10 Points: Vikings vs. Lions


After an extra day of digestion, here are the 10 points…

1. Donovan McNabb. How bad is he?

Let’s begin by considering the good things Donovan McNabb has done so far this year. 1) He’s shown a consistent ability to hit Michael Jenkins in the seven-to-ten-yard range. 2) He can still run a little bit though he looks sort of funny doing it. 3) He hands off well. 4) He has a dazzling smile. And now for the bad: Everything else. Here’s where I’m obligated to point out that he hasn’t gotten a ton of help from his offensive line, coaches and receivers. Yes, the blocking is dreadful right now and the play calling is sometimes suspect, and the Vikings don’t have enough guys who can make a play downfield. But you know what? McNabb is supposed to be able to rise above that. He’s supposed to make plays with the pressure in his face. He’s supposed to make his mediocre receivers better. He’s supposed to take the whole thing on his broad shoulders and carry the team to the promised land. Brett Favre did those things in 2009 and he was way older and more broken-down than McNabb. So why isn’t McNabb pulling a Favre? Could it be because McNabb simply doesn’t have enough heart and guts? Yes, I think it’s time to seriously question what McNabb has inside. Already the rumors are leaking out that some of McNabb’s teammates are bugged by his work habits. And now the Vikings say they’re going to work on McNabb’s mechanics in practice. Mechanics? Work habits? These are not supposed to be concerns with a 34-year-old former Pro Bowl quarterback. A guy like that is supposed to settle a situation down, not make it worse. Obviously McNabb is not much of a leader, either on the field or off. If he were, these second half collapses wouldn’t be taking place. He’d rally the troops and find a way to make something happen. You know, like ’09 Favre.

2. Donovan McNabb. Should we bench him?

I still think it’s too early to call for Christian Ponder. That doesn’t mean I believe the Vikings have a shot at the playoffs – that ship has sailed – but I just think, this early in the season with a lot of the veteran guys like Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson still wanting to fight and scrap, the coaches owe it to everyone to try as hard as they can to make it work with the veteran QB. You brought the guy in because you thought you had one last shot at it; even if it’s not very realistic to think you can do anything this year after an 0-3 start, you still have to go to the bitter end before giving up, otherwise the whole thing was just a folly. I don’t know if that means one more game for McNabb or two or three – that all depends on how McNabb does. Presumably, you have winnable games at least the next two weeks. Maybe McNabb gets his footwork fixed in practice and plays better and the Vikes get to 2-3 going into that four-game stretch where they play the Packers twice and the Bears once. Then at least you have a shot at a respectable season. As for Ponder: The idea that he’s going to come in and somehow kickstart this thing…well I think that would be asking a lot of a rookie. If you want to bring him in because you think the trial-by-fire is the best way to forge a future winning quarterback, fine, but don’t try to sell me on the idea of an immediate Ponder Miracle because I will call you a sap. The Vikings would struggle with Ponder as much as they are with McNabb, maybe even more.

3. Who else wants to shoot Bill Musgrave in the face?

I admit: I totally bought into the Musgrave hype. I thought this guy was some kind of offensive guru who was going to come in and finally figure out a way to use Adrian Peterson successfully. I thought he was going to unleash some innovative offense integrating running and short passing and play-action long stuff in a way that would make my eyeballs explode with the glory of it all. But that isn’t happening. Instead the guy feels like another incarnation of Chilly-Bevell: A play-design wonk who doesn’t know how to work his own offense once the game starts and the defense begins throwing crap at him he didn’t see coming. Remember all those times under Chilly-Bevell when the Vikes would come out looking unstoppable on the first drive and after that everything would fizzle and Chilly-Bevell’s only answer was to run Adrian Peterson up the middle and occasionally toss one to Naufahu Tahi in the flat? Musgrave’s offense reminds me of that. Really good early, then worse and worse as the defense adjusts. And Musgrave’s only answer is to run Jim Kleinsasser up the seam so McNabb can throw the ball behind him for an incompletion. And Musgrave seems to share one other trait in common with Chilly-Bevell: The mistaken belief that the Vikings are a power run team just because Peterson can run a guy over now and then. Spread. Them. Out.

4. It’s time for Musgrave to get in touch with his inner-Billick.

After three games it’s pretty obvious Musgrave doesn’t have much of the wild man in him and is a more-or-less tight-sphinctered risk-averse Childress-type down to his very soul. That being the case, it’s probably asking way too much for Musgrave to throw caution to the wind and start channeling Mad Bomber Brian Billick. But that, I think, is what the Vikings need right now. The whole thing feels way too uptight to me…way too “we’ve gotta stick with the plan no matter what happens.” In other words, way too Chilly-Bevell. What I’d like to see against the Chiefs Sunday is a long bomb on the first play and a long bomb on the second play. Screw all this “establish the run” crap. The hell with “let’s get Donovan in a rhythm with short passes.” If Musgrave really wants to demonstrate a keen offensive mind and throw something at Kansas City they’ll never see coming, he should come out empty backfield in the first quarter and just start chucking it all over the place. And if it fails (which it probably would because McNabb couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from five feet away)? So what? You’re already 0-3 and not going to the playoffs. Go down swinging Musgrave. (Editor’s Note: Yes I realize it’s easier being Billick-like when you have Randy Moss, Cris Carter, Randall Cunningham and an offensive line that can actually pass block. Stop ruining my fantasies.)

5. Kyle Rudolph looks like a player.

One good thing came out of that mess Sunday: We finally saw a flash of what Kyle Rudolph could bring to the table. That twisting, contorting catch of McNabb’s bad ball was the stuff future Pro Bowlers are made of. Now if we could only figure out some way to get him more targets. I know: How about running him up the seam instead of Kleinsasser? Throw the ball to someone who could actually catch it? Wow…radical.

6. Is Percy Harvin getting soft?

You know what happens when you coddle and baby people? They get kind of soft. This, I fear, is what’s happening with Percy Harvin. I don’t mean to downplay whatever physical ailment Percy came down with in the second half on Sunday that had him on the sideline puking instead of in the game diving futilely at McNabb’s bad passes, but at the same time…isn’t that the kind of thing big-time players are supposed to fight through? Now every time Percy gets a tummy ache he’s going to beg out? Yes I realize the migraine issue that led to most of the babying was legit, but as far as I know that wasn’t a migraine on Sunday, that was just him being a little sick and having to upchuck. Maybe I’m being a jerk about this but I can’t help feeling Percy let the team down a little.

7. Fred Pagac is a real defensive coordinator.

I now wish to commend Fred Pagac on the way he orchestrated his defense in the first half against the Lions. Those 3-3-5 nickel packages with Everson Griffen playing linebacker? They had Matthew Stafford looking as confused as an Amish kid in a room full of cross-dressers. And I didn’t even mind it when Pagac went to the three-man rush, even though I normally think the three-man rush is the stupidest idea on the face of the earth. It worked when Pagac did it (mostly because Gosder Cherilus is terrible and couldn’t block Brian Robison even if he suddenly grew Hulk arms). Unfortunately the plan fell apart a little in the second half when the Lions figured out they could just toss it deep to Calvin Johnson against single coverage. And it didn’t help that the tackling went crap again on that Jahvid Best screen pass that somehow turned into a huge play. Those few big plays aside, it was a very good day for the D against an emerging offensive power. Jared Allen? You scream all you want big man.

8. Chris Cook is now a player.

I’ve moved Chris Cook from the liability side of the ledger to the asset side. I used to get nervous when he was out there but I don’t anymore. I’m now convinced that he’s going to do something good. Cedric Griffin on the other hand…

9. On that whole running Adrian Peterson more in the second half thing…

My God am I tired of these debates about how to best use Adrian Peterson. They’ve been going on FOREVER! Obviously Mr. Twitch doesn’t have any better idea than Chilly-Bevell did in this area. Here’s the main thing to keep in mind: It doesn’t matter what Peterson does, the offense will look good if the quarterback plays well, and will look bad if the quarterback doesn’t play well. You want Peterson to get more runs in the second half? Find a QB who can complete a third-and-five pass with consistency. Also, I want to see more screens to Gerhart. Say it with me fans: MORE SCREENS TO GERHART!

10. Charlie Johnson sucks.

That is all.

Bonus: Going for it on 4th-and-1

I almost forgot to weigh in on this. I was sort of against it, then I was for it. I personally would’ve handed off to AD but I’m not a brilliant offensive mind like Bill Musgrave. Sure, what the hell. Go for it every time. Who cares anymore?

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