Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Irresistible Pair v. The Immovable Duo

The Vikings currently have the number one rushing defense in the NFL. That might sound like crazy talk, but it’s true. The Purple People Eaters, are, in a way, back, lead by the Williams duo, Kevin and Big Pat. And they are facing their biggest challenge of the season on football’s biggest stage.

The Patriots are averaging 133 yards per game on 33 carries. Their per carry average isn’t spectacular, but it’s pretty good (3.9 yards per carry) and if you’re getting four yards a play, for thirty three plays, that’s the kind of success that can carry an offense by itself. As scary as Tom Brady is in close and late situations, the Patriots offensive success rests mainly on the shoulders of Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney.

Not what you want to see on Monday

And, considering how successful the Patriots’ pair of backs have been, it was an easy choice for Belichek to make. Handing the ball to a guy who’s going to get you four yards (or 4.2) is the obvious decision, especially when your leading receiver is your tight end, and your top three wide outs are Troy Brown, Doug Gabriel and Reche Caldwell. Belichek isn’t going to pull a Mike Martz and forget about his All Pro backfield with that receiving core, that’s for sure.

And so the Vikings are going to see Brady hand the ball off to Dillon and Maroney on at least half of the Patriots’ plays. If they can limit them to three yards a carry, like they’ve been able to do so far, they’ll have success. The Vikings secondary can shut down the Patriots’ passing game in third and long situations. They aren’t, however, going to have much success in short yardage situations, especially considering that Brady is accurate, has a good arm and likes to go to his tight end. It’s harder to cover a tight end in ambiguous situations, because the linebackers will have to play the run first, giving Watson an all important step or two on the coverage. And Watson has shown he knows how to exploit that advantage.

What you want to see on Monday Night

I’m probably preaching to the choir here (how’s that for a cliché?) but I don’t think I can emphasize enough how crucial it will be to stop the Patriots’ rushing game, nor how hard it's going to be. Dillon and Maroney are both number one backs, and they are comfortable sharing carries. If they wear down the Vikings’ defense, it’s going to open things up for Brady and the game is going to get ugly. If Big Pat and crew can stop them like they did Willis McGahee, and Kevin Jones, well, then they will have earned the title of best rushing defense in the NFL. That, and the Vikings will be 5-1.


Pacifist Viking said...

My excitement for this game is tempered by the anxiety of seeing them lose. Bleh. I hope they get to 10-2 or something so that I can just relax. This is going to be fun, though: we don't get to see the Vikes face the AFC's best very often, especially in Thunderdome.

TBird41 said...

I have the same feelings about this game that I had before the Twins' first game of the playoffs and that I had before the Vikes-Packers playoff game. I really, really want the Vikings to win, because a win here means this team could be something special. And it'd be nice to have that again with the Vikes (at least until the inevitable choke job at the end).