Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Smattering of Thoughts As Hope Ends

The Domination Continues
Bryant Westbrook rushed for 46 yards on 21 carries. That's 2.2 yards per carry. This wasn't a case of a team choosing not to run. Rather, it was a case of a defense shutting down the run completely. As I mentioned when I named E.J. Henderson today's 1st Star, Westbrook is an elite back. He was averaging 5.5 yards per carry prior to today, and he's averaged 4.78 yards per carry for his career. And the Vikings held him to 2.2 yards per carry. The pass defense might be frustrating, but it's almost worth it if it means that I get to watch the Vikings dominate the run like they did today. Almost.

My Kingdom for a Pass Rush
The Eagles had ten drives and punted four times. The last punt came after the Eagles ran the ball three straight times while killing the clock. The other two punts in the second half came on drives where the Vikings sacked Donovan McNabb. That's not a coincidence. The coverage hasn't been as good this year as it was last year, but that's only part of the problem with the Vikings' problems against the pass. You can't cover a receiver forever. And while the Vikings are averaging almost one more sack per game than they did last year, it isn't enough, especially when you consider that the Vikings have seen more pass attempts than any other team, and that they get a sack once every 16.7 plays.

Stop Me Before I Challenge Again

One of the most infuriating things about the instant replay era has to be the Vikings inability to use their challenges properly. Mike Tice was awful at it, and so is Brad Childress. I'm not going to go into Tice's incompetence, but Childress wasted both of the Vikings' challenges today in his typical fashion. There's a poker saying that goes "Don't throw good money after bad", which warns poker players against continuing to bet when they know the pot is already lost. Based on how he uses his challenges, I'd bet that Childress hasn't heard that saying. Almost all of his challenges seem to come after frustrating plays, and they almost always seem to be an attempt to fix a mistake that can't be fixed. His use of a challenge after Peterson stepped out of bounds on the opening kickoff of the second half is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The replays clearly showed that Peterson had caught the ball and then stepped out of bounds. Yet Childress insisted on challenging it, throwing the good money (the challenge and the timeout) after the bad (Peterson's mistake).

Still the Leader
I've accepted that the Vikings aren't going to the playoffs (more on this tomorrow). It wasn't easy to do (you may have noticed that I'm quite good at convincing myself that the Vikings still have a chance, no matter the odds). When the Vikings were eliminated last year, I changed my focus from rooting for a win to rooting for the defense's quest to set the record for fewest rushing yards allowed. As you know, they didn't get it. Still, it gave me a reason to care about the last game of the season.

This year, my focus is going to be on the Purple Jesus' quest to lead the NFL in rushing. Despite the fact that he's only rushed for 133 yards over the last two games, Peterson is still hanging onto the league lead with 740 yards. Willie Parker, with 726 yards, is the only one within 100 yards of him (Willis McGahee is in third with 639 yards). All of the backs in the top ten have had their bye weeks at this point, so they all have the same amount of games remaining. I don't know if the Purple Jesus will be able to rebound from his past two games, but I pray that he does, because there's not a whole lot of other reasons to care about what happens over the next nine games.

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