MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- As the Vikings progressed through their five-game winning streak, we saw an offense that seemed to get better every week, in spite of a slew of injuries.
That all came crashing down in their first loss of the season, a catastrophe in Philadelphia that saw Sam Bradford get hit 19 times.
It seems like they've been trying to find an identity ever since.
As the sacks and losses continued to mount – and Pat Shurmur replaced Norv Turner as offensive coordinator along the way – the Vikings, by necessity, ditched many of their downfield passes in favor of quicker-hitting routes, to get the ball out fast to help a shaky offensive line. And it's largely worked – Sam Bradford has been sacked, and hit, fewer times each of the last three games.
The trouble is, it's not really working. Even though Bradford hasn't been getting hit nearly as much, the Vikings have scored just three offensive touchdowns in their last two-and-a-half games.
"I think we've got to find a way to create more explosive plays," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "Whether that's mixing in more of our play-action game, which we've kind of gotten away from, and trying to create some of these plays with some deeper-route concepts; that's one way. But however we do it, we've just got to figure out a way to make sure that it happens."
So now we're back to looking for big plays again – saying the Vikings are throwing too many short passes.
Can't there be a happy medium?
"I think sometimes if you overreact to what gets said after a game, but we have to do what's best for us," Shurmur said. "And certainly, we're doing what we can to try to create explosive plays."
"If you just look at our game plan last week," Bradford said, "we just didn't really have a lot of shots down the field. I think schematically, that was just kind of how we decided to attack them. But I think after last week, we realized that we've got to be a little more balanced in how we go out there and do that."
One explanation could be that the Vikings, in response to all the sacks and injuries on the offensive line, over-corrected. Their 41-yard pass play to Jerick McKinnon against the Lions was more a result of a broken coverage than anything else. And yet, it was their longest play since Week 2 against the Packers, and only their third pass play of more than 40 yards this season.
Now it's time to correct the over-correction.
"With regard to explosive plays, you want them, and you try to create them any way possible," Shurmur said. "Sometimes it's a short throw and a catch and run. Sometimes the ball is launched all the way down the field. Sometimes you do it with a run, and I think we were close to having a couple explosive plays in the run game. And so, you want big plays, certainly, and we're going to try to do whatever we can to get them. And sometimes it's just not totally launching the ball down the field. You've got to try to create with scheme and then use the skill set of the guys you have.
"We're trying to do what's best for our guys. We've got a lot of really, really good players that have skill sets that we're trying to take advantage of. So, that's the challenge."
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