The Vikings are next in line for a shot at derailing the freight train that is Tebowmania. The formula is actually pretty simple: Score enough points to force the Broncos into passing mode (cause Tebow can’t pass). The problem of course is the Broncos defense, which most of the time doesn’t give up a ton of points. The Broncos are all about keeping it close and letting Tim Tebow and their read-option offense win it in the fourth.
About that read-option: Everything I read about it says that to stop it you must play disciplined defense and not get fooled by the Broncos’ multiple formations and shifts. It’s all about recognition and sound tackling. If you’ve been watching the Vikings this year, you realize how screwed they probably are. Recognition and sound tackling are not things one associates with the 2011 Vikings defense.
The Vikings do seem to have one good thing going for them this week from a match-up stand point: The Broncos’ passing game is so weak that their lack of pass coverage prowess shouldn’t be a huge issue. On the surface this would seem like good news for dudes like Jamarca Sanford and Cedric Griffin who are liabilities in coverage but good in run support, and it would also seem to bode well for our linebackers who are decent tacklers when they actually get to the ball carrier. On the other hand, the Broncos’ style also negates the Vikings’ one defensive strength, their pass rush ability. By its very nature the read-option forces defensive ends to dial it back and play disciplined. So don’t look for Jared Allen to be his usual super-aggressive self. Sacks won’t be the name of the game for Jared today; keeping contain will.
It’s that whole “stay disciplined” thing that worries me with the Vikings. This defense already seems confused a lot of the time as it is, and today they’ll be facing an offense whose whole object is to create confusion. And on top of that you have a secondary that can’t tackle and linebackers that seem to disappear a lot against the run. This gets worse the more I think about it.
This game might be a classic case of the best defense being a good offense. If only the Vikings had a good offense! The good news is, Kyle Rudolph should be back, so Christian Ponder will have one more weapon. Percy Harvin was sick on Friday (not a migraine) but I doubt he’ll miss the game. Hopefully Percy and Ponder will get a chance to hook up a few times like they did last week against Atlanta. Harvin emerged as a deep threat and if Bill Musgrave knows what’s good for him he’ll keep trying to get the ball to Percy down the field. There’s no excuse for Musgrave not to be aggressive and loose in the play calling. This team is 2-9 for pity’s sake. Just open it up.
No matter what the Vikings do, the focus during and after this game will be Tim Tebow. The media love this guy more than any quarterback not named Brett Favre. If the Vikings manage to hold him in check and win the game, there will be much celebrating by those who want to see Tebow exposed as a fraud. If Tebow wins another one, the Tebow believers will have even more reason to cheer. Either way the media will over-analyze this game to the point of absurdity.
And myself? I’m not on the Tebow bandwagon nor am I particularly a Tebow basher (outside of the occasional bad joke). Tebow is just another average to below-average quarterback to me. He’s Tarvaris Jackson with leadership skill. Maybe the Broncos can win in the playoffs with their formula of college-style offense and solid defense but I doubt it. They definitely have enough to beat the Vikings, but that’s not saying much.