The Vikings found themselves leading 14-3 with 9:45 remaining in the second quarter. Carolina once again stalled at midfield and turned to their punt unit.. No doubt they had received a thorough tongue-lashing from their special teams coach after the previous block. Hopefully for the visitors, they would provide greater protection for Nortman in this instance.
Shown below, the Panther unit once again sets up in “punt spread” on the 50-yard line:
Minnesota reprises their eight-man formation along the line of scrimmage. However, they present a different alignment than on the previous punt. Instead of putting pressure on the A-gaps, the right side of the line appears tightly packed, with four players bunched closely. On the left side of the line, the Vikings are significantly more spread out. Two Vikings, Everson Griffen (#97) and Tom Johnson (#92), cover the Panther guard and tackle. A third, Jasper Brinkley (#54) aligns outside the shoulder of the end. The fourth and final Viking on this side, Brian Robison (#96), sets up in a wide 9 technique… or maybe a 13.
By setting up with splits this wide, Minnesota looks to trick the Panthers into one of two reactions: chasing Robison outside or sticking on Thompson inside. By the book, the Panther end should attempt to pick up Robison, with the tackle sliding out slightly to block Brinkley, while the guard should match up with Thomson. Carolina’s personal protector should pick up the Griffen as he comes through the A-gap.
On the snap, the Panthers initially react well:
The end has his eyes on Robison, watching him while maintaining his lane. Circled in red, tackle Ben Jacobs (#53) is midway between Brinkley and Thomson. Inside, the personal protector has good position to fill the A-gap. The left side of the line looks very solid at this point as well.
However, on closer examination, a small gap forms between Jacobs and the Panther end. Indicated by the yellow arrow, Brinkley has a small crevice to work with.
As the play continues, Carolina’s protection breaks down due to one costly miscue:
The Panther end is still focused on Robison coming wide. He has slid out of his lane by about a foot, opening up the gap in the line. At the same time, Jacobs engages Thomson. Brinkley is now even with Jacobs and moving past him with a full head of steam. The rest of the line is actually holding up very well, with no leakage at any other points. But Jacobs’s error will prove to be critical:
Circled in red, Jacobs makes one last lunge to his right, trying to get a hand on Brinkley. He is too late, and nearly falls over as he whiffs completely. Brinkley now matches up one-on-one with Nortman, who has flashbacks to 30 minutes earlier:
Brinkley blocks the ball easily, deflecting it to his right. After coming off his man, Griffen sees the ball on the ground, scoops it up, and heads down the right sideline for an uncontested touchdown.
Minnesota’s 2014 season has been uninspiring in a number of ways. However, against the Panthers their special teams gave their fans two distinctive highlight-reel plays to remember. All celebrations must end at some point, but the Vikings block party provided plenty of entertainment for a Sunday afternoon.
All video and images courtesy the NFL and NFL Game Rewind.
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