Vikings-Buccaneers matchup of the day: Wednesday

Posted Sept. 14, 2011 @ 5:38 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

Here's a key matchup to check out for Sunday's Buccaneers-Vikings game in Minnesota:

Vikings back seven vs. Buccaneers' running backs and tight ends in the passing game

A little specific, eh?

Well, if you watched Sunday's Chargers-Vikings game, you certainly noticed the Vikings trying to take away the deep stuff and force passes underneath. That led to Chargers RBs Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert to have unexpectedly large contributions in the passing game (a combined 12 catches, 131 yards, two TDs), as well as several short throws to TE Antonio Gates (8-74-0).

You might see a similar approach with the safeties playing back as they did in San Diego, but the Bucs' wideouts are stronger outside the hashmarks as opposed to the middle of the field. That still could open up some things underneath for Bucs TE Kellen Winslow and RB Earnest Graham, both of whom were busy in Week One with a bevy of short passes; they combined to catch 14 balls for 124 yards, almost all of them within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.

That defensive approach had success for the most part until late when the Lions went into more of a prevent defense. If the Vikings can clean up their sloppy tackling, they might have something. Both the linebackers and defensive backs missed tackles that significantly would have reduced the yards after catch, especially on the throws to Mathews. When the Vikings were in man defense, FS Husain Abdullah did a nice job on Gates and could earn the Winslow assignment part of the time. That could be a good matchup to keep an eye on.