I made this highlight reel at NFL Recut.
Before the Vikings game against the Lions last week I suggested the Vikes may be a tease with a soft part of the schedule coming up. My reasoning was that they were a better team that their upcoming foes and they would therefore look like a much better team than they actually were.
That was a disastrously wrong assumption.
The Vikings squeeked through with a victory against a Lions team and rookie quarterback against whom they should have dominated.
It was a very tough game to watch because the Vikes were uuuuug-ly.
The question today against a Bears team that looks fairly good and against surprisingly competent play of quarterback Kyle Orton is whether the Vikings can simply play consistently and minimize the mistakes. If they do that, they’ll have a decent chance of beating the Bears.
First, will the offensive line improve? Seriously, is this the same line that so dominated opponents last year? It sure doesn’t look like it. That line could produce running lanes for Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor even against defenses determined to shut down the ground game. That hasn’t happened this year. Last year they provided enough room for an indecisive quarterback to find receivers. This year, they have trouble giving the quick-trigger of Gus Frerotte enough time to find receivers downfield.
While we finally have an answer for the absence of fullback Thomas Tapeh, the fact doesn’t excuse starting Nahfu Tahi at fullback. Tahi was simply brutal last week. He consistently either got stood up by defenders at the line or blocked the wrong guy or simply whiffed. Oh, yeah; and Tahi dropped a pass. I’d love to see Jimmy Kleinsasser start at fullback; that would do a great deal to improve both the running and pass game.
The Bears, like everyone else, will be determined to shut down Adrian Peterson so it is imperative that our receivers catch the ball. And is it too much to ask Bernard Berrian not to stumble when chasing down the long ball?
This is a winnable game that would put us on top of the division. The only question is if the Vikes go for the jugular or continue to muddle through the season.
Among the criticisms Star Tribune‘s sports columnist Jim Souhan has of Tarvaris Jackson‘s performance Monday night is that the QB would "bail out on a game because of a leg cramp, as he did Monday night."
This kind of stuff drives me nuts. I can only assume that Souhan does not play football or perhaps any sport because he clearly doesn’t understand how a leg cramp feels.
It doesn’t last long but it hurts a lot and freaks you out even more because your body is behaving in a way it does not usually behave. It’s not a condition with which you can effectively play.
There was plenty to criticize about Jackson’s game but taking himself out for a few plays because of painful and disruptive leg cramps is not one of them.
And is Souhan had had just a bit of experience with the sport he writes about, he’d understand that.
Update: Add Patrick Reusse to the list of desk jockey sports writers: "Against Chicago, Jackson threw three interceptions, had a quarterback
rating of 50.0 and bailed out with a cramp when his team was inside the
10 on the winning touchdown drive."
Update II: Sadly, add the Star Tribune’s generally very good Vikings beat writer Kevin Seifert to the list: "…oddly succumbing to leg cramps in the Vikings’ 20-13 victory over the Chicago Bears at the Metrodome."
See what I mean?
Adrian Peterson has officially arrived on the NFL scene. 361 all purpose yards; 224 of them rushing and 128 of them returning kicks. As a result of his amazing performance, Peterson has become the story of the week, with everyone gushing over him. NFL Network even did a nice piece on him.
But you can’t have an amazing performance like Peterson‘s if you’re offensive line isn’t doing their job. Could Anthony Herrera made that much of a difference? Starting at right guard in place of Artis Hicks, Herrera and the rest of the line played their best game of the Childress era. They were opening holes for Peterson and Chester Taylor and gave Tarvaris Jackson enough time in the pocket to find his receivers. If the offensive line has just started clicking, then maybe the season isn’t lost after all.
It sure looks like Childress and company have found the sweet spot by balancing touches between Peterson and Taylor. Peterson carried the rock 20 times and Taylor had 22 rushes for 83 yards. Give Richardson his one carry, and the Vikings ran the ball 43 times. That’s a hell of a ground game.
The Vikings now have someone who can provide the team with the explosive plays we were lacking. Peterson had runs of 27 yards, 67 yards, 73 yards, and 35
I love the idea of having Taylor and Peterson on the field at the same time; it’s gotta create match up problems for opposing defenses and keeps them off balance as well.
Finally, it sure looks like the addition of Peterson to the roster has helped improve Taylor’s game.
The game could have been a blowout if our receivers didn’t continue to drop so many balls. The first pass on a slant to Troy Williamson hit him in the chest and ricocheted around before falling to the ground. Had Williamson caught that ball, he might have slipped the defenders for a long gain or even a touchdown. It was smart to go right back him on the next play.
Williamson also dropped a third down reception on a crossing patter just at the sidelines that hit him in both hands and would have been a first down. He did lay out for an overthrown bomb but even on his 60 yard touchdown reception, Williamson caught the ball with his arms rather than his hands. Even so, just the fact that he caught a long touchdown bomb has got to go a long way toward boosting Williamson’s confidence and giving opposing defenses something to think about.
Sidney Rice also dropped an easy catch on a slant that would probably have gone for a touchdown but he also made a very nice diving catch to convert a first down. Bobby Wade didn’t make a third down catch he should have that would’ve resulted in a first down.
TJax was not the panicked QB he was before the bye. But pass protection will do that for you.
Jackson the aforementioned passes that were dropped. His 60 yard touchdown to Williamson was a perfect strike. But I thought his most impressive pass was the one he threw deep to Robert Ferguson in the end zone. It was thrown to the sideline side of Ferguson so only the receiver could catch the ball. It would have been a tough catch, but Ferguson should have made it.
On the other hand, Jackson did have quite a few misses; a lot of his passes were behind his receivers. He had Shiancoe open down the seam for what would have been a long game and perhaps even a touchdown, but Jackson overthrew him.
He missed a wide open Tony Richardson for a catch that would’ve gone for a long gain or even a touchdown. Jackson also missed Williamson by a step for another bomb.
But the fact that Jackson didn’t look like a wild-eyed rookie and didn’t turn the ball over is progress.
Going into the Bears game, you would have thought that the weakness of our defense would be our young corners, Cedric Griffin and Marcus McCauley. With the exception of McCauley’s fourth quarter dropped interception that was followed by a Bears touchdown, the two played exceptionally well.
Who would have thought it would be the savvy veterans Antione Winfield and Dwight Smith that gave up touchdowns. Excuse me, when you’re just trying to prevent a score, how do you let Devin Bloody Hester get behind you?!?
Erasmus James was in for a few plays and on at least one, he was a half-second behind his line mates off the ball. The guy still does not have his explosion back and you wonder if he ever will regain it.
E.J. Henderson continues to kick some serious football ass and Ben Leber made an outstanding pick.
But the story of the defense was certainly the abysmal play of Chad Greenway. The guy has got to learn how to shed blocks. Jeeze. What is he doing out there?!? Instead of trying to push a lineman away on his way to the ball carrier, Greenway explodes into them, as if he were the one doing the blocking. It was ugly.
Vikings vs. Cowboys
While I’m more hopeful and excited about the Vikings prospects after the Bears game, I am not insane and therefore I have to say, sadly, that the Cowboys are going to absolutely dismantle the Vikings.
The thing about this season is that the Minnesota Vikings just have to get a little better than last year to win a lot more games. Consider the games the Vikings lost last year:
- In September, the Vikings lost to the Bears, 16-19
- In October, the Vikings lost to the Bills, 17-12
- and to the Patriots, 7-31
- In November, the Vikings lost to the 49ers, 9-3
- to the Packers, 17-23
- and to the Dolphins, 24-20
- In December, the Vikings lost to the Bears again, 23-13
- to the Jets, 13-26
- again to the Packers, 9-7
- and to the Rams, 21-41
The two games against the Packers and Bears each were winnable. The margins of victory for each of those four games were 3 points, 6 points, 10 points, and 2 points. The Vikings lost to the Bills by 5 points; to the 49ers by 6 points; and to the Dolphins by four point.
Instead of 6 and 10, they could have easily been 10 and 6 and division winners.
But the defense, of course, wasn’t the problem last year. The offense was.
We improved on offense significantly with the addition of Adrian Peterson. I am officially a converted fan of Bobby Wade, who has proven very adept at making yards after the catch. Robert Ferguson is a great addition if he can stay healthy. Sidney Rice is a nice big target who has shown he’s got good hands, is not afraid to catch the ball in a crowd, is very athletic and has excellent body control. And if we can get Troy Williamson to catch a few long bombs, we’ll at least have the semblance of a deep threat.
The offensive line returns with one year together playing the zone blocking scheme, so they’ve got to improve simply because they are more familiar with one another and with zone blocking.
The big question is Tarvaris Jackson. He looks very poised and by all accounts is a smart kid, a quick study, and a quick decision maker. The main thing for Jackson is to avoid mistakes, which is to say turnovers, while he learns the ropes.
The most glaring weakness of this team is the coverage units, which are absolutely horrible. I’m not too confident that they’ll improve that much.
Looking at the schedule, I think it’s reasonable to think that the Vikings could go 9-7 or even 10-6 this year. I’m giving the Vikings both games against the Detroit Lions, even with Calvin Johnson. That team has to prove to me they can win, cause they’ve never done it before. I’d split the Chicago Bears series as I would the Green Bay Packers series, though I think the Vikings could sweep them as well.
So that’s eight wins.
The Kansas City Chiefs are beatable with Damon Huard at QB. The Dallas Cowboys are beatable. They’ve got a rookie coach and we don’t yet know whether Tony Romo is the real thing. The San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos look as if they will be good, but they’re sorta at that stage where it’s too early to tell. Even the Eagles could be beatable because you never know if Donovan McNabb will be healthy.
Thee only guaranteed loss is to the San Diego Chargers.
Here are some links for you to read up on this week’s opponent, the Chicago Bears:
- Chicago Sun-Times’ Bears page
- Chicago Tribune’s Bears page
- Daily Herald Bears page
- Bear Report
- Chicago Bears official site
- NFL’s Bears page
- Yahoo’s Bears page
- ESPN’s Bears page
- Sports Illustrated’s Bears page
- Sporting News’ Bears page
- Fox Sport’s Bears page
- CBS SportsLine’s Bears page
- Chicago Bears History
- Da’ Bears Blog
- Windy City Gridiron blog
- Final Thoughts on Chicago Sports blog
- Monsters of the Midway blog
- Chicago Bears Blog
- Chicago Bears Wikipedia Entry