Here was the plan as I conceived it in my brain: Vikings come out strong against the Lions, run their offense efficiently and finish off drives with points, avoid turnovers and other mistakes, play solid defense, run away in the second half to finish with a convincing win of the 30-10 variety. As we all know by know, this did not happen. The Vikings never did take control of this game – in fact, neither team felt like it ever had control. The offense was anything but efficient – instead it sputtered and staggered. Turnovers? Two costly Adrian Peterson fumbles and a bad interception by Gus Frerotte. Other mistakes? 7 penalties, three by Ryan Cook; not to mention the offensive line breakdowns leading to a flurry of sacks. The solid defense part was the only thing that came true. And even the defense had its breakdowns – it allowed a 50 yard run to Kevin Smith and some big plays by Calvin Johnson. Thankfully, we were playing the Detroit Lions. A real football team would’ve stomped us into the dirt the way we played yesterday. Hell, even the Lions, with Jon Kitna in the game instead of Dan Orlovsky, probably would’ve beaten us. Unless, of course, we were bailed out by the refs. Which we were.
A Win’s a Win?
Brad Childress and his players have already unleashed the chorus for the week: A win’s a win. Obviously they don’t pay any attention to the fans or the TV and radio commentators who continue criticizing this team regardless of their record. 3-3 is not 3-3 – not when two of your wins were gift-wrapped by the officials. Not when your offense still looks like a slow-motion trainwreck 75% of the time. Not when your game-plan fails to make use of perhaps the single most dynamic offensive player in the league. Not when you persist in marching Ryan Cook out to play right tackle when anyone with two eyes and a fundamental knowledge of football can see he is overmatched.
Every week Brad Childress says the same thing: “There are things we have to clean up.” But another game comes along and these things are still not cleaned up. And this is why people don’t believe a win is a win; this is why they chant “Fire Childress” at the games and bash him when they call into radio shows and post on message boards. This team, they realize, is not good enough to really go anywhere. Not the way they play. Not the way they shoot themselves in the foot. We might’ve believed a little more had the team shown signs of cleaning those things up against Detroit, but it was the same old jive: Slow start. God awful offense. Self-inflicted wounds. Undeserved victory.
Blame the Players
I’m not, for the time being, going to lend my voice to the “Fire Childress” cries. Everything that can be said about Childress has been said. For now I’m going to turn my attention to the players, who deserve at least 75% of the criticism for the crap that went down against Detroit. I’ve already said my piece about Ryan Cook: He’s terrible and needs to be replaced. Artis Hicks should be the starter at right tackle, if not in the next game, then coming out of the bye week. If Cook is allowed to keep whiffing on pass rushers, Gus Frerotte will end up broken in pieces and Tarvaris Jackson will be back as quarterback. On the whole, I’d say our offensive line has not been doing the job. They haven’t been pass protecting well, which has really hurt us in the redzone where the quarterback always needs to hold onto the ball longer to allow receivers to work open, and they haven’t been run blocking with particular effectiveness either. Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson and Matt Birk do not constitute the best left-side in football – they are, at their best, adequate. Even Mike Morris, a guy who goes out of his way to defend his buddies along the line, says they’re not getting off the ball the same way they were last year when they helped Adrian Peterson to a monster rookie season. And forget about the Tony Richardson effect. His lead-blocking was not all that important to Peterson’s success last year. Many of Peterson’s biggest runs came off single-back formations. In fact, you could argue that the Vikings, on the whole, employ a lead blocker too often.
And speaking of Adrian Peterson…we all go out of our way to give AD a break, but this week he doesn’t deserve one. His two fumbles were a major part of why this team was unable to score. I love effort and trying to fight for extra yards as much as the next person, but Peterson needs to learn to wrap up the ball and needs to learn to just go down. An extra half-yard doesn’t mean anything if you then cough up the ball and the other team gets it. His first fumble came when the team was in field goal range, so that’s at least 3 points off the board, and his second came when the offense was desperate to establish itself late. His fumbles were even more killer than Ryan Cook’s badly-timed holding penalties and whiff-blocks. That being said, he still managed 111 yards on 25 carries.
When is a fumble not a fumble? When a guy is clearly on the ground and the defensive player rips it out. However, in the bizarro universe the Vikings sometimes call home, a fumble that isn’t a fumble can indeed be a fumble. Such was the case yesterday when the refs reviewed Calvin Johnson’s non-fumble, which they had already called a fumble, and decided it was in fact a fumble. This was a huge play for the Vikings, who at that point were looking at the Lions going in for a score that would’ve given them control of the game and probably the win. The refs would give the Vikes a second gift at the end of the game when they called Leigh Bodden for interfering with Aundrae Allison – a play that led to the game-winning field goal. That’s two straight games the Vikings might’ve lost but for an interference call (though the one in the Saints game was more legit). A win’s a win though right?
Yeah – until those breaks stop going your way. Which they will inevitably do. Probably next week against the Bears, a team good enough on offense and defense to take advantage of Purple miscues and make life miserable for us. I’ll say it again – we’re lucky it was the Lions.
The Lions defense was supposed to stink, but I thought it played pretty well. Their pass rush gave us fits – not a shock considering the softness of our offensive line – and their guys made plays all over the field. Special kudos to Leigh Bodden, a guy I wouldn’t mind having in place of Cedric Griffin. Solid trade by the Lions to get that guy in there.
Speaking of defensive stand-outs…did anyone stand out more than Kevin Williams? What a gigantic game for K-Will. 4 sacks, raising his season total to 6 (twice his total from last year). Jared Allen may not be racking up the big numbers himself, but his presence is opening things up for K-Will who is taking advantage. Antoine Winfield was defensive player of the week last week, and Williams may very well make it two such honors in a row for the Vikings. The defense is clearly not the problem (shaky downfield coverage and loss of E.J. Henderson notwithstanding).
Another guy who deserves kudos is Bernard Berrian. The big free-agent signee got heat when his season started slowly, but now he’s developed into a true offensive weapon. He scored the team’s only TD yesterday on a slant thrown from four-wide (a formation we really need to look at using more often). He finished with 5 catches for 131 yards, his second straight 100+ yard game and his fourth straight 70+ yard performance. His season stats: 22 catches, 436 yards, 2 TDs. That projects out to around 60 catches for 1162 yards, but only 5 TDs. He’s clearly the best receiver we’ve had since Randy Moss – maybe not a great accomplishment when you consider the kind of crap that’s floated through here since then (Travis Taylor, Marcus Robinson, Troy Williamson, etc.,)
Topics: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Artis Hicks, Aundrae Allison, Bernard Berrian, Brad Childress, Bryant Mckinnie, Calvin Johnson, Cedric Griffin, Dan Orlovsky, Detroit Lions, E.j. Henderson, Gus Frerotte, Jared Allen, Jon Kitna, Kevin Smith, Kevin Williams, Leigh Bodden, Marcus Robinson, Matt Birk, Mike Morris, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Randy Moss, Ryan Cook, Steve Huthinson, Tarvaris Jackson, Tony Richardson, Travis Taylor, Troy Williamson