EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Quarterbacks -- or at least those who analyze quarterbacks -- talk frequently about the need for passers to have an internal clock, a deadline of sorts by which the ball must be thrown before pass-rushers arrive. That term might be a misnomer, or at least an oversimplification; clocks are mechanical and consistent, ticking along unaffected by the outside world, while a quarterback's circumstances are changed by how well his offensive line is protecting him, what kinds of routes his receivers are running, how skilled they are at getting open, and how capable he is of evading pressure to buy them another split-second.

The Minnesota Vikings' efforts to fine-tune Teddy Bridgewater's quarterbacking approach certainly aren't exclusive to getting him to unload the ball faster. Bridgewater's average time before throwing is 2.56 seconds, just below the average of 2.52, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner said there are times when Bridgewater can miss an option that takes longer to develop if he's fixated on getting rid of the ball too quickly. So when Bridgewater talks about "overthinking," the solution isn't always for him to throw sooner.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
AP Photo/Bill HaberPart of Teddy Bridgewater's development is learning where to throw the ball sooner in the process, according to quarterbacks coach Scott Turner.
Instead, the Vikings are trying to instill something in Bridgewater that should be more helpful in the long run, but is a more fluid concept now. They are trying to get him to solve coverages and recognize their weak points sooner, even if that means realizing the right throw is one that will be open later in the play. And as it goes with most young quarterbacks, getting Bridgewater's internal processor to operate faster will take some work.

"There are times where you can just see, 'Hey, they gave us this look -- get to your next progression,'" Turner said. "For a rookie, it pops up, because things are new. ... Sometimes, if he gets off something too quick, he's too early to another route, and then, it's covered, but it was going to be open if he worked there in the correct timing."

There is no better tool than game action for Bridgewater to learn it, but Turner and Bridgewater have a favorite drill they use to speed up his progressions in practice: During the individual period, Turner will stand behind Bridgewater as he drops back to throw to managers, yelling out which receiver is covered and forcing the quarterback to look to his next read.

"We'll set up spots, work through progressions and just talk through, 'OK, the linebacker took this away,' or, 'The safety was down (toward the line of scrimmage), so you've got to get off this.' As he drops, I'll stand behind and I'll say things, and visually, you get the looks from the scout team in practice."

That's particularly important in a week where Bridgewater will face a Redskins defense that blitzes the quarterback 42.4 percent of the time and sends a defensive back on a blitz more than all but one team in the league. That, inevitably, will lead to some unusual looks for Bridgewater, and his ability to diagnose coverages quickly will be paramount.

"It’s very exotic. You never know what you’re going to get," Bridgewater said. "You just have to continue to know their tendencies and study the film."

As that happens, the Vikings hope Bridgewater will improve at recognizing what he's seeing and trusting himself to exploit it. They feel he's ahead of the curve for a rookie quarterback. But it will take some time before he is a finished product.

"The thing that I've tried to push on him is, 'Don't try to make something happen; just let it happen,'" Turner said. "Just go through your progressions, take the options that are open; don't predetermine, 'I'm going to have this.' I think that's where he's done a nice job when he's been successful. The two-minute drills have been a good thing for him, because he's kind of playing and taking what the defense gives him. We're trying to get him to play in that mindset all the time."
Eight games provide a large enough sample size for even optimists to paint somewhat of a bleak picture of the Chicago Bears going into the bye week.

Still, Bears coach Marc Trestman draws on experience in expressing a belief the 3-5 Bears will “find themselves.”

“These are things that are correctable,” he added. “Our ability to create some turnovers will help us. Our ability to match up better will help us. Our ability to spend some time this week, and I’ve seen this happen over time after a bye week, where teams can find themselves.”

Asked what evidence he sees to make him think the Bears can turn around their season, starting with the club’s Nov. 9 matchup at Green Bay, Trestman said, “It shows up that we can get it done.”

Regardless of what that means, the Bears need to spend the week off fixing myriad problems in every facet of the game. Offensively, Trestman needs to freshen up the attack to feature more diversity, and the team needs to strike a better balance between running and passing. Defensively, the Bears need to sift through the injuries and come up with a suitable lineup. The defense appears to be struggling down the middle, which in turn leads to problems in the secondary.

On special teams, the Bears feature an athletic lineup of speedy, yet inexperienced, mistake-prone players.

“Last year we were 25th or something in third downs going into the bye week. We came out of it and moved up significantly because we had time to look back, make corrections, as coaches do,” Trestman said. “I feel confident we’re going to find our way through this and get back in a position where we are playing more consistently, to where we are playing the kind of game we played against Atlanta that we played against San Francisco. The team has that in them. We’ve just got to put it all together."
The Chicago Bears discussed potential replacements Monday at left guard for Matt Slauson, who suffered a season-ending torn right pectoral muscle in the team’s loss to Green Bay, which means the club’s starting offensive line could be reshuffled when it reconvenes next week at Halas Hall for practice.

"We’ve got a number of guys we can move into that position," Bears coach Marc Trestman said.

Depending on the moves made, the offensive line could look drastically different than the groups the team utilized over the first eight games of the season. The most interesting possibility involves moving starting right tackle Jordan Mills inside at Slauson’s left guard spot.

If that move took place, it would likely mean Michael Ola would stay at Mills’ starting position at right tackle. Ola filled in for Mills during Chicago’s loss at Green Bay as the latter continues to struggle to recover from an offseason foot surgery.

"We can go with Jordan moving into that [left guard] position. We could go with [veteran] Eben [Britton] moving into that position. We’ve got some young guys we’re developing. We’ll see how that goes along the way. But that will be the starting point," Trestman said.

Offensive tackle is Mills' and Britton's natural position. But the club’s decision to consider Mills for Slauson’s spot isn’t an indictment on the second-year veteran’s performance through the first half of the season. Although it’s also no secret Mills struggled in his past two outings prior to missing Sunday’s game at New England.

Trestman said Mills’ potential move is about versatility.

"I think he could fit into any position, I really do," Trestman said. "We’ve had some discussions about it to see what is going to be best for our line with Matt moving out, and we’ll continue to do that. I’m leaving that open-ended. We’ll see where that goes."
MINNEAPOLIS -- There is another award coming for a member of the Minnesota Vikings' defense.

Two days after Anthony Barr was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, defensive end Everson Griffen claimed NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for October, at the end of a four-game stretch where he has recorded six sacks, eight tackles for loss and a forced fumble. It's the first time Griffen has won the award.

We have talked plenty about the emergence of Griffen in the past week or two, but it's a point that bears repeating in light of how much the Vikings appeared to put themselves out on a limb with the five-year, $42.5 million contract they gave him in March. That deal made Griffen one of the league's highest-paid defensive ends, and was a gamble on his ability to produce consistently after four seasons of being a rotational player. So far, the deal looks like a sound investment, and though Griffen has gotten some of his sacks as a result of pressure from other members of the Vikings' defensive line -- as coach Mike Zimmer has pointed out -- he has created plenty of pressure with his quickness off the edge. He's been solid against the run and had some splash plays chasing down screens, as well, and he looks like he will be a key member of the Vikings' defensive line for years to come.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings defensive end Brian Robison played only 40 of the team's 60 defensive snaps on Sunday in Tampa Bay after logging at least 60 in five of the team's previous six games. Robison didn't offer much detail on Monday about what was bothering him, saying only he was dealing with some "bruises."

Now we know. Robison did not practice Wednesday and was listed on the Vikings' injury report with a gluteal injury (which might also explain why the normally forthcoming defensive end didn't want to talk much about it). Considering Robison was able to play two-thirds of the Vikings' snaps on Sunday, the injury seems unlikely to keep him off the field, but the Vikings will have to monitor Robison's health in their final game before their bye week.

Situations such as these are why it's particularly useful for the Vikings to have Corey Wootton, who had 7 1/2 sacks two years ago with the Bears and has proved to be a capable backup for both Robison and Everson Griffen. Wootton played 24 snaps on Sunday, registering three tackles, and if he's asked to take on a larger role on Sunday, the Vikings should be in good hands. Rookie Scott Crichton could also get more work this week after playing eight snaps when Wootton was hurt two weeks ago. He returned to the inactive list last Sunday.

Cornerback Jabari Price missed practice with a lingering hamstring injury and tight end Kyle Rudolph also sat out, though he continued to do some conditioning work on the side as he recovers from sports hernia surgery. Tight end Chase Ford (foot) and cornerback Josh Robinson (ankle) both appeared to be struggling with their injuries in the portion of practice open to the media, and both were limited in practice. Safety Antone Exum (ankle/shoulder) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (ankle/knee) also were limited.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Only three teams have more takeaways than the Green Bay Packers this season, and just two teams have better turnover differentials. In their four-game winning streak that ended with Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Packers had a plus-8 turnover differential. No team was better during that stretch, when they had nine takeaways. Only the New York Giants (with 10) had more.

Halfway through the season, one thing is apparent about the Packers' defense: It survives on takeaways.

And that's not good enough for coach Mike McCarthy.

[+] EnlargeCooks
AP Photo/Bill HaberThe Saints exposed a few holes in the Packers' defense.
Consider what he said moments after the Packers' 44-23 loss to the Saints on Sunday, when the only takeaway his team came up with was a meaningless fumble recovery in the final minutes.

"We need to be more than a football team that just has to rely on winning the turnover ratio," McCarthy said at the time.

Less than 24 hours later, McCarthy used almost the exact same words when discussing the issues facing the Packers' defense during this week's bye.

"We need to be a football team that does more than has to rely on winning the turnover ratio to win," McCarthy said Monday.

And then he added: "This game is about making big plays and taking care of the football, and taking it away. Those are two of the most critical components of it. But to get to where we want to go, we have to overcome when we just don't play right straight to our identity or our format."

Takeaways have been a staple of Dom Capers' defense since he took over as coordinator in 2009. The Packers have more interceptions (124) since Capers took over than any team in the league, and it's not even close. The Patriots have the second most (111). The Packers rank second in turnover margin (plus-70) during Capers' tenure behind only the Patriots (plus-96).

Yet in the nine playoff games since Capers joined McCarthy’s staff, the turnover margin is just plus-4. And in the four postseason games (of which they have won only one) since the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, their turnover differential is zero.

In total takeaways, the Packers have 170 in the 88 regular-season games (an average of 1.93 per game) under Capers. That ranks fourth in the NFL during that span. Yet in the four playoff games since their Super Bowl, they have only six takeaways (1.5 per game).

That tells you that playoff teams, specifically playoff quarterbacks, don't turn the ball over anywhere near as often as the middling and bottom-feeding teams, making it much harder to rely on turnovers to win in the postseason.

And so it was on Sunday against the Saints, who despite their 3-4 record are every bit as dangerous as any offense in the league. Saints quarterback Drew Brees didn't turn the ball over, and the Packers' defense crumbled.

"That has a major influence on it," Capers said of getting takeaways, "but you've got to be efficient in other areas."
LONDON -- Each week, we’ll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.


WR Golden Tate: Tate is second in the NFL among receivers in receptions (55) and third in yards (800) at the halfway point of the season and has really turned into a No. 1B option to Calvin Johnson's No. 1A (when Johnson is healthy). Tate showed it again Sunday against the Falcons when his 59-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter really got Detroit’s comeback going.

RB Theo Riddick: Jim Caldwell said Tuesday that even when Reggie Bush gets healthy, the team is going to have to find ways to get Riddick some touches. Like Joique Bell and Bush, Riddick hasn’t had much success running this season, but he has 149 receiving yards and has shown a penchant for big plays when he’s gotten the opportunity -- including a big screen against Minnesota and two massive catches against Atlanta.

At least a winning season: At 6-2 halfway through the season, a .500 record the rest of the way would give Detroit a 10-6 final record and a potential playoff berth and/or divisional title. And at this point, only a total collapse -- one that would be worse than last season -- would keep the Lions from their second winning record since 2011. For some franchises, this is expected on a yearly basis. For the Lions, it is a rare sight over the past decade and a half.


RB Reggie Bush: If Caldwell is going to get Riddick more carries, that will likely come out of Bush’s total, not Bell’s. Bush and Riddick have similar roles in the offense, and Riddick continues to look like a player who could have an increasing role both this season and in the future. That doesn’t bode well for Bush, who has missed two games this season with an ankle injury and been limited in others.

LB Ashlee Palmer: If the Lions bring Kyle Van Noy off of short-term injured reserve -- and it seems like they will at some point before Detroit faces Miami in Week 10 -- Palmer could see his role in the defense start to decrease. The two had been competing, along with now-middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead, when Van Noy had core muscle surgery, putting him on IR for half the season. Now that he’s back, the Lions will at least work him into the lineup and might eventually have a split like Whitehead and Josh Bynes at middle linebacker.

WR Ryan Broyles/TEs Kellen Davis and Jordan Thompson: Grouping these three together because, as the Lions get healthier on offense during the off week, these three players are the most likely to be phased out of the offense or potentially off the team altogether. When the Lions were healthy, Broyles was a healthy scratch each week and could end up back there again. If Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron all end up healthy by next week, either one or both of Davis and Thompson may no longer be on the roster.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Anthony Barr already got a game ball from coach Mike Zimmer after his game-winning fumble return touchdown on Sunday. Now, he's getting accolades from the NFL.

Barr won NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors on Wednesday, claiming the award for the first time after a game where he recorded eight tackles, a sack and his first forced fumble, which he returned for a touchdown in overtime after ripping it away from Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Barr also had another quarterback hit and broke up a pass in the game. He has recovered three fumbles in the past two weeks.

He is the sixth rookie to win the award in the last 10 seasons, adding his name to a list that is composed of DeMarcus Ware, Clay Matthews, Brian Orakpo, Sean Lee and Luke Kuechly. That's a pretty impressive list for Barr to belong to -- the players on it have been to a combined 15 Pro Bowls -- and it's another sign that the rookie has a chance to move into some rarefied air as a linebacker.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Well that didn't take long. Less than two weeks after Randall Cobb's memorable ketchup-stained Lambeau Leap, it has turned into a marketing boon for the Green Bay Packers receiver.

After Cobb's 3-yard touchdown catch on Oct. 19 against the Carolina Panthers, he did the requisite act of jumping into the stands at Lambeau Field, and a fan's hot dog got in the way. Cobb came out of the stands with ketchup on his jersey.

He joked after the game that he liked hot dogs, even ones covered in ketchup, but "I wasn’t expecting one to get on my shoulder pads, though."
MINNEAPOLIS -- Half a season into Mike Zimmer's first year as the Minnesota Vikings' head coach, the team's defense in the midst of an impressive turnaround.

A group that allowed the most points in the NFL last season has improved to 17th overall, having allowed 173 through eight games. The Vikings fare even better in yards allowed, where they've gone from 31st to ninth, and third-down conversions, where they've improved from 30th to seventh. So far this season, the Vikings have given up a first down on just 36.5 percent of third downs, after failing to get off the field 44.2 percent of the time last year.

After sacking Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon five times on Sunday, the Vikings now have 25 sacks, which ties them with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the second-most in the league (last season, they tied for 13th overall with 41 sacks). Linebacker Anthony Barr leads all rookies with three sacks, defensive tackles Tom Johnson (five sacks) and Sharrif Floyd (three) have already hit career highs, and defensive end Everson Griffen is third in the league with eight sacks. Safety Harrison Smith is tied for third in the league with three interceptions.

Zimmer has shown little interest in comparing his defense to what the Vikings did last year and has maintained he came to Minnesota with no expectations of how good the group could be. He said he typically doesn't even look at statistics for another month, when there's a larger body of work.

"Talk to me at the end of the season and I’ll tell you what I think," Zimmer said. "There’s a long way to go. I never look at defensive rankings or anything like that until at least Thanksgiving. I think by then you kind of know what you are. I hope we can get better than what we are now."

But after what the Vikings had last year -- an often toothless unit that blew five last-minute leads and couldn't stop drives when it had to -- it's striking to look at how much the group has improved this year. With so many key players (Griffen, Floyd, Linval Joseph, Barr, Xavier Rhodes, Smith) all 26 or under, there's plenty of reason for optimism about the team's defensive foundation.
MINNEAPOLIS -- It might be in part because of the quarterbacks he's facing, but Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is getting more comfortable turning up the heat on opposing quarterbacks.

Zimmer ordered 16 blitzes of Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon in the Vikings' 19-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That's the most he's blitzed all season, up from 13 the week before against Buffalo and 11 against Detroit. The last three games represent three of the Vikings' four highest blitz totals of the season, and in a game controlled by their defensive front, they were effective when bringing extra pressure.

They registered two of their five sacks on blitzes, intercepted Glennon once and held him to 5.69 yards per dropback on blitzes. The Vikings also exemplified the selfless rush concept Zimmer has been preaching; Sharrif Floyd's second-quarter sack came after Glennon was flushed by Anthony Barr and Tom Johnson, and on the next play, Everson Griffen took Glennon down after Floyd's initial pressure.

"I like the way they’ve played the last three weeks," Zimmer said of the defensive line. "Again, talk to me at the end of the season and I’ll tell you what I think. There’s a long way to go. I never look at defensive rankings or anything like that until at least Thanksgiving. I think by then you kind of know what you are. I hope we can get better than what we are now."

Here are some other observations about the Vikings' defense after a film review of their win over the Buccaneers:
  • Zimmer sent Barr on 11 of his 16 blitzes and unveiled some new looks to pressure Glennon. On one third-quarter blitz, both Floyd and Johnson dropped into coverage, while Barr and Smith came after the quarterback.
  • Griffen was at his most disruptive again Sunday, whether he was showing his quickness off the edge, taking an inside rush lane off the stunts with Floyd, peeling off a block to take down Robert Herron on a reverse or ripping down Doug Martin with one hand on a screen. The 26-year-old is an exponentially better fit for Zimmer's defense than a player like Jared Allen; he can move around, drop into coverage and take away the edge with his power and speed.
  • Barr talked about how he's getting more comfortable in pass coverage, and though he was trailing Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the Buccaneers' fourth-quarter touchdown and got crossed up on a throw to Bobby Rainey earlier in the fourth, he had some nice moments in zone coverage, working with Harrison Smith and either Captain Munnerlyn or Josh Robinson to take away options on the left side of the field.
  • If there's one nitpick, it's with Xavier Rhodes, who got flagged for two penalties, including an illegal contact call that was declined after Mike Evans beat him for 23 yards. We looked earlier today at the Vikings' penalties late in Sunday's game, and Rhodes is still getting in trouble at times when he carries contact too far up the field. On his illegal contact call in the third quarter, he started jamming Evans about three yards off the line of scrimmage but stayed in contact with him for nearly another 10.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints dropped the Green Bay Packers one game behind the Detroit Lions in the NFC North at the midway point of the season, and now they're also looking up at their division rival in the ESPN Power Rankings.

In the latest rankings released on Tuesday, the Packers slipped one spot to No. 7, while the Lions moved up four spots to No. 6. Three weeks ago, Detroit was way back in 14th.

What is apparent at this point is the separation between the top-two and the bottom-two team in the NFC North. Consider where the four division teams were in the latest ESPN rankings and their records:
  • 6. Lions (6-2)
  • 7. Packers (5-3)
  • 23. Bears (3-5)
  • 25.Vikings (3-5)

The Packers also slipped to fifth among NFC teams behind the Cardinals (No. 2), Cowboys (No. 4), Eagles (No. 4) and Lions. Last week, the Packers were fourth among NFC teams.

Click here for the full ESPN Power Rankings and see my ballot below.

Rob Demovsky's rankings
1. Broncos
2. Patriots
3. Cowboys
4. Cardinals
5. Eagles
6. Colts
7. Packers
8. Lions
9. Steelers
10. Bengals
11. Ravens
12. Bills
13. Seahawks
14. Chargers
15. 49ers
16. Chiefs
17. Saints
18. Panthers
19. Texans
20. Dolphins
21. Browns
22. Bears
23. Giants
24. Vikings
25. Rams
26. Falcons
27. Redskins
28. Titans
29. Buccaneers
30. Jaguars
31. Jets
32. Raiders
LONDON – Nick Fairley stood in a back corner at the Pennyhill Park Hotel in England on Thursday morning and talked about how he felt he was finally in the best shape of his career.

At the time he admitted that yes, sometimes he wonders what might have been if he had gotten in shape earlier in his Detroit Lions career. He tried, he said, not to let it bother him.

Now, it might haunt him for a long time.

[+] EnlargeNick Fairley
AP Photo/Ann HeisenfeltNick Fairley has been a force this season, but will his injury cost him a future in Detroit?
Fairley is out for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time after suffering a knee injury against Atlanta -- an injury that left Jim Caldwell “not certain” whether Fairley will be able to return this year. So depending what the Lions choose to do with the defensive tackle in the offseason, there’s a chance Fairley might have played the last snaps of his Detroit career.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and Caldwell were going to have a tough decision to make on Fairley even if he had been healthy the entire season and continued to play at his optimal weight.

He had been a disruptive force in the middle opposite Ndamukong Suh this season, forcing offensive lines to account for both of the first-round defensive tackles as potential game-changing players. He also had appeared to be much happier with his play, often smiling when talking about his consistency.

Even Mayhew was praising how Fairley worked to get into the shape he has and the seriousness he has approached this season with.

Now, it is a season in jeopardy and depending on his rehab and what the Lions thought of what they saw, it makes the upcoming decision of trying to re-sign him or not both tougher and easier.

The easy, obvious decision would be to part ways with Fairley if he wants a decent-sized contract. In this, his contract year, he gave them seven consecutive games of consistent, high-level play. For his career, though, he has been disruptive one game and disappeared the next. He has not played 16 games in a season, either -- another concern for a long-term deal.

But the tougher decision comes because of what Fairley could still do if he is able to stay healthy. Fairley himself said he hoped he was still in the beginning stages of a long career. The injury could actually bring the team to a prove-it, short-term deal -- especially if Suh leaves during free agency and Fairley ends up not being able to return in 2014.

If a short-term deal can’t be reached at some point, Fairley’s injury might seal Detroit’s decision to move on from the mammoth defensive tackle who has potential but has never been able to reach it.

The one caveat here could be if Fairley is able to rehab well enough to come back and continue his consistent play by the end of the season. That might be the outlet for showing that even when he isn’t able to play, he can remain in shape and can continue to be effective. That maybe he truly has learned to monitor himself when it comes to his weight and then could be worth taking a chance on.

Either way, the injury leaves the Lions -- and Lions fans -- wondering this: Is Fairley a classic case of a player who decided to show up only once money and his career were on the line, or is he a player who just finally started to understand everything and put it together for a consistent career going forward?

Mayhew and Caldwell have to weigh which one fits Fairley more and how he could fit within Detroit’s scheme in the future. And they will have a half-season of healthy work, as of now, to make that judgment.

Based on the evidence of inconsistency prior to the 2014 season, the Lions may have their answer. If they can’t get Fairley to sign a short-term deal that could be beneficial to both sides and also provide Fairley the continued motivation he had this season, it might be time to move on without him.

The Film Don't Lie: Lions

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
A weekly look at what the Detroit Lions must fix:

The Lions must use their off week to try to find a way to revitalize their offense in the first halves of games. Detroit scored only three points combined in the first halves against New Orleans and Atlanta, while allowing 31. This is a massive change from the first six games, when the Lions didn’t allow 10 points in any first half. And while Detroit came back to win both of those games, it is playing a dangerous game by falling into large deficits.

So how does Detroit spend the off week trying to fix this before facing the Dolphins on Nov. 9? Simple. Get healthy. This will be a much more dynamic offense with a healthier Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, Eric Ebron, Joseph Fauria, Brandon Pettigrew and LaAdrian Waddle. All of those players have missed at least one game -- including the Atlanta game at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

The fact that the Lions are 6-2 at the midway point of the season is kind of remarkable considering the injuries they have had on offense. The Lions have been able to better absorb injuries on defense, but they need their offense to come to form to be strong in the second half of the season.

The Film Don't Lie: Vikings

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
A weekly look at what the Minnesota Vikings must fix:

It wound up a moot point, considering what the Vikings' two first-round picks (Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr) did this past Sunday to turn a late-game collapse into a victory in Tampa Bay. But as the Vikings try to curtail one of the league's most proficient passing offenses in the Washington Redskins on Sunday, their young corners will have to be better about covering receivers without getting penalized.

Second-year man Xavier Rhodes and third-year cornerback Josh Robinson were flagged for a combined three penalties Sunday, including on back-to-back plays on Tampa Bay's touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Rhodes put his hands on Mike Evans and carried him too far downfield, thereby earning a defensive holding penalty the Buccaneers declined after Evans caught a 23-yard pass. After Rhodes spent some time pleading his case to side judge Jeff Lamberth, Robinson was called for a 9-yard pass interference penalty when he got too physical with Evans and shoved him to the ground with his right hand while Evans tried to turn for a pass.

Rhodes' eight penalties tie him for third most in the league this season, and he in particular seems to be learning how to play the position without crossing a line. He'll face a group of Redskins receivers who average a league-leading 6.83 yards after the catch, according to ESPN Stats and Information, so it stands to reason Rhodes won't want to give them too many free releases Sunday. His penalties are products of aggressiveness, but he's still learning how to take away catches through his positioning -- and not completely through his physical handling of receivers.