The name of the game in the NFL is adjustments. It’s quite clear that opposing teams have made significant adjustments to the way they guard receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen in key situations against the Minnesota Vikings.
Thielen was shutout of targets in the first half of Monday night’s 21-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks and Thielen and Diggs combined for just nine receptions.
The Vikings especially struggled on third downs going 2-for-10 and they failed to produce points in the red zone while trailing 6-0 early in the fourth.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins said he has noticed teams are double teaming Thielen and Diggs more than in the early parts of the season.
“The only piece that I notice is truly different from the first three, four games of the year would be there were two third downs earlier where they truly were doubling Adam and Stefon in a way that they’re not going to get the ball, they shouldn’t get the ball” Cousins said. “That was one down the middle to Aldrick [Robinson] where I was trying to work him down the middle one-on-one because the safeties are so enamoured with Diggsy and Adam that literally it’s like Cover-0 for Aldrick, just right down the middle of the field you can take him down the shoot and then one other one…they literally dropped, it appeared, nine defenders…and Diggsy was triple teamed. They are really saying, ‘we’re going to dare you to work somebody else and we’re going to give you the time back there but we’re going to cover everybody.’”
The Vikings have not had much success finding other options in three of the past four weeks. Against Seattle, running back Dalvin Cook gained just 28 yards through the air and all other receivers/tight ends aside from Thielen and Diggs gained 34 yards.
“Let’s be clear, when it’s third-and-3, they’re not going to do [double Thielen and Diggs],” Cousins said. “I think it was third-and-12 so it’s going to be pretty hard to take off and run or get the first down with a checkdown. Probably more important is,let’s stay out of third-and-12, lets get to third-and-three. In the second half we had pretty manageable third downs and we didn’t see that scheme in the second half.”
On third downs with less than three yards to go, the Vikings still went 2-for-7 with both first downs coming on QB sneaks.
Last week against New England, Thielen was held to 28 yards on five receptions and the Vikings went 3-for-12 on third down.
Without a sure fire No. 3 option at wide reciever, the Vikings will have to adjust to the adjustments as they play the final three games of the season against Miami, Detroit and Chicago. Otherwise it appears the opposing defenses will continue to use the double-team model, which started against the Jets earlier this season, and slow down Cousins in key spots.
Cousins did add that the Vikings had success on one play against the Patriots where they designed a stop-and-go move to beat double coverage.