• Jay Moore

Film Room: What to Expect Against The Minnesota Vikings

Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann

Normally in my weekly film room piece for 49ersHub I would break down four or five plays from the 49ers’ previous game, and explain why they worked or why they failed. But due to the fourth preseason game being almost unwatchable throughout the NFL, I've decided to do something that I’ll do only once this season: preview the opposing offense that the 49ers will be facing in the following week.

That means taking a look at the Kirk Cousins-led Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings lost 2017 offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to the New York Giants. Current Vikings OC John DeFilippo was previously with the world champion Philadelphia Eagles, and brings over a west coast scheme similar to what the Vikings ran with Shurmur the previous season. 49ers fans will recognize some of these concepts; this offense will look similar to what Shanahan does for the 49ers. One thing stands out: the Vikings coaching staff is all about the short passing game, almost as an extension of the run game.

In the first clip, this is a simple route combination by the slot and the outside receiver. Stefon Diggs (#14) is the outside receiver and runs a short slant towards the numbers. This, in unison with the slot receiver in the flat, creates a slight hesitation from the outside cornerback. This is a perfect example of a very simple throw that the Vikings are giving to Kirk Cousins. Add the fact that Stefon Diggs is one of the better receivers in the league, and this is something we will be seeing a lot of in Week 1.

In this clip, the route combination at the bottom of the screen creates a natural pick play. The two route runners cross paths in a way that creates contact with the defenders. This is something that offenses have been doing for decades. The Seattle Seahawks did this at the goal line of a rather large game against the New England Patriots, with very little success. The real trick to this play is to not throw an interception. OK, the real trick is to run the “pick” route in a way that you do not get a flag for offensive pass interference. A receiver can make contact with a defender if he is running a route, but he cannot interfere with the corner on purpose. This play sometimes comes along with a penalty to the offense.

The 49ers should be up to the task in covering a route combination like this. The 49ers primarily run a cover-3 zone, with the two outside corners and the single high safety responsible for deep thirds. The linebackers or the strong safety (or both) are responsible for the short hook/curl zone. In this defense the corners are used to handing off underneath routes and carrying deep routes, when done properly, this eliminates the pick play.

Another example of a quick throw and a simple read for Kirk Cousins. The running back is one on one with the linebacker in the middle of the field. Even though this is All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner (#54), he is no match one-on-one with a running back. Cousins does a good job recognizing man-to-man by the defense and putting the ball where it should go.

DeFilippo is an offensive coordinator that likes to take advantage of match-ups and play to the strength of his players. He hasn’t shown much this preseason in regards to throwing the deep ball, but this is preseason, why show off your best plays? Cousins is a good quarterback off of playaction and throwing short and intermediate routes. No doubt the Vikings will throw some deep shots at the 49ers young secondary, and will most likely avoid savvy veteran Richard Sherman.

This is a 49ers defense that should match up well with the Vikings offense. Where the Vikings are weak is in the interior of the offensive line, right were Deforest Buckner and Solomon Thomas will be lining up. Creating pressure on Kirk Cousins, and forcing him to get to his 2nd or 3rd progressions, will be the deciding factor on whether the 49ers defense can slow down the Vikings offense in week one of the 2018 NFL season. Did I mention the season is almost here?


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