Half empty: Vikings offense dissects post-halftime problems

Wed Oct 13 6:04pm ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer

Related photo caption below

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) catches a pass ahead of Detroit Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye (24) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)


Related photo caption below

Detroit Lions outside linebacker Charles Harris (53) pressures Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)


Related photo caption below

Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison runs from Detroit Lions safety Will Harris, left, during a 15-yard touchdown reception during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)


EAGAN, Minn. (AP) The bye week is usually when coaches around the NFL dive deep into strategic evaluation and reassessment they can put to good use over the remainder of the season.

Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer gave his offensive staff an early homework assignment. The Vikings have been frequently stalled after halftime, a troubling pattern they're trying to prevent from becoming a trend.

''I gave the coaches a lot of projects to do this week,'' said Zimmer, who requested a dissection of each possession in the second half this season to identify potential problems and telling tendencies on particular down-and-distance situations or other recurring circumstances.

The Vikings (2-3) play at Carolina this week, before their break.

''I just felt like it was important to figure out what's going on here,'' Zimmer said.

The Vikings have only 42 points after halftime, including overtime, in five games. That's tied for the fourth-fewest in the league. Over the last four weeks, the offense has failed to score a touchdown in the second half. The Vikings managed to gain a split during that stretch, but they're going to have to be more productive with the ball in the later stages of games to catch up in the NFC.

''I think it's a combination of things, but certainly there has been good production early in games and so there's no reason to think you couldn't be that productive to start the second or in the second half,'' quarterback Kirk Cousins said. ''We've got to find a way to make that happen.''

During the 19-17 victory over Detroit last week, the defense used an interception and three straight punts to give the ball back to the offense, but that stout series of efforts yielded only a 55-yard field goal by Greg Joseph.

The primary score-limiting culprits were: two first-down sacks of Cousins; an illegal block penalty on tight end Chris Herndon that wiped out a chains-moving run by Alexander Mattison on third down; an interception after a pass by Cousins bounced off K.J. Osborn when the wide receiver wasn't looking for the ball; and a persistence of running plays called by offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak on second-and-long. Zimmer said he only thought Kubiak was too conservative on one drive.

In the end, though, with 37 seconds and two timeouts left, all Cousins needed was three completions for 46 yards - two to Adam Thielen - to set up Joseph's 54-yard winner. Cousins directed a similar drive in the opener at Cincinnati for the tying field goal that sent the game to overtime and again the following week at Arizona when Joseph missed a 37-yard try on the final play. In all three of those games, the hurry-up offense was plenty productive enough to win.

''Just give him a clean pocket, and he's going to get us down there,'' running back Dalvin Cook said.

The offensive line did just that when it counted last week.

''No one hesitated, Coach Kubiak got us in the right play calls, and Adam made two phenomenal catches in those last three plays, and obviously Greg had the unbelievable kick,'' enter Garrett Bradbury said. ''You don't want to put yourself in that position. There's things that we can do differently to change that, but with the hands that were dealt, I think that's the positive.''

Top Headlines
The Paur Report

RTSports Weekly: Week 6

Player Notes
Darius Slayton Oct 24 12:10pm ET
Darius Slayton

New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (calf) and wide receivers Darius Slayton (hamstring) and John Ross (hamstring), who were all listed as questionable, are active in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers. Engram and Slayton could have very big roles in the passing game with receivers Kenny Golladay (knee), Kadarius Toney (ankle) and Sterling Shepard (hamstring) all out on Sunday. Slayton is returning after a three-week absence, though, so he'll still be hard to trust in fantasy, even as a deep-league flex play. Dante Pettis saw a much bigger workload last week with Golladay and Toney out, and Collin Johnson and Ross should also be involved as well. Engram will be a low-end TE1 play with upside with so many of New York's offensive weapons on the shelf.

From RotoBaller

Tyreek Hill Oct 24 12:10pm ET
Tyreek Hill

As expected, the Kansas City Chiefs will have wide receiver Tyreek Hill (quad) and tight end Travis Kelce (neck) for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans. With the Titans missing multiple pieces in the secondary, this should be a strong game for the Chiefs passing attack. Even with the injury concerns, fantasy managers should fire Hill and Kelce up as a WR1 and TE1, respectively.

From RotoBaller

DeVante Parker Oct 24 12:00pm ET
DeVante Parker

Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring) is inactive for Sunday's contest against the Atlanta Falcons. He last played in Week 4 against the Colts. With Parker out, look for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to focus on wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and tight end Mike Gesicki against a weak Falcons secondary. Gesicki had 115 yards last week against Jaguars and should be a strong DFS play on this slate.

From RotoBaller

Rhamondre Stevenson Oct 24 12:00pm ET
Rhamondre Stevenson

New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson is a healthy scratch again in Week 7, returning to the inactive list after playing for the past two weeks. Considering Stevenson had eight touches, a touchdown, and a 33 percent snap rate last week, him returning to Bill Belichick's doghouse is a bit of a surprise. Damien Harris is the only running back in New England worth anything when it comes to fantasy right now.

From RotoBaller

Sterling Shepard Oct 24 12:00pm ET
Sterling Shepard

New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (hamstring) has been ruled out for the Week 7 contest against the Carolina Panthers. He'll be joining running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and receivers Kenny Golladay (knee) and Kadarius Toney (ankle), who were ruled out on Friday, on the sidelines. The good news is that tight end Evan Engram (calf) and receivers Darius Slayton (hamstring) and John Ross (hamstring) will play, but the Giants offense will be missing their best weapons. It will be Shepard's third missed game of the season with his hamstring injury. Slayton will be returning after three straight missed games, so there's no guarantee he'll be the top receiving option in his first game back. Dante Pettis and Collin Johnson figure to be involved in three-receiver sets as well.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Gibson Oct 24 11:50am ET
Antonio Gibson

Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson (shin) is active, as expected, in Week 7 against the Green Bay Packers. Cornerback William Jackson III (knee) is out, so Washington's corner depth will be shaky against the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Gibson has been playing through a hairline fracture in his shin the last couple weeks, although he did see only 10 carries in the Week 6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Consider him more of an RB2 than RB1 this week, especially since backup and pass-catching back J.D. McKissic could see more run if Washington is playing catchup against a strong Green Bay offense for much of the day.

From RotoBaller

Tevin Coleman Oct 24 11:50am ET
Tevin Coleman

New York Jets running back Tevin Coleman (hamstring) is inactive for Sunday's Week 7 contest against the New England Patriots. He's joined on the inactive list by tight end Tyler Kroft and wide receiver Jeff Smith. With Coleman out, there should be a few more snaps available for Michael Carter, but Coleman only played five offensive snaps in Week 5 against Atlanta, so his absence doesn't really move the needle here.

From RotoBaller

Preston Smith Oct 24 11:50am ET
Preston Smith

Green Bay Packers linebacker Preston Smith (oblique) and cornerback Kevin King (shoulder) are out for the Week 7 battle against the Washington Football Team on Sunday. Smith will break his consecutive games played streak at 102 after suffering an oblique injury in last week's win over the Chicago Bears. King will be missing his second straight game with his shoulder injury. Eric Stokes, Chandon Sullivan and Rasul Douglas will once again serve as Green Bay's starting corners on Sunday. Green Bay's defense loses a little luster with Smith out of the lineup, but they're still on the streaming radar for this weekend against Washington.

From RotoBaller

John Ross Oct 24 11:33am ET
John Ross

New York Giants WR John Ross (hamstring) is expected to play in Week 7's game against the Carolina Panthers, barring a pre-game setback, according to a source.

Fantasy Spin: Ross had been listed as questionable on the injury report after participating in two of the team's three practice sessions this week on a limited basis. Although he had a good performance in Week 4's game versus the New Orleans Saints, he has not done much otherwise and can be avoided in most fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Tevin Coleman Oct 24 11:33am ET
Tevin Coleman

The New York Jets have declared S Adrian Colbert, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Jeff Smith, DT Jonathan Marshall, LB C.J. Mosley and TE Tyler Kroft inactive for Week 7.

From TheHuddle

Preston Smith Oct 24 11:33am ET
Preston Smith

The Green Bay Packers have declared DT Jack Heflin, OT Dennis Kelly, LB Preston Smith, S Vernon Scott and CB Kevin King inactive for Week 7.

From TheHuddle

Chris Carson Oct 24 11:30am ET
Chris Carson

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said there is no ETA on when running back Chris Carson (neck) might return from Injured Reserve, but he said Carson is workout out hard and is conditioning to be ready if/when he can return. Carson remains on IR and isn't eligible to return until Week 10 against the Green Bay Packers, and there's nothing to currently suggest that he'll make that timetable. Alex Collins has operated as the team's primary back in the last two games with Carson sidelined, but Rashaad Penny (calf) is returning from IR this week and figures to have a role alongside DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer. Collins remains the best bet for fantasy production as a touchdown-dependent RB2/3, but this backfield will be tougher to predict with Penny now in the fold.

From RotoBaller

D'Wayne Eskridge Oct 24 11:30am ET
D'Wayne Eskridge

Seattle Seahawks rookie wide receiver Dee Eskridge (concussion) was out of the area this week getting more tests done and currently has no timetable to return from his head injury, according to head coach Pete Carroll. Eskridge caught his only target for six yards and had two carries in the season opener for 22 yards before suffering a concussion, and he hasn't played since. The 24-year-old appears to have a pretty serious concussion and remains on Injured Reserve, so he doesn't appear close to returning anytime soon. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett remain Seattle's dynamic one-two punch at receiver, with Freddie Swain serving as the No. 3. But until quarterback Russell Wilson (finger) returns (possibly in Week 10), Seattle's passing attack will be hindered with backup Geno Smith under center.

From RotoBaller

Alex Collins Oct 24 11:20am ET
Alex Collins

Seattle Seahawks running back Alex Collins (groin), who is listed as questionable for Week 7 against the New Orleans Saints, is expected to play on Monday night, according to head coach Pete Carroll. Collins returned to practice on Saturday after missing practice on Thursday and Friday and looked good. The 27-year-old has functioned as Seattle's primary early down back with Chris Carson (neck) on Injured Reserve the last two weeks, carrying the ball 35 times for 148 yards and one touchdown. DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer have served in change-of-pace roles, but Rashaad Penny (calf) has returned from his own IR stint and is expected to play on Monday night, which will likely cut into Collins' workload a bit. The Saints have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to RBs in the last three weeks, but they've only allowed 130 rushing yards in their last two games combined. Collins will be on the RB2/3 borderline and will probably need a touchdown to return solid value.

From RotoBaller

Deonte Harris Oct 24 11:20am ET
Deonte Harris

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (concussion) and wide receiver Deonte Harris (hamstring) have been ruled out for the Monday night game in Week 7 against the Seattle Seahawks. With Hill and Harris out, it will mean more red-zone opportunities for the likes of running back Alvin Kamara, wide receiver Marquez Callaway and tight end Juwan Johnson against Seattle. Hill has operated as the backup to Jameis Winston this year, but he's been a successful goal-line weapon for New Orleans with three rushing touchdowns on only 16 attempts through five games. Callaway will be the team's top receiving threat, while Kenny Stills should also have an expanded role in the passing attack with Harris sidelined after getting injured before the Week 6 bye.

From RotoBaller

Allen Robinson Oct 24 11:13am ET
Allen Robinson

Chicago Bears WR Allen Robinson (ankle) will play in Week 7's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to a source.

Fantasy Spin: Robinson had been listed as questionable on the injury report after logging two limited practice sessions during the week. Although he has had a disappointing season from a fantasy standpoint, he should see plenty of targets this afternoon, making him worthy of consideration as a flex option in most leagues.

From TheHuddle

Saquon Barkley Oct 24 11:13am ET
Saquon Barkley

New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley (ankle) has an outside chance to play in the Week 8 game but is more likely to return for the Week 9 game, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players can monitor Barkley's practice participation next week to see if he will be able to play in Week 8. Barkley is a weekly starting option when healthy.

From TheHuddle

Darren Waller Oct 24 11:13am ET
Darren Waller

Las Vegas Raiders TE Darren Waller (ankle) 'doesn't feel great' after being added to the injury report because of an ankle issue Saturday, Oct. 23. The team will not know until pregame warmups if he will be able to play in Week 7's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Fantasy Spin: Waller makes a risky fantasy option this week because the Las Vegas-Philadelphia game will not get underway until late Sunday afternoon, which would leave owners with few alternatives if he is declared inactive for Week 7. When healthy, he should be viewed as a must-start option in all fantasy formats.

From TheHuddle

DeVante Parker Oct 24 10:33am ET
DeVante Parker

Miami Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (shoulder, hamstring) appears to be facing an uphill battle to play in Week 7's game against the Atlanta Falcons, according to a source.

Fantasy Spin: Parker had been listed as questionable on the injury report after being a limited participant in all three of the team's practice sessions throughout the week. If he is declared active for the game, he could be viewed as a flex option in fantasy leagues, although owners should have alternatives available in the event that he misses this afternoon's contest.

From TheHuddle

Jared Goff Oct 24 10:13am ET
Jared Goff

Detroit Lions QB Jared Goff is not in danger of losing his job as the team's starting quarterback to QB David Blough, according to multiple sources.

Fantasy Spin: Goff has only thrown two touchdown passes in his last four games and has not reached the 300-yard passing mark since the season opener. With few offensive playmakers on the roster, he should be avoided in most fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle