Despite the firing of defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, Minnesota Vikings veteran Patrick Peterson believes the defense should not stray far off its direction under Donatell.
The Vikings fired Donatell last week after Minnesota gave up 400 or more yards for the 10th and final time in a postseason loss to the New York Giants – the third-most 400-plus yard games surrendered in NFL history by a team that made the playoffs.
However, Peterson took no issue with the 3-4 scheme that rarely challenged offenses late in the season. He blamed the execution and admitted he was “shocked” Donatell was fired.
“I was shocked to see that they moved on from Coach Ed,” Peterson said on a January 25 episode of the All Things Covered podcast, “It’s just unfortunate that they had to make that change just after one year. Coach Ed is such a great human being, has a great connection with the players. I just love the way he communicates with his players.
“I love his scheme. Just unfortunate that we didn’t perform better. Because it’s proven that the scheme works. The scheme is phenomenal,” Peterson added.
Despite their shortcomings in executing the scheme, Peterson believes Minnesota needs to stick with the scheme.
“I think it has to be a 3-4 scheme. Just aggressive. Being aggressive, forcing offenses to change their hand. Being more of the defense that’s pressing the issue versus sitting back and relaxing,” Peterson said.
Vikings Struggling Pass Rush the Culprit of Late Season Collapse, Patrick Peterson Says
While the defense was porous almost entirely the whole season, it was opportunistic in the first half of the season, forcing 18 turnovers in the first nine games. In their final nine games, Minnesota forced just seven turnovers.
Peterson attributed this to the defense’s struggles to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
“Our scheme is just so based off of getting pressure with our front four,” Peterson said. “If you go back and look, the first eight [weeks] we was getting off on the quarterback. We wasn’t blitzing at all. We was giving up chunks because we was in much more of a zone defense for the most part.”
The Vikings enjoyed a 9-1 start to the season to the tune of 25 sacks. They tallied just 13 sacks over the final eight games (including the playoffs). Za’Darius Smith was a signal of the pass rush’s collapse, tallying 10 sacks in the first nine games before only getting to the quarterback once more the rest of the season.
Opposing teams began adding tight ends and running backs to their pass protection and allowed quarterbacks more time to find receivers finding the soft spots in the Vikings zone coverage.
“Once teams started getting in that max-protection look and it was hard for us to kind of change our identity on the back end, that’s when we wasn’t getting as much pressure as we needed to the quarterback to make the defense that much more successful,” Peterson said.
The Vikings are considering all avenues at improving the defense, interviewing coordinators who have experienced in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes.
Peterson added that the scheme allowed him to read the quarterback more and secure a team-high five interceptions. He allowed a 66.8 passer rating when targeted and his 16.1 snaps per reception was No. 1 among starting cornerbacks in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.
Patrick Peterson Would Like to Return to the Vikings
A pending free agent for a third consecutive season, Peterson expressed his desire to return to Minnesota in a January 19 episode of the All Things Covered podcast.
“No doubt about it. I would love to be in that purple and gold again and give it a run again,” he said. “It’s just amazing, man. I truly believe, it felt like home to me. It felt like it was a place that I belong.
“I feel like the future is very bright,” Peterson said. “Those guys were able to build and establish their brand right out of the gate. Now they set the standard for themselves.”