The storylines are pretty obvious going into Sunday afternoon’s Metrodome tilt with the Ravens:
- Matt Birk returns to Minnesota as the enemy.
- Baltimore looks to rebound after a shocking loss to the Bengals.
- The Vikings hope to quiet the doubters who say that, despite their 5-0 record, they have not proven they are legitimate contenders.
On the Vikings’ side, the most important storyline might be: “Will Adrian Peterson finally have himself an Adrian Peterson game?”
Actually, the problem might not be AD. The problem might be us. Or, more precisely, our over-inflated expectations.
Fact is that, despite having been held under 80 yards for two straight games, Peterson is still second in the league in rushing, and leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 7. Unfortunately, we anticipated him being on-pace for 2,000 yards by now.
Clearly, Adrian has had some frustrating games. But the other thing we must keep in mind is that this is not the same team it was last year. This is a team with a reliable passing game.
Adrian’s lack of a bust-out yardage performance since Game 1 is the result of a combination of factors. One is that we’ve faced some pretty decent front sevens in that span, including the Rams, who may suck as a team but have some nice linemen and linebackers. Another is that, with Brett Favre on the field, downs that once were automatically running downs now are toss-ups.
As Favre has developed chemistry with his receivers, Brad Childress has been more inclined to open up the offense. We came out throwing against the Rams, and ended up handing the ball to Peterson only 15 times in the game.
Such things are obviously dictated by the way the game goes. If teams stack the box, it only makes sense to let The Favre find the single coverages and throw there. Defensive coordinators daring Brett Favre to beat them? Good luck with that.
One of these days, the vaunted theory that Favre’s presence will open things up for Peterson may actually come to fruition. Then we’ll see more of the big-time runs we’ve been dreaming about.
Until then, we may have to content ourselves with a grinding, workmanlike Adrian Peterson instead of the game-breaking, highlight-reel making version.
The Ravens hope the lava cap remains intact on Mount Purple Jesus for at least one more week. They already got erupted on by Cedric Benson last week; they’re not looking forward to another pyroclastic flow rolling down on their asses.
Actually, given the way Baltimore’s pass defense has played this year, the Vikings’ running game may be the least of their worries.
As of week 6, the Ravens rank 26th against the pass, below even the Rams. This could be a statistical mirage (the 436 yards they surrendered to Philip Rivers sort of skewed things) or it could be an indication that The Favre is going to have a huge day (Brodie Croyle posted a 115 QB ranking against the Ravens in week 1, so…).
If the Vikings pass-protect this week like they have the last two weeks, Brett shouldn’t have any trouble standing in the pocket and picking out the open man.
On the defensive side…let’s just say the Ravens aren’t the only team having problems against the pass.
The Vikings are ranked 18th against the pass, but that number would be much worse had Brady Quinn and/or Matthew Stafford done anything against us. From the San Francisco game on, the Vikes have shown a sieve-like propensity between the 20s, and though we’ve been informed that this shouldn’t bother us, it still does.
But, maybe things are slowly turning around. Tyrell Johnson and Benny Sapp have been improving, and if we could just tighten things up in the middle where E.J. Henderson has not exactly been Urlacher-like in coverage…maybe we can still have a less-bendable pass D.
Cause you see, the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy only works until you play a team that can get it done in the redzone. Which is why I worry so much. One of these days, somebody is going to finish off some of these drives, and we’re going to wish we didn’t give up those middle-of-the-field yards quite so easily.
Playoff teams don’t cough it up the way the Rams do. They don’t miss open receivers the way rookie QBs and Brady Quinn do.
I hope I’m wrong, but I fear we could be in for a schooling at the hands of Joe Flacco today. He’s the first real quarterback we’ve faced all year save for Aaron Rodgers, who was hampered by his offensive line’s utter inability to block.
The Flacco v. Vikings Pass D could be the most intriguing match-up of the day, even trumping the Ravens Run D vs. AD match-up. If we hold up against Flacco…well, then we get to try it again against an even better quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.
Seems weird to say, given the way things have been the last couple of years, but I’m actually more concerned about the defense than the offense. In fact, I’m not concerned about the offense at all. I believe that The Favre will get the job done.
And if the rest of the team can rise to The Favre’s level of calm efficiency and occasional greatness? There will be many fewer doubters.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers Adrian Peterson Baltimore Ravens Benny Sapp Brad Childress Brady Quinn Brett Favre Brian Urlacher Brodie Croyle Cedric Benson E.j. Henderson Joe Flacco Matt Birk Metrodome Minnesota Vikings Philip Rivers St. Louis Rams Tyrell Johnson