By Tim Graham
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Buffalo Bills defense gave up a frightening amount of chunk-yardage plays to the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night at Mall of America Field.
Seven Vikings offensive players had at least one gain of at least 21 yards.
On just three series, the Vikings' starters posted plays of 21, 33, 16, 19 and 35 yards. And star running back Adrian Peterson didn't play.
Let's take a look at the big gains the Bills surrendered and the down and distance on each. Many of these big gains happened in the middle of the field and in what should have been highly favorable situations for the defense.
* Percy Harvin, 21-yard catch and run: Short Christian Ponder toss to the right at line of scrimmage (second-and-8).
* Jerome Simpson, 35-yard catch and run: Short Ponder toss to the left (second-and-13).
* Toby Gerhart, 16-yard run: Handoff up the middle (second-and-18).
* Gerhart, 19-yard catch and run: Short Ponder toss over the middle (second-and-4).
* Michael Jenkins, 35-yard reception: Long Ponder pass down right sideline (second-and-13).
(Bills, Vikings starters out)
* Joe Webb, 41-yard run: Scramble to the right (third-and-8).
* Stephen Burton, 26-yard reception: Long Webb pass down the middle (second-and-10).
* Webb, 23-yard run: Scramble to the right (first-and-10).
* Allen Reisner, 18-yard catch and run: Short Webb pass to the right (second-and-1).
* Matt Asiata, 22-yard run: Off right guard (second-and-10).
* Emmanuel Arceneaux, 48-yard reception: Deep Sage Rosenfels pass down the middle (first-and-10).
Buffalo surrendered 11 plays of at least 16 yards. At least eight of those chunk plays came against Buffalo's first- and second-units, which is disconcerting. One of the biggest sources of excitement this summer has been over how supposedly deep the defense is.
Some problems were with coverage, some with lack of pressure up front, some with missed tackles. Those elements work off each another.
Perhaps even more alarming are the situations in which Minnesota was able to thrive so wildly. Eight of those big Minnesota gains came on second down and one more on third. That's a damning number for nickel and dime packages.
Of the second-down plays, the average distance Minnesota needed for a first down was 9.6 yards.