Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Victory Before the Bye

I was in Minnesota (hence the lateness of the posts) and was lucky enough to find tickets to the game on Sunday. Tailgating, seats twenty rows up from the end zone and a dominating effort from the defense made the experience a memorable one. And, in case you were wondering, I was one of the people booing Brad Johnson after his awful first half performance. The man deserved it.

It was that performance which told us what the problem with the offense is. It’s not Childress’ offensive scheme, and his play calling, while a factor is not the big issue. The offense is sputtering because Brad Johnson is a backup quarterback at best. He’s made quite a few stupid decisions, he can’t throw the ball deep, he has problems hitting open receivers (he short hopped/over threw a ton of passes) and he has a tendency to hang his receivers out to dry. He threw about 4 passes on Sunday that put his receivers in the supporting role of a Jacked Up scene. Part of the reason the receivers aren’t catching all the balls they should is they know in the back of their mind, BJ is likely to get them killed. The sooner Tarvaris Jackson is ready to go, the better. And everyone who thought BJ might be the starting QB next year, is an idiot. And that includes me.

Luckily for the offense, Chester Taylor is starting to hit his stride. He had a monster day, ripping off 123 yards on 26 carries, most of it behind the left side of the line. He was making people miss, and had some sweet cutbacks. Hopefully, Childress has noticed that the Vikings’ best games have been when they relied on the running game. He abandoned it against Buffalo, which was likely one of the reasons the offense performed so poorly. BJ is not a good quarterback, and his likelihood of success diminishes when the opposing defense doesn’t have to worry about the run at all.

On the other side of the ball, the Vikings’ defense had its most dominating performance of the season. The entire front seven was an immovable object, holding Kevin Jones to 16 yards on 10 carries, an average of .8 yards per carry. Their only breakdown came when Jon Kitna quick snapped the ball, sneaking 8 yards for a touchdown, and that was such a gutsy call by Kitna, it’s hard to fault the defense. Watching Kitna somehow make his way into the endzone, I had the same reaction Ron Burgandy did confronting Baxter, “And you ate the whole... wheel of cheese? How'd you do that? Heck, I'm not even mad; that's amazing.”

Pat Williams, however, insured that wasn’t the play of the game when he burst through the line in the fourth quarter, tackling Kitna before he could even finish his play fake and forcing a fumble that Ben Leber recovered for a touchdown. I haven't looked at a list of signings, but Pat Williams has to be one of the best free agent signings in the Vikings’ history. The man is a dominant force against both the run and pass and has been since the Bills let him go.

The other ex-Bill, Antoine Winfield, has also done a superb job for the Vikings’, and he joined the rest of the secondary in shutting down the Lions’ passing game. E.J. Henderson’s interception may have been forced by Ray Edwards, but the only reason Edwards had all the time in the world to get to Kitna was because of the coverage. And that wasn’t the only time that the coverage forced the Lions to have to hold their blocks for longer than any line can be reasonably expected to. Tomlin’s scheme is working extremely well. He even has Dwight Smith as his designated “crowd exciter”. As many people have pointed out, Tomlin’s on the fast track to a head coaching job. Hopefully for the Vikings, it isn’t that fast of a track.

So after five games, we have a solid grasp of who the Vikings’ are. They have a good to great defense that can dominate at times, and one that can create turnovers and convert them into points. The offense is led by an aging back up quarterback, who has problems making throws, but it also has a decent rushing game. The special teams are solid, but are prone to the occasional hiccup. Basically, this is a team that will be in most games, and should be able to turn more than a few into wins. They are by no means favorites for a wildcard berth, but with their favorable schedule and a little luck, the Vikings' could definitely sneak into the postseason.

(I’m going to take the rest of the bye week off so that I can finish my law school applications. I’ll be back on Friday with who to root for on Sunday. Hopefully, there isn’t anything big to talk about until then. The “Chili” jokes the Star Tribune writers are breaking out are bad enough. I don’t think I could take it if the Vikings’ have more off the field issues)

1 comment:

cheswick said...

you chose a good game to see Tbird! I couldn't believe my eyes everytime I saw the scores update on Fox. It was inconceivable that the Vikes could be THAT close to choking to the Lions. Watching Kitna get crushed then cough up the ball for Leber's giftwrapped TD was an awesome sight. Best play of the year for the Vikes so far?

Gotta agree with you on BJ. Man, that guy has a dishrag for an arm. He reminds me of those contestants who have to throw passes into the giant Dr Pepper can from various distances. I bet BJ couldn't beat any of those hacks either!

You think Culpepper wants his old job back? ha THAT would be rich.