Monday, October 30, 2006

Time Wasted

It is the rare individual who is able honestly to say that they have not felt cheated out of precious time at some point in their life. And while many things rank much higher on a scale of events that deprive one of livable moments, few things combine the robbing nature with voluntary participation the way my viewing of the Patriots' mauling of the Vikings on Monday night did.

Give me a bowl of sweet, crispy grapes and I'll eat them all even though I know that, right around the corner, there will be a hefty price to pay. I understand the trade-off and except it every time it confronts me. In its entirety, the transaction is a net gain for me--more positive than negative.

Unlike the bowl of grapes, however, watching the Vikings submit to the Patriots had all of the downside of a painful experience with none of the upside associated with voluntarily partaking in an activity with, at a minimum, a downside of time spent. And the three hours spent only further called into question my decision.

After spending yet another first half killing an early game deep drive and settling for no points while also ceding an improbable 17 points to a team intent on showing Mike Tomlin why sagging corners and slow safetys don't cut it as a recipe for a pass defense against a credible quarterback, the Vikings stormed out of the lockerroom for the second half only to do more of the same.

For the game, the Vikings amassed 284 yards--on par with their season performance to date. That was good for exactly zero points, however, as quarterback Brad Johnson had fans reminiscing about Daunte Culpepper's final season in Minnesota. With three picks, all of them brutal decisions, Johnson removed any prospect that Minnesota had of staying with the Patriots.

But as dubious as was Johnson's performance on Monday night, the Vikings' defense and special teams coverage were far more inept. Laurence Maroney averaged 45 yards on two punt returns--one with the game still theoretically in reach for the Vikings if the defense would only return two or three picks for TDs. Punt returner Kevin Faulk chipped in a 29-yard punt return for good measure.

Defensively, the Vikings were non-existant and looked as bad as at any time during last season's lopsided losses to Carolina, Cincinnati, and Atlanta. The Vikings gave up 25 first downs, 430 yards of offense, mostly in the first three quarters, 345 passing yards, and looked rudderless.

One of the most telling statistics from the game is one that ostensibly favored the Vikings. For the game, the Vikings had the ball 30 minutes and 15 seconds to the Patriots 29 mintes and 45 seconds. Yes, that's thirty minutes, nearly 300 yards of offense, and zero points.

One drive, in particular, summed up the Vikings' offensive performance. Starting at New England's 45-yard line, the Vikings ate up a healthy 6:38 of game time, but moved the ball a mere 40 yards in twelve plays culminating with interception number one. Astounding.

Worse yet is the fact that the Patriots required virtually no time to score, cutting through the Vikings' sagging, Gopherlike defense with abandon. No Patriot scoring drive took longer than 3:57, despite three drives of 74, 86, and 93 yards.

Overall, it would be a night to forget. But the Vikings' offense is looking less and less comptetent over time--even allowing for the outburst in Seattle. That's an issue that even a soft schedule will not mask.

Up Next: APBs on Bryant McKinnie, Marcus Johnson, Artis Hicks, Fred Smoot, and Dwight Smith.


John said...

Wow, was THAT brutal.

Offensively, you can sum up the problems easily - Brad Johnson had a terrible game. This offense isn't good enough to withstand terrible decisions by a quarterback (we're seen ample evidence of that the last few years). If Johnson has a bad game, this team is sunk - it's that easy.

But the defensive meltdown was unforseen. It was ...hmm, what's the word? Oh, let's to with... nauseating to see them be so ineffective against the spread offense. Seven guys can't cover five receivers when three of them seem absolutly lost, and that's how the linebackers looked.

I spent most of the game blaming Harris, who seemed to have a knack for running himself out of a play. His first reaction in the spread was to run at the nearest receiver behind him, while the Pats passed over and over and over into his zone. And when he rushed, it seemed half-hearted, standing behind his lineman instead of committing himself one way or the other.

Upon further reflection, I'm not sure all of that was his fault. I suppose maybe he has a responsibility to cover the tight end or the running back out of the backfield some time. It might be the job of one of the safeties, to work with him to cover that zone over the middle....

Ahh, screw it. I'm blaming Harris and the Vikings defensive coaching staff. Against that spread offense, Harris is the one "free agent" on the field. Teh cornerbacks and safeties are dedicated to coverage, the lineman are rushing, and Harris is supposed to read the play and react. He was absolutely terrible in that role, consistently choosing to run backwards at whatever receiver was behind him, essentially blocking the safety from stepping up. How they could not fix that, when NE ran it again and again and again and again, sometimes consecutively, made me want to light my hair on fire.

Lichty said...

JOhn: I think the defensive scheme had a lot to do with it. The Tomlin cover 2 is predicated on a pass rush forcing the QB to throw underneath the zone for short gains at best.

In this case, instead, at the snap it appeared as if all of the pass defenders ran back 11 yards, almost like forming a maginot line accross that distance or further back. All Brady had to do with all day to do it was hit the guy slanting underneath -- and did it all night he did.

Of course Brady was also devastating on his shorter drops, which again demonstrated the soft coverage at the corners and the prevent in the secondary and linebackers.

Terrible defensive scheme, terrible execution and the offense, well, just terrible. That was a very Tice era-like game and I spent half the night in the fetal position. Just terrible.