Given that most Minnesota Vikings' fans rightfully expected the Vikings to handle the wrong-way streaking Oakland Raiders on Sunday, it's not exactly letting the air out of the euphoria bubble to point out that, win notwithstanding, the Vikings have a considerably long way to go to catch up to the second-tier of teams in the NFL and forever to go to catch up to where the New England Patriots currently stand.
The statistics from Sunday's game support what we already knew to be true about the Vikings. For the game, the Vikings gained 228 net yards rushing and 250 net yards passing, with Vikings' quarterback Tarvaris Jackson netting 171 passing yards and Vikings' rookie wide-receiver Sidney Rice netting 94 passing yards on two passes. The Raiders countered with 61 net rushing yards and 311 net passing yards--344 gross passing yards.
Entering Sunday's game, the Raiders had been riding a five-game losing streak during which they had averaged just over 11 points per game. They doubled that on Sunday and might have tripled it if not for numerous mistakes in Vikings' territory. That doesn't measure well for the Vikings' defense. Nor do the Raiders' passing statistics.
With 344 gross passing yards, the Raiders nearly doubled their season-long, per-game, passing yard average. Part of that result can be blamed on the departure of injured cornerback Antoine Winfield. But, for a team purportedly deep in the secondary to give up 344 yards to the 29th-ranked pass offense in the NFL is difficult to accept, even with a key personnel loss.
While the Vikings have suggested all season that their secondary problems have been the result of an inability to maintain pressure on the quarterback, that inability does not appear a suitable explanation for Sunday's coverage issues as the Vikings sacked Raiders' quarterback Daunte Culpepper four times and hurried him nearly a dozen more times, and forced an intentional grounding that resulted in a safety.
Nor does it suffice to say, as the Vikings' coaching staff and players have argued in the past, that the passing yardage is a by-product of a good rush defense. For, while the Vikings kept the Raiders' woeful rushing offense in check on Sunday, the Raiders still ran 31 rushing plays to 39 passing plays.
What it all suggests is appeared to be true entering Sunday's game. Namely, the Vikings' pass defense isn't very good.
On offense, the Vikings measured up to their billing, relying on back-up running back Chester Taylor to run rough-shod over the Raiders' woeful defensive line and linebacking corps. The Raiders entered the game allowing 144 rushing yards per game, 29th in the league. The Vikings ensured that the Raiders left town with prospects of moving even lower in that category.
The problems for the Vikings' on offense on Sunday were entirely at the quarterback position. Though Jackson had a high completion percentage of 77%, he had a very modest passing-yardage total of 171 yards. The only two times the Vikings' quartback went deep was when the Vikings' quarterback was the Vikings' rookie wide-receiver, Sidney Rice--who amassed with two nicely thrown passes, more than half what Jackson amassed with 22 passes.
Jackson's 171 passing yards, 24 yards less than what the Raiders have been allowing per game this season, were augmented by a poor decision inside the Raiders' ten-yard line that resulted in an interception and a turnover near mid-field resulting from a lack of pocket awareness. That's what one typically gets with a rookie quarterback. And that's what the Vikings are left to rely upon this season despite otherwise having reasonable talent on offense.
In short, the result on Sunday was predictable in nearly every sense of the word. The Vikings ran well, passed below average, stopped the run, and allowed too much in the passing game. The result against a dysfunctional Raiders' team that is as bad as any in the NFL was a victory.
The victory moved the Vikings' to 4-6, ensured them of winning a post-season tie-breaker with the Raiders for drafting priority, should such a tie-breaker be necessary, and, with the continuing below-average play of the pass-defense, probably ensured that Vikings' owner Zygi Wilf will not make a change to defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier this season, if ever.
But the victory certainly did not cement any notions that the Vikings are anything other than what they appeared to be last week at Green Bay. The team still relies on the running game for meaningful yards and has grave difficulty stopping the pass. Against the Raiders, those are passable offenses. Against the Packers, Cowboys, Colts, and Patriots, they are the ingredients for a long afternoon.
Up Next: What the Patriots Have that the Vikings Do Not.