Friday, December 01, 2006

Denny's Futility Felt From Afar

Sitting on a rickshaw in the South of India, I found access to the Vikings' recent victory over the Arizona Cardinals only in the post-game reviews. That's unfortunate given that this game looked promising from the moment that it was scheduled and, judging from the play by play, lived up to its billing as a close Vikings' victory.

From the outset, two certainities availed themselves with respect to the game's outcome. The first was that, no matter the teams' respective records or on-field performances leading into the game, the Vikings would prevail. And no matter what the Vikings did to assist the Cardinals, Denny Green would do just enough to fall short--just enough to be able to blame the loss on his players rather than on a running attack that featured a mere six rushing attempts.

We knew these two facts at the time that the Vikings' game was scheduled because we knew that the game meant something to Denny. Nothing would have satisfied Green more than to return to the Metrodome and to end the Vikings' modest playoff prospects.

But Denny doesn't win when it matters. And that spelled doom from the outset for the Cardinals. The result was a much needed Vikings' victory that, combined with the continuing inadequacies of enough other NFC teams, gives the Vikings renewed hope for crashing the post-season party.

Offensive Line Shows Up

In the aftermath of Sunday's game, former Vikings' and current Cardinal's offensive line coach Steve Loney commented that the Vikings' offensive line played well. "When things go wrong, the offensive line is an easy target," Loney commented, "mostly because most people don't really understand how an offensive line works."

Loney's point was that an offensive line takes cohesiveness to work. The implication was that the Vikings finally have some offensive line cohesiveness and that that cohesiveness spurred the Vikings' offensive attack.

Loney's suggestion might be accurate, but what Loney knows about offensive line play can not account for most of the Vikings' season-long problems along the offensive line. For the cohesiveness intangible of which Loney speaks can only exist if the players on the line also do the tangible things--like blocking, avoiding senseless penalties, and showing a semblance of positive technique.

Whatever Tice saw in Marcus Johnson and Childress saw in Johnson and Artis Hicks, the Vikings are noticeably stronger along the line with Jason Whittle and even the suspect Mike Rosenthal manning the guard and tackle positions, respectively. That says less about Whittle and Rosenthal, however, than it says about the inadequacies of Johnson and Hicks.

If the Vikings can continue to get remotely serviceable play out of Whittle and Rosenthal, even with the continued poor play of Bryant McKinnie on the left side, they need not worry about Johnson's play at quarterback. The constant on-slaught that Johnson faced prior to the Arizona game--an on-slaught, Childress strongly implied, for which there was no answer along the offensive line--was what created the need for a rolling quarterback. Without the onslaught, Johnson need not worry about constant blindsiding and can resume form as a quarterback unlikely to change the game in either direction.

Suddenly, with changes that could have been made weeks ago, things look a bit closer to what was expected at the beginning of the season. And the offense looks at least reasonably competent, albeit against the likes of the Cardinals. That bodes well for the Vikings, even if the next opponent promises a much stauncher test of the Vikings' offensive line.

Up Next: Looking for Viewing Spots in Bombay. Plus, pre-game (assuming the power doesn't go out and the internet system I find cooperates).

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