Monday, December 03, 2007

Three Stars--Too Many To Choose From

One of the difficulties in picking three stars is the differing nature of offense and defense. It’s easier for offensive skill players to stand out than it is for a defender to do so. The Vikings defense dominated the Lions yesterday, but no defender really stuck out. Cedric Griffin and Marcus McCauley lead the teams with seven tackles, but, as corners, many of those tackles came after the receiver they were covering caught a pass. Three different Vikings linemen had sacks, but the constant pressure on Jon Kitna can’t be attributed to any one player’s effort—it was a joint effort by the linemen and the linebackers, same as the Vikings holding the Lions to 23 yards rushing. And Udeze’s interception was pretty much the only play he made today. Honestly, the MVP on defense will go to Pat Williams, Kevin Williams or E.J. Henderson, but I don’t know that a football layman can actually make that call.

It’s a lot easier to pick out the stars on offense, especially today. The Vikings offense scored on their first five offensive possessions. Aside from the Three Stars (who will become obvious shortly), numerous other Vikings turned in noteworthy performances.

  • Bobby Wade and Sidney Rice continue to play well. Both made quality catches for touchdowns (Wade going to his knees to catch a low throw for his first TD of the year and Rice by hauling in a fade route over a defender). Wade had 4 catches for 54 yards, Rice had 5 catches for 53. Wade’s the Vikings’ leading receiver, while Rice is tied for first among rookie wide outs in touchdowns and is fourth in receptions and yards.
  • Chester Taylor continues to provide starting running back performance as the back up. He gained 70 yards today, an average of 5 yards per carry over 14 carries. He also threw a touchdown pass that was dropped by a wide open Visanthe Shiancoe. (And while I understand where Childress was coming from when he called the two trick plays near the end of the game, but honestly, is it better to save them for when they might be needed, rather than use them in a blowout, allowing other teams to prepare for them? Does anyone really think Jeff Dugan is going to get very far running the ball if the other team is waiting for him?)
  • The entire offensive line deserves to be praised for a dominating performance as well. They only gave up one sack, while creating the holes for Peterson and Taylor to run for an average of 5.5 YPC on 39 carries. Peterson has a lot to do with the Vikings’ dominance on the ground, but the line deserves a lot of credit for having the Purple rushing average about four inches less per carry than the best rushing team ever, the 1963 Cleveland Browns.

But enough about those who didn’t quite make the cut. Let’s talk about the Three Stars:

Third Star: Aundrae Allison
Aside from the passing game, one of the problems with the Vikings’ offense has been their lack of a return game (when Peterson wasn’t returning kicks). Troy Williamson was averaging a 23.8 yards a return, but didn’t have the ability to break one. Obviously, that’s not a problem with Aundrae Allison, who set a franchise record with a 103 yard kick return for a touchdown and who previously had a 60 yard return against Detroit and a 62 yard return against the Chargers. Allison’s averaging 37.1 yards per return and should be the starting kick returner from now on. He also caught two passes for 52 yards, one of which he turned a short pass into a 35 yard gain. Don’t look now, but it seems yet another rookie has decided to make a big impact for the Purple.

Second Star: Adrian Peterson
15 carries, 116 yards. That’s 7.73 YPC. You know what the ridiculous thing about that average is? It’s only his fourth best average for a game. Peterson’s 1197 rushing yards leads the NFL (Willie Parker’s still in second with 1097 yards) and his two rushing touchdowns brought his total to ten, second only to LaDainian Tomlinson. And the way he runs? Pure beauty. He worked Lions defender after Lions defender, whether it was with by running through, past or around them. Peterson’s carries are so amazing that I wish I understood the science and strategy of running with the ball, because I feel like only a true master would be able to properly appreciate everything he does.

First Star: Tarvaris Jackson
The Revolution is back and with it have come victories. Tarvaris had the best game of his career against the Lions, completing 18 of 24 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns and ran for twenty yards on five carries. It was only the second time Tarvaris has broken 200 yards passing in the twelve games he’s played in. He was only sacked once and, while he did throw an interception, it was the only poor decision he made all game, and it happened in garbage time. Tarvaris’ new found comfort in the pocket has been a joy to watch—he’s using his mobility and strength to avoid sacks and buy time for his receivers, he’s hitting his receivers accurately on both short and long passes and he’s avoided making rally killing mistakes. His pass to Sidney Rice on a slant to convert a 3rd and 6 the play before Peterson’s second touchdown was a thing of beauty. It had the velocity and the accuracy necessary to get between the two defenders blanketing Rice and allow him to hold onto the ball despite being interfered with. Tarvaris wasn’t completing passes like that before the Oakland game. And if he continues to throw like that, well, you try stopping an offense featuring the Purple Jesus and an effective Tarvaris Revolution.


Peter said...

I'm so excited about the Vikings I can hardly sit still. I haven't felt this way since '98. I was (rightly) pessimistic the year the Giants destroyed them in the NFC Championship, as I also was before the Steelers snapped the Vikings' 6 game winning streak in 2005. This feels real.

Even if the purple miss the playoffs, I'm excited for the next few years. They're drafting well, have a lot of young contributers, and should be a winning team for a while.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for Winfield to come back. This might be the highest the Vikings have ever been in the power rankings, we'll see.