Tale Of The Tape: Minnesota Vikings At Baltimore Ravens
- QuarterbackThe Vikings are not going to ask a lot from quarterback Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder (concussion). Head coach Leslie Frazier wants either quarterback to read defenses well and throw the short- and medium-range passes with accuracy. If that can be accomplished and Adrian Peterson has a strong performance, the Vikings have a chance to stay in this game.Joe Flacco hasn’t had spectacular numbers this year and he tends to get criticized because of his big-time paycheck. However, Flacco hasn’t had the support from his running game or offensive line throughout the season. Don’t sell Flacco short. He can throw for distance and velocity, and if the Ravens make the playoffs, it will largely be the result of Flacco’s exploits.
- OffenseThe Vikings have few secrets to their gameplan. They want to run Adrian Peterson to exhaustion, and they let backup running back Toby Gerhart get his yards. Minnesota’s instability at quarterback has kept the Vikings from establishing the passing game. If he can stay on target, look for Jerome Simpson, Greg Jennings and tight end John Carlson to get most of the action.The Ravens have not gotten the production from Ray Rice that they expected at the start of the season. Rice is averaging 2.9 yards per carry and has rushed for 482 yards. That’s simply not good enough. Torrey Smith has the speed to go downfield and make big plays. He is capable of breaking this game open. Dallas Clark is still one of the game’s most reliable tight ends.
- DefenseThe Vikings make a lot of mistakes on defense and they give up a ton of yardage. That’s a big problem, because Minnesota does not have the kind of offense that can operate from behind. Linebacker Chad Greenway works hard and is the team’s best tackler. Defensive end Jared Allen may have lost a half-step, but he can still flatten out and pressure the quarterback.The Ravens have been fairly solid on defense after a poor start this season. They rank 10th in yards allowed and eighth against the run. Linebacker Daryl Smith is John Harbaugh’s most reliable defensive player and he leads the team with 95 tackles and he also has 16 passes defensed and 3.5 sacks. Terrell Suggs has a team-high 9.0 sacks and is difficult for bulky offensive tackles to contain.
- Special TeamsThe Vikings have gotten some huge plays from return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson, who may be the fastest return man in the league. Marcus Sherels is a dangerous punt returner who can also turn a game around. The Vikings have full confidence in placekicker Blair Walsh.The Ravens are also a strong return team, as Tandon Doss has a punt return for a touchdown to his credit. They also do a solid job in covering kicks as they have not allowed a return of longer than 44 yards. Justin Tucker is having a sensational year, having made 29-of-31 FG attempts this season.
Each team earns two check marks, but the Ravens’ edges at quarterback and defense are humongous. They are fighting to get into the playoffs and they are not going to let this home game slip away from them. They should register a big win. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor