averaging 4.6 yards per carry, while Mike Tolbert has been successful in power situations against what should be a strong defensive line. The Vikings have given the Panthers an extraordinary number of yards on the field through missed tackles with only occasional success.
Special Teams: There haven't been many opportunities for the Vikings special teams to perform, given the low number of drives and Graham Gano's strong leg preventing runbacks, but they've done well. Jeff Locke is doing what he's been drafted to do, and the punts have both had distance and hang time. Ted Ginn, normally a dangerous returner, has been limited to 5.5 yards per punt return, and the coverage unit is doing a good job of making sure it stays that way.
Coaching: The Vikings have been abysmal both in game management and play-calling. On offense, there has been baffling play design, with a number of third-down plays looking like they were set to fail from the onset. While the Vikings have done better in the second half, it seems to be in spite of the coaching instead of because of it. On defense, the Vikings continue to play players out of position and consistently call mismatches, a big part of the reason Carolina took advantage of zone coverage on their first touchdown. In addition, they have been far too conservative on fourth down.