Vikings vs. Bengals

On the bright side, Chris Kluwe continued to punt well. The Vikings actually downed two punts inside the twenty and Kluwe proved he could kick outdoors, consistently getting excellent hangtime.

And then on the other side…

Well, the offensive line was not absolutely abysmal. They opened up so holes for the ground game and provided Daunte Culpepper with some time to throw. Not great, but a hell of an improvement over the season opener against the Bucaneers

Michael Bennett looked pretty good darting though lines, making some good cuts, gaining positive yards. Until he dropped an easy screen pass that would’ve gone for at least ten yards. Until he fumbled. Twice.

Though Daunte had more time to thow on Sunday, he looked antsy and anxious in the pocket. Flustered. He looked as though he didn’t trust his line, even though he had reasonable time to throw. He overthrew Nate Burleson: interception. He tossed what appeared to be a screen pass to…well, nobody knows: interception. Five in all. And I don’t think we can blame them on the offensive line this time. Daunte had two horrible games in a row.

Though Nate Burleson couldn’t have caught the high pass he tipped to a defender, he’s been troublingly inconsistent in making the catches he should catch. Travis Taylor, in fact, is the only receiver who has made all the catches he’s supposed to make.

It would hardly be surprising if coaching isn’t part of the problem; or, rather, coaches overloaded. Offensive coordinator Steve Loney has not only the responsiblities of a coordinator but also the burden of coaching the offensive line and calling the plays on gameday. That’s a lot to ask of anyone and it wouldn’t surprise me if some things were falling through the cracks as a result. So, perhaps its a good idea for head coach Mike Tice to take over the playcalling duties. But the team is stretched so thin coachwise, you gotta wonder if Tice adds to his responsibilities, something else will inevitably break. This is the cost of paying your coaches dirt.

I would never have thought that the defense would be so horrible after they had a decent day in the opener largely containing Carnell "Cadillac" Williams. Or after an interception return for a touchdown by Darren Sharper. Or Fred Smoot racing to the sideline to pick off a Griese pass that was intended to be thrown away. You can’t blame their performance against the Bengals on second-year middle linebacker Rod Davis starting for Sam Cowart or Carson Palmer picking on Brian Williams. When a team racks up more that 500 yards and scores 37 points against you, it’s a team-wide failure.

I’m absolutely mystified at the utter collapse because I don’t think the talent on the team is that bad.

Vikings vs. Bengals Preview

The absolutely essential element for the Vikings to beat the Bengals today will the play of the offensive line. If the turn in a perfomance similar to that they did against the Bucs, we’re looking at an 0-2 start to this season. If they can pull it together and play just an average game, it should open up the running game and, in turn, open up the passing game.

The Vikings will need to control the ball enough on offense to keep the defense from being on the field for as long as they were last week. The Vikings defense should be solid, but they were on the field far too long last week. Getting a credible running game going should help with that as well as slow down the pass rush and give Daunte some time to find receivers.

Look for the Vikings to pick on rookie middle linebacker Odell Thurman who, though he notched eight tackels last week, and picked off a pass, is still a rookie and should be tested. The Browns did on a crossing route to receiver Frisman Jackson that ended as a 68 yard touchdown.

The Bengals are an up-and-coming team that many predict will go beyond their 8-8 record of the past two seasons. Quarterback Carson Palmer is entering his third season and seems to have figured out how to play the position in the latter half of last year. He’s got two superb weapons to get the ball to in running back Rudi Johnson and standout wide receiver Chad Johnson.

On defense, the Vikings will need to stop Bengals running back Rudi Johnson, a bruiser they fed the ball to 26 of the 32 times they ran the ball last week against the Browns. Johnson gained 126 yards but his longest gain was for only 13 yards, so he’ll bite of chunks of two, three, five yards and they’ll keep feeding it to him in order to control the clock and set up the play action pass. The team averaged 117 yards a game last year and ranked 17th in the league in rushing.

Thier offensive line retuns intact and healthy from last season, where they solidified as a unit.

The Vikings did a good job of containing a very good back last week in Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who ran for 148 yards on 27 carries but 71 yards came on his touchdown run that sealed the game. Prior to that, the Vikings had given up only 2.5 yards per carry on 30 attempts.

If the O-line plays well, the Vikings should win this game.