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In a tumultuous third season in the NFL, Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil has encountered problems in a number of different forms. In Sunday's 24-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers, those problems came largely through penalties.
Kalil was flagged three times for 35 yards -- twice for holding and once for a face mask personal foul. His face mask penalty came on a first down from the Packers' 23, on a drive that wound up leading to a Blair Walsh field goal. His first holding penalty was on the first play of the second half, after the Vikings had started their drive with good field position and Jerick McKinnon ran for seven yards to the Packers' 46. Instead of a second-and-3, the Vikings had a first-and-18, and they wound up punting the ball away.
"Honestly, it was hard for me to see [how he did]," coach Mike Zimmer said. "The times when I was watching, though, he seemed to be doing OK, but my eyes are looking at their coverage and the blitzes they're doing and Teddy [Bridgewater]. It's real hard for me to say without focusing in and having a real honest opinion."
The left tackle got beat by linebacker Jayrone Elliott on the play after his facemask, when Bridgewater threw to McKinnon for a 2-yard loss on a screen, and was part of a Vikings line that allowed Bridgewater to be pressured on 34.1 percent of his dropbacks on Sunday. He blew past four reporters in the locker room on Sunday, and by Sunday evening, his Twitter account, which Kalil said last week he hadn't checked in months, had disappeared.
Considering Kalil's coaches have expressed concern in the past about the left tackle beating himself up too much, it's tough to imagine his confidence level is terribly high right now. The Vikings haven't tried alternatives to the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, and considering the health of their offensive line -- Mike Harris had to take over at right tackle after Phil Loadholt injured his shoulder on Sunday -- they don't have many options other than to keep putting Kalil out there and hoping he'll turn a corner. He got a day off on Friday with what Zimmer termed a "minor aggravation" to his surgically-repaired knee, and perhaps we'll find out in time the injury is bothering Kalil more than he's let on.
He's been penalized eight times this season now, though, and that total is tied for the seventh highest in the NFL. On Sunday, Kalil's penalties were his biggest black mark, and a couple of them came at costly moments for the Vikings' chances to win the game.
In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
Teddy Bridgewater threw off-target six times in the first half on Sunday -- largely because of jitters, he said -- and we took a look at the quarterback's struggles early in games this season.
Zimmer's game plan did well to slow down the red-hot Packers offense, and after the game, Aaron Rodgers called the Vikings coach a "great football mind."
Our Rapid Reaction broke down the meaning of Sunday's game at TCF Bank Stadium.
Cordarrelle Patterson said he doesn't want to stop returning kicks because of a couple injuries.
ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and I handed out our game balls to Eddie Lacy and Xavier Rhodes after Sunday's game.
Zimmer believes Adrian Peterson wants to return to the Vikings once he's reinstated from his suspension, ESPN's Ed Werder reports.
Best of the rest:
Kalil's struggles are becoming a big problem for the Vikings, writes Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The Vikings' defense showed some backbone against a quarterback who has tormented them like few others, according to Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com.
Receiver Charles Johnson continued to emerge as an unlikely contributor for the Vikings, writes Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.