Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions Preview

Minnesota Vikings v Cleveland Browns

First, some observations from the win over the Cleveland Browns last week:

Adrian Peterson continues to improve, which is, you know, amazing that such a thing is possible. His 64 yard touchdown run was the best run I’ve seen thus far from him: Speed, power, vision, acceleration from a dead stop. Amazing. With 198 yards from scrimmage in his first game of the season, Peterson has set the tone for a possible league MVP season.

Percy Harvin has a lot more football savvy than we should be allowed to expect from a rookie receiver, but then we had the pleasure of witnessing Randy Moss‘ rookie season, so… Throughout the pre-season and during last week’s game, Harvin has showcased his soft hands. More importantly, though, the guy has shown a fantastic field awareness, the sense of knowing where defenders and his teammates are on the field. We’ve seen him routinely catch balls in tight coverage with two or more opponents collapsing on him just as the ball is reaching him and last week. Throw in his ability to make defenders miss, and it’s clear he’s going to be an exciting and contributing player from game one. Lastly, for a player who never returned kicks it sure looks like we can expect him to return at least one kick for a score this season.

With the exception of the bull rush by Shaun Rogers that resulted in a sack of quarterback Brett Favre, John Sullivan did a pretty good job in his debut as a starting center.

Phil Loadholt, on the other hand, had a pretty brutal game. While he did a generally good job in pass protection, he missed on countless block in the run game. He’s a rookie. It was his first game. Let’s hope he improves over the course of the season. Even so, he’s an upgrade over Ryan Cook.

The Vikings defense looks strong again, even with Jared Allen being shut down last week. Kevin Williams‘ sack was something to behold, absolutely blowing by his blocker to nail Brady Quinn.

The special teams have definitely improved despite giving up a return for a touchdown by Joshua Cribbs. The coverage units did a great job of containing Cribbs but for that one return. I think you gotta let that return slide because Cribbs will have his returns, he’s one of the best in the league. With Percy Harvin returning kicks and Darius Reynaud returning punts, the Vikings will greatly improve their average starting position on offensive drives; and it sure looks like we can expect a few kick returns for touchdowns this year.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions

It is, of course, easy to overlook the winless Lions but they always play us close. They did last year and there’s no reason to believe they can’t do that again this year.

Seeing how Drew Brees blew them up last week with six touchdown passes, expect Farve to more than he did last week. It is unlikely he’ll have to throw a lot more but with such a soft defense, he’ll certainly throw more than he did against the Browns.

It’s hardly worth saying because it is practically obvious, but expect Adrian Peterson to have another 100+ yard game.

The two primary things the Vikings need to worry about are 1) Calvin Johnson and 2) rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford. Ultimately, they need to blanket Johnson, and put pressure on Stafford to force him to make poor decisions.

The Lions are not at all the same team they were last year; new GM, new head coach, and 60% new players, so you can’t assume anything…except, perhaps, that at this early point in the season, they are a team that is still trying to figure out how to play together.

This game should be a blowout for the Vikings but considering the history of the rivalry, I won’t got there. The Vikings will win, though.

Brett Favre’s Vikings Debut


I have to admit I was amped up to watch Brett Favre‘s debut as a Viking, if for no other reason than the strange spectacle of seeing him in purple.

The debut itself turned out to be anticlimactic if not predictable. Expected to play just one series, Favre returned for another after his first was cut short by Naufahu Tahi‘s missed block (one of three for the night). The offense played like one that had had only a few days of practice with a new quarterback. It will take more than a few days for receivers and quarterback to adjust to one another.

What Favre did show has got to be encouraging for Vikings fans.

You wouldn’t know that from reading an AP piece published shortly after the game, though. That piece placed the blame for the lack of offensive production squarely on Favre’s shoulders, saying he missed on all but one pass and even the completion was barely catchable:

His first pass was off target, intended for fullback Naufahu Tahi. Rookie Percy Harvin snagged a low throw into tight coverage on the next play, setting up fourth-and-1 near midfield. But Adrian Peterson, who carried 10 times for 44 yards, was smothered in the backfield for a big loss.

Favre was off the mark twice more on the next possession, misfiring toward Jaymar Johnson after an apparent route miscommunication and then chucking one out of everyone’s reach on the pressure by May

Well, that’s the easy story to write; the one you can file in time for your post-game deadline. But it was hardly accurate.

The pass to Tahi was thrown to the opposite side of the defender, to an open space where had Tahi adjusted, he could’ve caught the ball. The completion to Harvin was thrown in tight between two defenders; throwing the ball low greatly reduces the odds of it being picked off, it’s harder for the defenders to get to and if the ball is tipped by the receiver or defender, it is much more likely to hit the ground than to pop up in the air where it can be easily intercepted. The pass to Johnson was similar to the one to Tahi, away from the defender but catchable if the receiver adjusts. The only pass that was possibly errant was the last one when Favre was hurred by a linebacker blitz; even that one was thrown to an empty space in the field where it wouldn’t be picked off.

This type of sports “reporting” drives me nuts. It reveals one of two things: 1) Laziness or 2) a failure of understanding of the game.

Anyway, Vikings fans should be encouraged that they now have not just a veteran, but a Hall of Fame-quality quarterback who knows exactly what to do with the ball.

We should also be encouraged by the play of Tavaris Jackson. After a familiar shaky start, Jackson directed two impressive scoring drives that had offense running on all cylinders. But then that’s been his thing; shaky…impressive, shaky…impressive. Jackson needs to show consistently sound decision making before he’ll inspire enough confidence from coaches, let alone Vikings fans…and throwing the ball from five yards beyond the line of scrimmage doesn’t cut it.

Rookie reciever Percy Harvin proved he can catch the ball, a receivers’ skill Vikings fans are a bit insecure about since the Troy Williamson fiasco.

Thankfully for the audience, the game turned into an exciting one after the disappointment of the opening two series.

I’ll leave you with a Brad Childress dream, as mashed up by nadasfan:

Purple Pain

Minnesota Vikings v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s never been easy to be a Vikings fan but this year is more agonizing than most. We have plenty of talent but when they get on the field, they are often underwhelming.

Last week was a perfect example. Through nearly the entire first half against the Buccaneers, the Vikings appeared to have the game well in hand. Adrian Peterson was running the ball well and the defense was shutting Tampa Bay down.

But when the Vikings got the ball back with 47 seconds remaining in the half, they ran the ball. They didn’t even try to seize the opportunity. Still, they headed to the locker room with a 10-3 lead.

But the second half of the game was all Buccaneers; as so often happens, the opponent had clearly made adjustments while we hadn’t.

The Vikes had no answer to the tight end seam pass and they did not utilize Adrian Peterson. You’ve got the most talented running back in the league and you’re down in the fourth quarter and you don’t have Peterson on the field when you need him most? WTF?!?

Having only a handful of plays in the final quarter is no excuse for sitting Peterson. He should be on the field if for no other reason than seizing the attention of the defense. If you’re not going to actually use Peterson, at least use him as a diversion.

Yet again, this was a game the Vikings should have won.

And it is for that reason why this year has been an especially painful one for Vikings fans who have long ago learned pain management techniques.

If only…

If only the Vikings were more a bit creative offensively. If only the Vikings had started the season with Gus Frerrote at the helm. If only the Vikes made the most of the considerable talent they have. If only the Vikings displayed the killer instinct that good teams possess. If only the Vikings wouldn’t be timid when presented with an opportunity to put a dagger through the heart of their opponent.

So, yes, the Vikings are tied for first place in a weak division and despite uninspiring play, are poised to make a run at a division title. Being the true Vikings fan (read masochist), I will watch every game and enjoy what I can but it is so hard to get excited about this team.

This team does just enough to give you hope but not enough inspire confidence. One thing is sure, coach Brad Childress‘ future starts today against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Free Frerotte!

Seattle Seahawks v Minnesota Vikings

Let’s call the experiment what it looks like, a failure.

I was hoping that last week’s inaccuracy was simply rust from not having played much during the pre-season. But it really didn’t look like rust; it looked like inaccuracy.

I had a lot of hope for Jackson after seeing his play before he was injured in the pre-season. He looked decisive, hit is receivers in stride, and if he still didn’t seem to have the touch on the long ball, at least it looked like he was making solid progress.

It appears not.

The thing with Jackson is that he’ll have streaks where he’ll play wonderfully but those streaks are short and woefully infrequent. from all his players, the question this afternoon is whether he’ll hold his starting quarterback to the same standard.

I’ve long lamented that Jackson just has not found the touch for an accurate long ball. As a result, we don’t quite know what we’ve got in . More importantly, no one’s afraid of us making them pay for playing eight or ten in the box. When Jackson throws the long ball, he throws it practically straight up, creating a huge arc that gives defenders enough time to recover and forcing his receivers to slow down in adjustment.

Because it appeared Jackson was making progress in other areas of his game, I figured the long ball would come eventually. But Jackson has become inaccurate on practically every pass. He’s throwing behind receivers on the slant. He’s missing receivers on the out. He’s sailing passes thrown to receivers in the flat. He’s throwing passes at his receivers’ feet.

Jackson doesn’t seem to have a feel for how a screen pass develops and when he throws the screen, half the time the ball comes to the receiver at a downward slope and as a bullet. That’s a hard ball to catch.

Jackson never looks downfield on a swing pass. He stares at the running back from the snap of the ball and lofts a soft and airy pass to the back, giving defenders enough time to tackle the guy for a loss, or at best, at the line of scrimmage. The play is useless because Jackson doesn’t sell it.

The one play that has consistently worked for him, the play-action bootleg, has become predictable for that very reason. Defenses are on to it.

When your quarterback can’t make all–or even many–of the throws, you need to scale down the playbook to those plays he’s capable of executing. And that makes your passing offense predictable.

When you hold and the to 15 points for nearly four quarters and your offense plays most of the game in Colts’ territory yet you don’t score a touchdown, there’s something wrong.

When you’ve got an awesome offensive line (and TJax had plenty of time today), four talented receivers, and both and and you can’t score a touchdown, there’s something wrong.

When Adrian Peterson racks up 180 all-purpose yards (160 on the ground) and you don’t score a touchdown, there’s something wrong.

When the Colts’ entire offensive line are backups and starting tight end is on the bench; when their starting defensive tackle is out, and , their star safety, leaves the game yet you still lose, there’s something wrong.

When your defensive line is up in Manning’s grill all day and you get two picks and you still lose the game, there’s something wrong.

You can point to ‘s last, missed, field goal attempt. You can blame (and please do) the loss on for dropping another touchdown. But this game should’ve been a blowout. The only reason it wasn’t was because our quarterback could not make Indianapolis pay for their obsession with Adrian Peterson.

and I still think we can be. But the reason I said that is the presence on our roster of one Gus Frerotte. He’s a veteran quarterback who can read defenses and make sound decisions. He may not be all that mobile, but I’ll take accurate over mobile in an instant. He may not have the rocket arm of Tarvaris Jackson, but what good is power if you can’t put the ball in your receivers’ hands?

There is more than enough talent on this offense to win (if Shiancoe sticks to blocking) and win now. We don’t have to blow out opponents like we did back when Frerotte et. al. were playing pitch and catch with . We just need to score a touchdown or three and let the defense do the rest. It doesn’t look like we can do that with Jackson at the helm.

It’s time to free .

Unless you want to gamble another season on the chance that Jackson might develop into a starting-caliber NFL quarterback, never mind a franchise quarterback, then free Frerotte.

It’s awfully hard to have a winning season when you start it off 0-3 or 0-4. If you want to salvage this season, then free Frerotte.

If you want to be coaching next year, free Frerotte.

Will Adrian Peterson Win The Rushing Title?

Packers Vikings Football 
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After last week, when they had a chance to lock up their playoff spot, it’s sorta pointless to talk about or get your hopes up for a post-season this year. They could come out and stink or they could play wonderfully and still not make it with a motived team playing ‘ second-stringers.

So absent the burden and frustration of phantom playoff hopes, my interest will be focused narrowly on my hope for and improved play for . And one probably depends upon the other.

The ‘ defense is 30th in the league against the run but even a really bad defense can improve significantly against the run by deploying eight or nine men in the box. So we’ll see, but there’s plenty of reason to hope for a big ground game for the Vikings and for in particular.

The one thing the Vikings will have to do for Peterson to have a big day, of course, will be to make the Broncos pay for stacking the box. And that depends upon Jackson making those plays, something he hasn’t done consistently.

Maybe the Vikings should come out in no-receiver sets. Sit the receivers in favor of tight ends and fullbacks and maybe an extra offensive lineman. Say to the Broncos, we’re running the ball; try and stop us. It ain’t gonna happen but I’d love to see it.

Peterson needs only 12 yards to overtake ‘s , who is out for the season. But in order to win the title, Adrian will have to significantly outplay who has 1,418 yards to Peterson’s 1,305. The problem is that the Chargers play the today.

In the passing game, I want to see Jackson make better decisions and not get flustered in the face of a heavy rush. He seems to do just fine when he’s got sufficient time in the pocket, but he’s going to have to learn play well under pressure.

Those are my modest hopes at the end of a disappointing season.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Washington Redskins Preview

Things seem to be falling the ‘ way today. beat the and, playing for home-field advantage (and this time of year, playing at Lambeau is a decided advantage), the had their ass handed to them by the .

With a win tonight, the Vikings will clinch a playoff berth.

But the scare me.

They are ninth against the run, so it’s going to be a tough game tonight. They will probably not have to put eight or nine men in the box to stop the run, which means it will be more difficult for to make them pay.

The Vikings offensive line will need to play much better tonight than they did last week, especially . Birk was man-handled by the Bears back-up defensive tackle last week. Despite Washington’s tough run D, the Vikings are going to have to pound the ball often to make the play-action work. And, by the way, there’s always an excellent chance of Adrian Peterson ripping off a long TD run or two. He nearly had two last week.

How bout a dual backfield with both Peterson and Chester Taylor and let the Redskins pick their poison about who they want to stop? I’ve been waiting for this all season and I think today is the day to implement it.

The Redskins are 18th against the pass, so there’s a good chance we’ll see Jackson toss the ball with some frequency but he’ll have to avoid the mistakes he made against the Bears last week. He’ll also be without wide receiver .

This is a game where it will be a huge advantage to get out on top early and then pummel the Skins to demoralize them early. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bevel call a trick play on the fist series.

What scares me the most about Washington, though, is .

First, since he hasn’t started in 10 years, there’s precious little tape of the guy, so the Vikings defense has had one and a half games worth of material with which to prepare for him. Second, Collins has been in the same system for years, so presumably he knows his offense inside and out. Lastly, the Vikings have historically played poorly against backup QBs.

Washington has the 11th ranked rushing offense and despite boasting a dangerous duo of and , but I’m only concerned with them to the degree that they are able to set up a credible play-action.

The Redskins have the 4th worst special teams unit, so could have a big game returning kicks. And that could prove to be the difference in this game.

I expect most of this game will be a fight for field position, tough and close. The single most promising thing that emerged from last week’s game was that the Vikings played badly but still found a way to overcome their poor play and turnovers to win the game. That’s something we haven’t seen in a while.

I don’t know that I buy into the Vikings being the hottest team going into the playoffs, as so many national pundits have proclaimed them to be, but a win tonight will go a long way toward convincing me.