The Arizona Cardinals are now 1-4. The Minnesota Vikings scored 28 points in the first quarter of the game, 21 of those points can be credited to the offense not getting started due to a lack of protection (more on that later), and seven of those points are credited to the defense not being able to stop an offense that is centered around one player, Adrian Peterson. I know there will be an argument that 21 points, or all 28, should be credited to the defense and the inability to stop AP. But I blame the offense for giving very short fields and turning over the ball being the reason the defense was in those position. So what was the breakdown? Why did this happen? Let's be rational and identify what went wrong.
The loss in Minnesota was caused by a continuation of three things: first, a lack of pass rush, second, a complete lack of protection against an elite four man defensive front and third, but most important, the coaches not game planning for elite players on both sides of the ball, namely Peterson and Allen.
Not planning for Peterson. The Cardinals lack of pass rush has been talked about more than enough. At this point we need to talk about planning for not having a pass rush and putting bodies at a situation. The 2011 Minnesota Vikings have had limited success on offense and because of this they have tailored their offense around Adrian Peterson, even more this year than in years past where they got more production out of their QB.
The game plan for the Cardinals defense needed to be to shut down AP by assigning two players to him; a linebacker and a safety, like Adrian Wilson who is already playing in or near the box. We all know that the LB should stop AP at the line, and the role of the safety is to watch where the lane develops and run at Peterson to stop him as quickly as possible before he gets into the open field.
The problem that the Cardinals had on Sunday was that they continually put 7-8 in the box trying to "stuff the run" and the defenders would get stuck on their blocks and were unable to get away as AP ran through huge holes and went one on one with CB's Marshall and Peterson, who AP could just run over or blast right through their tackle attempts. Jefferson made some good tackles against AP, but my question is where was the safety? The end results: 1Q 60 yards and three TDs, 2Q 27 yards, 3Q 12 yards, and 4Q 23 yards. With adjustments the defense got better, and it showed through the 6 points they surrendered the rest of the game and the limited yards AP accumulated.
The Defense showed that with defensive adjustments the Vikings "are who we thought they were". Too bad, it came after the Cardinals made them look like super stars in the first quarter due to a meltdown on offense. This is truly where the coaches lack of game planning is to blame.
Not planning for an elite four man front. The lack of game planning and lack of protection go together. The offensive coaches have had four games of footage to watch Jared Allen manhandle left tackles all year, and watch as Brian Robinson uses swim moves and bull rushing to push RTs deep into the back field and get to the QB. Allen is on pace to collect 20+ sacks this year and the game plan was simply have Beanie Wells chip the pass rusher and then run out to the flat when the Cardinals needed more constant protection. But they didn't even consistently use the chip block, they decided to play Kolb from the shotgun and hoped he would release the ball quick enough to avoid the pressure.
Against the Minnesota pass rush with the Arizona Offensive line for protection this is not a game plan, this is suicide.
Whisenhunt and Mike Miller continue to game plan and rely on having five offensive weapons for the QB, 1-RB, 2-3 WR, and 1-TE. They've been switching it up to 2-WR,1-RB, 0-1-FB, and 1-2 TE. But they're using the TE's as weapons not as protection. The game plan needed to be focused around established protection.
Put in a consistent TE or even an extra OL as a TE to help block a dominant pass rush against a pair of weak Tackles. Run a split two TE set to add protection and work from that package with run's and slant passes to your WR's. Kolb was consistently pressured throughout the day, the chipping from a TE or RB wasn't working, and the Coaches needed to change the game plan to offer more protection instead of more WR's. More Wide Receivers seems to be the "go-to" answer to pressure in the Whisenhunt era. The QB doesn't need more options, they need time to find an open one and throw the ball.
We quote the definition of insanity many times here at ROTB, but after this game we may have proof. But who is the insane one, is it the coaches for thinking that Kolb will suddenly discover a quick release? That Levi Brown will turn into a HoF LT? And that offering more WR options is the answer to a QB who is constantly under pressure? Or is it us, the fans, for thinking that the Cardinals would be elite after a "unique" offseason, a new defense being installed around a pass rush that doesn't exist, and installing a new QB who is not getting the protection he needs?
Just some thoughts.