Anatomy of a Play: Minnesota's mid-game adjustment

Including Week 1's Adrian Peterson beast run and Week 4's Brett Favre-to-Greg Lewis game-winner, this week's Favre-to-Sidney Rice bomb is an NFL-high third Anatomy of a Play segment on any one team.

Leading the league in Anatomies is no fluke. You need to be a good team that makes big plays, and the Vikings are certainly that.

Minnesota has Pro Bowl-caliber players making impact plays in every phase of the game. They have the best running back in the league, one of the best defenses in the league, and an outstanding return game.

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Having great players is often the path to getting the Anatomy treatment, but this week the Vikings earned it with a mid-game coaching adjustment.

On second-and-4 in the second quarter, Minnesota called a naked bootleg. Favre faked a handoff to Peterson and rolled to his right, looking to throw an underneath route to Visanthe Shiancoe.

Rice was the lone wide receiver to the right and ran a comeback route. On a comeback, the receiver sprints downfield 15 yards, stops as quickly as possible, and breaks to the outside while coming back toward the line of scrimmage.

Favre, Rice and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell noticed the way the Ravens chose to cover the route combination, and Rice's route in particular. The Ravens played quarters coverage, with their safeties aggressively attacking the run first and then reacting to crossing routes if it was a pass.

Because of the quarters, Rice was matched in single coverage on his comeback. The cornerback guarded him tightly, with outside leverage, virtually eliminating the route.

Favre wisely chose to hold the ball and took a two yard sack. On the sideline after the play, Favre, Rice and Bevell discussed a route adjustment that would pay off late in the fourth quarter.

They decided that if Rice got the same coverage, in the same situation, that he should run a deep, skinny post instead of his usual comeback.

After the Ravens scored to take a 31-30 lead, the Vikings needed to get into field goal range, and had just over three minutes to get there.

Bevell called another naked bootleg. The Ravens again played quarters coverage, and corner Frank Walker played tight on Rice, with outside leverage.

Rice made the adjustment and ran the skinny post. He beat Walker and induced a pass interference call that would have given the Vikings a 50-plus yard penalty.

But penalties don't earn the Anatomy treatment. Favre loaded up the cannon and threw a 63-yard bomb to Rice, who caught the ball despite the interference.

Four downs later, the Vikings kicked the game-winning field goal and improved to 6-0. If the adjustment hadn't been made by Rice, Favre and Bevell, who knows, Minnesota might be 5-1.

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