The Vikings sack difference: 19 for defense, 14 for offense
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' offense is catching up to their defense in one category, and it's not a good one. Minnesota's vaunted defense has 19 sacks this season. The offense has allowed 14 sacks after giving up six in Sunday's...
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings' offense is catching up to their defense in one category, and it's not a good one.
Minnesota's vaunted defense has 19 sacks this season. The offense has allowed 14 sacks after giving up six in Sunday's 21-10 loss at Philadelphia.
"We need to play better," guard Alex Boone said Tuesday. "I think if you get your quarterback hit that many times, it's going to be a problem."
Sam Bradford was assaulted all afternoon by the Eagles. He fumbled four times after being hit, losing the ball twice.
But what can the injury-riddled Vikings (5-1) do to improve the offensive line as the midpoint of the season approaches? There aren't exactly quality free agents available, and the move they made to get one two weeks ago isn't looking so good.
Minnesota signed Jake Long, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who suffered torn ACLs in 2013 and 2014 and hasn't been the same player since. Long was in for 13 plays against the Eagles, and allowed both sacks that led to Bradford's lost fumbles.
"It's just playing better with what you have," Boone said. "How much can you do? Now, you going to go down to Carl's Jr. and find somebody?"
Well, the Vikings did sign a lineman to the practice squad Tuesday almost off the street, picking up Austin Shepherd, who played in 14 games for Minnesota last season as a rookie, mainly as a tackle eligible in short-yardage situations. But it's too early to believe he could make an impact if he's ever added to the 53-man roster.
"It's just getting back to fundamentals, and the communication needs to be better up front. I think we just need to put this behind us and move on and get better from it," said guard Brandon Fusco. "You can't always point to the offensive line, you know? Backs. Quarterbacks. Receivers getting open. It's a team effort, a whole offensive effort for protection."
Bradford said he needs to get the ball out quicker. Adam Thielen said he and his fellow receivers must do a better job of getting open. And running back Matt Asiata had issues in pass protection.
Still, the offensive linemen got most of the blame Sunday as the Eagles brought plenty of pressure off the edge and some safety blitzes. Now, the Vikings must regroup in time for Monday's game at Chicago.
"It's easy for a lot of people to drag you down and talk some stuff, but the most important thing is we have a big game coming up," Boone said.
The Vikings have lost Matt Kalil and Andre Smith, their starting tackles at the beginning of the year, to season-ending injuries. Kalil has been replaced on the left side by T.J. Clemmings and Smith on the right by Jeremiah Sirles.
"All of a sudden guys go down and new guys come in," Boone said. "We pick up Jake. It's one of those things where you don't have a lot of time to really mess around."
The Vikings hoped Long would be able to help against the Eagles after just five practices, only one in pads. So they decided to rotate tackles into the game, something Long said he'd never done in his eight NFL seasons.
At times in the first half, Long was inserted at left tackle, with Clemmings moving to right tackle and Sirles going to the bench. The plan was abandoned after Long struggled, with coach Mike Zimmer saying he was "rusty."
"I can't say the rust," Long said Tuesday. "I made a couple of mistakes, but it's nothing I can't correct."
Long reiterated he didn't consider his knee a factor in his poor play. Still, there are those who believe he is not healthy enough to return to anywhere near his previous form, one reason he remained unsigned since getting hurt with Atlanta last season.
"I didn't play well enough, nowhere near well enough," Long said. "I got to keep getting better. When I get the opportunity, I've got to prove it, and I will."