Monday, October 15, 2007

All is Joy and Light

I'm sure I'm not the only one that is looking at this team, and at this season, with a lot more optimism than they were before Sunday's game. Aside from the Purple Jesus' dominating performance, there was a lot to like on Sunday, including an offense that looked competent outside of the Purple Jesus. And while the defense did give up 31 points, their most this year, I think it was the exception, rather than the rule.

Finally, an Offense:
For their first offensive play, the Vikings lined up in a single back formation, with three wide outs. Chester Taylor was in the backfield and after the snap, he got the ball and turned it into a six yard gain. Something we've all seen before, right? Well...sort of. After handing the ball off, Tarvaris Jackson faked a hand off to a Viking who had been split wide and was running a reverse. That player? Adrian Peterson. It was the first sign that Brad Childress and Darren Bevell have figured out how to run an offense. While they never actually handed Peterson the ball on a reverse, they put the thought out there and made da Bears, and all of the Vikings future opponents, have to account for Peterson at all times, even when Chester Taylor is the only Viking in the backfield.

That wasn't the only play that made me think the Vikings offensive plan was a good one. The Purple did not hesitate to take shots down field (including a deep pass to Adrian Peterson) and the routes run were deeper than they used to be, even if by only a few yards. The only place the Vikings' passing game was lacking was in the execution. I counted five dropped passes by receivers that were perfectly thrown and, while I wasn't counting Tarvaris' overthrows, he missed his fair share of open receivers, most notably an overthrown pop pass to a wide open Tony Richardson. Tarvaris also seemed hesitant to run, leaving two first downs on the table by choosing to throw a pass instead. Whether that was due to his groin injury, coaching or just a young player mistake, it's important that he figure out when to run, as his speed, strength and elusiveness are a big part of his value as a quarterback.

A Flashback on Defense:
We Vikings fans have been spoiled recently by our defense's ability to prevent other teams from scoring. The Purple's defense, on average, has have held their opponents under twenty points a game during the Childress era, and have held their opponents under thirty in 18 of the 20 games prior to Sunday. That's pretty good folks, and that's reason number 1 that I think Sunday was a fluke, rather than the start of disturbing trend.

Reason number 2 is the way da Bears scored their points. One touchdown came on a play where Antoine Winfield tripped and fell. Another came on a punt return by Devin Hester (nothing to be ashamed of-that punt just didn't quite get out of bounds like it was supposed to). In fact, all of da Bears touchdowns came on big plays, with the shortest one being a 33 yard pass to Muhsin Muhammed. Now, if the Vikings had given up a lot of big plays in the passing game prior to Sunday, I'd be worried. They haven't, however, and the Vikings play a defense designed specifically to prevent big plays. There were some breakdowns on Sunday, and the Vikings need to figure out what they were, and how they happened. And then they need to fix them. Their track record under Childress says they'll be able to do so, which is why this game will be a fluke, just like the other two games the Vikings allowed their opponents to break thirty.

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