Monday, January 03, 2005

Early Preview

I may be incommunicado for the next week, so here is the early take on next Sunday's playoff game at Lambeau. Predictably, the preview is brief. This is not because I have nothing to say about the game, but because I have already said it.

I have noted, for instance, that the Vikings have the personnel to defeat the Packers. Most teams do. I have also noted that the Vikings have the personnel to lose to the Packers. We have not seen the former package very often in recent weeks, but we have seen plenty of the latter--seven takes in the past ten weeks to be precise. And the show is becoming old, but I'll keep trying.

I cannot resist the temptation to point out that the Vikings could feast on the Packers' defense by employing a steady diet of screens, slants, shovel passes, Daunte roll-outs (and, preferably, roll-out running plays). And neither can I resist the urge to note that containment of Favre should be the goal on defense. That a 3-4 defense, despite the Vikings' lack of linebackers, is better when played with Spencer Johnson or Chris Hovan or some mobile body, than is any formulation of the 4-3 that the Vikings have tried to date.

I could state all this, but it would not matter. It would not matter, because, despite what we all see from week to week, the Vikings' coaches apparently see something else--I'll call it a mirage. And this mirage has compelled the Vikings to continue to do what they have been doing, to continue to beat a drum that long ago wore out.

The Vikings continue to draw up ridiculous plays (such as a play action pass with time running out and no time on the clock--Hello? Is anyone buying that a team will run in that situation? Anyone other than a "defender" in purple?). The Vikings also continue to rely on the bomb in an attempt to salvage poorly conceived game plans. They continue to enter the game with an apparent disinterest in the opponent and with an apparent absence of a game plan. They continue to speak of taking what the opponent gives them, only to proceed to attempt to pound square pegs into much smaller round holes. And they continue to show an inability to adjust and an astonishing ability to make the same mistakes over and over and over and over again.

But even with all that, even with all of the futility, the Vikings have played two close games against the Packers this season. And that would give some fans reason to predict a Vikings' victory on Sunday. Not me.

It would be overly optimistic to predict a Vikings' victory next Sunday for several reasons. First, the Packers have already beaten the Vikings twice this season. In previous playoff games involving a team beaten twice in the regular season by their playoff opponent, the team losing both regular season games has lost the playoff game 10 of 15 times. This looks like number 11.
The Packers have been running up the score on teams lately and that should continue against the Vikings, purveyors of the "run up the score" defense. If the Vikings do not eliminate the critical mistakes that have become endemic to the team's offense this season, they not only cannot win, they probably cannot even stay close. And there is no indication that the mistakes will cease in the near or distant future.

The Packers have another advantage over the Vikings in that the Packers play games with a sense of urgency, from beginning to end. Even though their game on Sunday was meaningless, the Packers played to win. And, as the Packers often do under Favre, they won big by striking early. Against a team that Minnesota recently lost to--big. And against a team that expected to win this week, at home.

The Packers win these games because they understand that plays are cumulative. A big play at the beginning is as big as a big play at the end of the game, possibly bigger given the momentum early big plays help to forge. The Vikings appear to lack awareness of this element of the game, causing them to start flat and to make errors throughout the game. As for the late big plays, well, I shall leave for now discussion of the atrocious two-minute (ten minute?) offense and the Vikings' constant failure in clutch situations.

At least one other decided advantage that the Packers have over the Vikings is that the Packers win games they are supposed to win. They also tend to pull out games that are supposed to be close. On Sunday, the Packers likely will do what the current Vikings' team is utterly incapable of doing. The Packers likely will beat a team that they are favored to beat. And if Sunday's game turned your stomach, don't bother watching the playoffs, because this game might be nowhere near as close as the regular-season games.

Up Next: Post Game.


Anonymous said...

The Vikes lack heart. This team has no confidence right now. The defense cannot stop teams and the offense has no direction. A bad loss at GB is very imminent

Anonymous said...

Heart? I think the Vikings lack something more fundamental. Talent on defense, talent on the coaching staff, talent in the ownership group.

I am looking forward to a 42-27 loss to Green Bay next sunday.

Anonymous said...

Our 04-05 Vikings lack Heart AND all of the aforementioned talent. I can deal with a lack of talent. What I cannot deal with, however, is lack of heart. We're dealing with similar circumstances over across Downtown this year in our Timberwolves. Is there something in the water here or what?

Lichty said...

They lack heart and urgency. The offense has talent and should be winning these games. You can point to almost all of the games this year, and despite the defense's awfulness, you can point to lost opportunities or more simply failure to move the ball and score by the offense. There is no reason why this offense can't jump to leads like Indy does (well except coaching and lack of urgency and heart).

This offense cost the team probably 4 or 5 more wins by not making up for the bad defense with more than "doin' our share."

Anonymous said...

There's a rumor in today's Pioneer Press that Glen Taylor might buy the Vikings from Red McCombs.

That would be absolutely fantastic.

I would like to say, though, that if that deal goes through all of us Minnesota Vikings fans will owe Red our gratitude for fielding many, many great teams. The Vikes were a play away from the Super Bowl, they set the NFL record for most points scored, and had a 15-1 season, one of the best ever. In addition, Red signed and kept Culpepper, Moss, and other stars. McCombs has lived up to his promise to keep the team in Minnesota.

I can't blame Red for not pouring money into the Vikings in past years. Without a new stadium, it's not worth the investment.

I hope Red makes a nice, tidy profit and then receives our thanks as Vikings fans for his integrity and for those great, memorable years.

And I hope the deal to Glen Taylor goes through. The stadium deal might get done and then the sky is the limit.

Anonymous said...

You're all wrong. The Vikings strategy has been brilliant. They have played everything close to the vest all year. Knowing exactly what they needed to do all along to just barely get into the playoffs, they did not reveal to any of our prospective opponents the secret tactics which they will suddenly spring on (in this case) the hated Packers. They will blindside the Lambeau crew with trick plays, aggressive defenses, and inspired special teams play thereby giving them an overwhelming victory and propelling them through the playoffs with newfound confidence and momentum to a victory in the SuperBowl.

The only thing that could ruin this run to the top would be an injury to a key defensive player like Chavous or something like that.



Anonymous said...

As much as I've bashed the Vikings here, I think it is clear they have enough talent to go to the Super Bowl and maybe even win it.

That's why the coaching has been so disappointing, even taking into account the tight budget Red is enforcing.

Once we get a new owner and a new stadium, that will catalyze the coaching and the whole organization.

Until then, I'll be cheering for the Vikings to defy expectations.

Anonymous said...

The Twin Cities media has jumped all over Moss for leaving the field with 2 seconds left. Moss said that he did it because he didn't want to flip out, throw a chair or something.

Moss was frustrated after the loss to the Redskins. At least he still cared. Most of the Vikings were just standing around like a bunch of stiffs.

I'll take Randy Moss over any guy in the NFL to base my team around.

(Of course, I'd want Culpepper and KW too, plus a bunch of other Vikings.)

Anonymous said...

Brett Favre is the most overrated quarterback in NFL history. He is also an old, dumb wanker.

Do you hate Favre, like me? You should read this.

Anonymous said...

Check your source next time on Favre. This guy LOVES the hometown Vick and think he's the greatest thing since the pyramids. All Vick can do is run, he's an awful passing QB. This writer constantly plays the race card and is still mad the Falcons traded Favre all those years ago.

Anonymous said...


The Twins deserve a stadium FAR more than the Vikings do.

Anonymous said...

14-0. Love that fro.

Come on now, keep it going.

Anonymous said...

Vikings 31 to 17. Moss moons Lambeau Field!!! YES!!!!

Chris Collinsworth is a prick.

The Vikings OWN Titletown.

Keep it going and finish them off!

FM said...

Best game of Daunte's career.

Classy touchdown celebration by Randy--not. Typical stupidity. Great talent, but clearly a mental defective. I am stunned he wasn't flagged for it. Probably will be fined later in the week.

Moss grows in the endzone.

Anonymous said...

The Fox commentators are sitting around, all saying "Randy Moss just doesn't get it." Blah blah blah.

They are the ones that don't get it.

Randy Moss is a rebel, a maverick. He's so good, he can't play by their rules. He has to play by his own rules.

Two big middle fingers up to Fox, the Green Bay Packers, Brett Favre, ESPN, PA, Dubay, and the Star Tribune.

A tip of the hat to Reggie White and condolences to his family. It's too bad that Fox had to skip to a commercial break in the middle of his moment of silence.

Classy, Fox. Real classy.

Go Moss!!!! Go VIKINGS!!!!

This is the year. DO YOU BELIEVE?!?

Anonymous said...

Tice isn't out of the hole yet. He's got to get the team to play hard against the Eagles.

The Vikes can win if they practice, prepare, and execute.

Yes, we can.

Yes, we can!

Yes, we CAN!

Now let's get out there and beat Philadelphia!

Anonymous said...

Vikings 31
Packers 17 F

- first playoff win since New Orleans in 2001

- first road playoff win since NYG in 1997 (the miraculous comeback game with Moss throwing to C Carter for a TD)

- first road playoff win for Culpepper

- Dennis Green playoff record: 5-9. Mike Tice playoff record: 1-0 (so far).

- before game, only 19 Vikings had playoff experience

- injuries to Moe Williams, Randy Moss, Brian Williams, and David Dixon. Let's pray they'll all be back next week.

- Willie Offord stepped up. Chavous helped the defense from the sidelines, but will be he traded in the offseason? Could get a third round draft pick for him. Offord might be the new starter.

- Ralph Brown came up big as the nickelback

- The linebackers, especially Claiborne, stepped up. Was it a fluke or a lasting improvement?

- Both of the lines played their guts out and deserve much credit for the victory.

- Mike Tice shows flashes of greatness. Was it a fluke or can he do it next week, too?

- Ted Cottrell, great scheme against the West Coast offense. With adjustments it should work against Philly.

- Good job team in covering fumbles. Gotta keep that up.

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