Sunday, October 22, 2006

Left Prevails

Apparently in keeping with the national trend, Minnesota Vikings' head coach Brad Childress loosened up his playbook on Sunday in Seattle, allowing his quarterback to throw beyond five yards. For good measure, the running back was given a shot as well. The result was a significant Vikings' victory and a crushing Seahawk loss. All tidied up with a cautionary bow for the Vikings.

The Game

Not everything went well for the Vikings on Sunday. Their usually dependable kicker missed a makeable field goal attempt, the right side of their offensive line continued to take utterly senseless penalties, and the head coach again made a questionable, albeit successful, challenge. Each had the potential to undermine the Vikings' efforts. And early on, it looked as though they might.

In the end, however, much more went right for the Vikings against the suddenly endangered Seahawks. The Vikings' defense continued to demonstrate why it must be considered in the top three of NFL rush defenses, the linebackers continued to make plays, and the offensive line finally provided a reasonable measure of pass protection and run blocking. The result was a late-coming, though convincing, 31-13 road victory over a team suddenly in dire straights.

The Vikings' predicament might have been other that it was were it not for a critical play in the third quarter. Tied at ten, a Seattle misfortune, the loss of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, opened the flood gates. What ensued were numerous Seahawk errors and, ultimately, a Vikings' victory.

Post Hasselbeck

Minnesota scored a touchdown on its first possession following Hasselbeck's injury. But even with a touchdown lead, momentum and the outcome of the game remained in doubt. And, when the Vikings failed to convert an interception into points following Ryan Longwell's missed 46-yard field-goal attempt, even the Vikings' playcallers saw ominous signs.

But Hasselbeck's replacement, former Iowa State Cyclone Seneca Wallace, followed his first interception of the game with two fumbles--one of which he recovered, the other which the Vikings recovered for a touchdown--and another interception. And that was that.

And though the Vikings left Seattle with the object of the weekend secured, they received notice of one potential trouble-spot for a team currently on the rise. That potential trouble-spot is that, like Seattle, the Vikings are only one well-placed injury away from having what could be a successful season turn into a lost season.

Without Hasselbeck, and already missing two key offensive linemen and last year's MVP running back, Seattle suddenly looks a lot less like the 2005 Seahawks and much more like a team that will struggle to win games. Wallace is a nice backup, but that's what he is at this point in his career--a guy who spells the starter for a few games. And that's what Brad Johnson's backup, Brooks Bollinger, is at this point in his career. If the Vikings liked what Wallace did when he entered the game on Sunday, then they might want to consider shopping for a veteran backup to complement Bollinger.

Up Next: Inside the numbers. Plus, NFC News and New Debuts on Vikesgeek.com.

6 comments:

Lichty said...

I think lost in your analysis is truly what a good job the defense is doing -- pre and post Hasselback. While Seattle moved the ball at times, the vikings were able to make big plays on third downs and in general were disruptive all day.

I thought smoot played too passively and gave up some uncessary yardage and first downs underneath, but the front seven played very strongly regardless of which QB was in the game.

The other thing I noticed is what a poor coach Holmgrem is. His team is undisiplined and in general was very listless. I thought he did not take adavantage of Minnesota's weaknesses and continued to run against a stout run defense when the defense was having some difficulty with the short passing game.

Offensively, the playcalling was actually pretty good and the clock management was also very good. Childress definitely improved over his poor efforts versus Chicago, Buffalo and Detroit (although Holmgren and Jackson (falling backwards when a lean forward would have given them a first down) was emblematic of a team that was ripe to be outcoached.

Also, I have been very impressed with Taylor. He does not get the easy yards that robert smith had the luxury of. This is not a good o-line and Taylor made a lot out of nothing.

Also, I was worried at the beginning of the season about the linebackers, but they have played pretty well. Granted having an outstanding d-line will help, but they still have to shed blocks, pursue, make tackles and cover backs and TE's in pass coverage.

I think Tomlin has been the best D coordinator since Floyd Peters. His players are playing well. His schemes are good. he has well designed and timed blitzes, and I actually saw a cornerback at the LOS playing bump and run coverage for the first time since the early 1990's. WOW!

Vikes Geek said...

Lichty,

It's not lost, I just don't elaborate. The defense was the story on Sunday, but other things looked a bit better--like Chester Taylor and some passing attempts beyond five yards.

The Vikings still have issues on both sides of the ball, however. Hicks and Marcus Johnson are virtual locks to lead the league in penalties at their position with both averaging over a penalty a game so far this year, pass blocking remains inconsistent, run blocking to the right doesn't exist, and the corners--even Winfield--are giving too much of a cushion. My first personnel prediction for 2007--Smoot is gone. Yuck, you don't get much worse than that for that kind of cabbage.

VG

Lichty said...

VG-

Agree that smoot has been a terrible disappointment and he should be gone. Will be a good test of the talent evaluation skills of the triangle of mustaches. I think the fact that Griffin has done a very nice job as a rookie, will make the decision easier, although I would like to see him get another year as nickel/backup and another top flight corner brought in. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

I thought Winfield was outstanding in run support, but agree that he coverage was not as tight as I expect. Don't know if that was on Tomlin's scheme or Winfiled on his own.

What are your thoughts on the LB's? I have not seen every game this year, but from what I have seen, they have far exceeeded my expectation as contain on the edge has been much improved over last year and they have shown a decent ability to shed blocks and pursue sideline to sideline. Harris, while not a great LB is far better than he was last year. He read and tackling have been pretty good.

Henderson is much better on the edge than in the mike, and the Leber/Donrtarious combo has not been a disaster. Most surprisingly is the LB's pass coverage has been far better than I expected.

Another thing is that the LB blitzes are actually effective. In the past, say dozen year, and at least since Jack DelRio, the LB's on a dog would always run right into a blocker or run right past the QB. The blitzing has been well schemed by the coaches, but also well executed by the LB's. Makes a huge difference when on a third and long in favorable field position a team can effectively pin its ears back and give the QB a dirt bath.

As I said, it is much easier when you have an outstanding front 4 as the Vikings do, but they still have make the reads and the plays.

Offense I do not want to touch. Johnson has noodle arm so his passes have to be dead on. Once he gets into a rhythm he seems to do ok with his reads, but he (or the coaches) are still far to enamored with a three yard pass to the flat that momentum either makes the received dive to make the catch or carries him out of bounds.

I thought the run/pass mix was effective against Seattle, but probably a little too run heavy early. That being said, I think that it did make the play action very effective later in the first half and in the second half.

Vikes Geek said...

Lichty,

The linebackers have been good so far. Of course, as you note, it helps to have Kevin and Patrick Williams stuffing the run and the ends playing reasonably well. There's no question that Henderson, right now, is better on the edge than in the middle. That much was apparent last season and Childress' initial plan to move him to MIKE seemed ill-suited. Good decision to reverse the initial plan. Leber has also played reasonably well and Harris suddenly looks competent--and that's infinitely better than anything that the Vikings have had in the middle the past four seasons.

I agree that the early run set up the play action option. But what mystifies me is why Childress continues to stifle the offense until the second half. Are the Vikings really giving anything away by throwing some real passes in the first half? There's quite a bit of work to be done here. And there's even more work to do on the right side of the line.

VG

Lichty said...

But what mystifies me is why Childress continues to stifle the offense until the second half. Are the Vikings really giving anything away by throwing some real passes in the first half? There's quite a bit of work to be done here. And there's even more work to do on the right side of the line.

Agree 100%. As a Michigan fan, I get to watch that maddening conservatism early in games on Saturdays and Sundays. But won't complain with the results really from either team this year.

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