Sunday, December 09, 2007

Vikings Beat Up On Little Sisters of the Poor

On the strength of another strong defensive performance against another underwhelming offensive opponent, the Minnesota Vikings moved to 7-6 on Sunday, solidifying their prospects for making the 2007-2008 NFL playoffs. While the 27-7 drubbing of the San Francisco 49ers should lay to rest concerns about the Vikings not being prepared to win games that they should win, the victory was not without its reminders that the Vikings still have several things on which they must improve before they are ready to challenge the two or three heavy-weights in the NFL.

The primary area of concern for the Vikings in the big picture is that, while they have been winning of late, and while they have been winning by sizeable margins, the team's victories have been coming mostly at the expense of the league's decidedly lesser teams. While these trends were positives on Sunday, the Vikings will have to show that they can continue their trend of positive play against the lesser teams when facing the league's better teams.

The Vikings' seven victories this season have come over teams with a combined winning percentage of .416. The team's six losses--two against the Packers--have been against teams with a combined winning percentage of .585.

Should the Vikings make the playoffs this season, they would be facing a field with an approximate winning percentage of .719. That's a sizeable improvement in the caliber of team that the Vikings would be facing in the playoffs over what they have faced in all but one of their victories this season.

All of which is not to suggest that the Vikings are incapable of beating some of the better teams in the NFL. They might very well have made some of the adjustments necessary to stop strong passing attacks and to maneuver through stalwart passing defenses. But whether they have made the adjustments to address weaknesses most dramatically laid bare several weeks ago in a loss to Green Bay, however, will not be answered until the playoffs, as the Vikings face three more weak teams in their final three games of the regular season.

Up Next: Some Good Signs and Some Continuing Concerns. Plus, is it the end of the Millen Era in Detroit?

6 comments:

HawaiiVike said...

The Vikings lost once to the Lions--love your blog, by the way.

RM said...

I'm not and X and O guy, but can someone explain how SF shut down our running game (aside from one run)? Is SF on to something or was it more a one game blip on the radar? Just wondering.

Cabrito said...

I'd like to echo what rm said, or rather asked. Chester Taylor gained 101 yards rushing, of which 84 came on one play. That means he gained 17 yards on all his other runs. Add that to AP's 3 yards, and you get 20 yards rushing for the entire game, aside from one run. TJ picked up more yards on his scrambles. This is the KAO, the "strong rushing game" that all the pundits are talking about? Like rm, I'm curious as to how the Niners effectively shut down our rushing game. Surely it had more to it than just putting an extra man in the box (which helped our passing game, of course).

bgman said...

I didn't get a chance to watch the game closely -- I have it DVR'd to watch later -- so my apologies if I'm off the mark.

But from what I saw and what the commentators said, I think SF does a lot a different run blitzes to fill the gaps, which is why there wasn't much room to run, but a lot of room for receivers to get open in the secondary.

But I do want to point out that the Vikes have won four in a row, all by big margins. And in those four games, AP either didn't play or was no factor in three of the wins. While he almost single-handedly carried the Vikes to wins over Chicago and San Diego, the Vikes have now shown the balance to win without him.

So now teams must game-plan to stop AP (and Chester Taylor), which opens the passing game for Tavaris, or respect the passing game, which will open running lanes for AP and CT.

It's that two-dimensional threat, along with continued aggressive play on D, that should carry the Vikes to the playoffs.

I don't know about anyone else, but all I want out of this season is another shot at the Packers in the playoffs because I don't think they played the "real" Vikings in either game this year. And if Green Bay wins a third time, as they'll be expected to do, I'll tip my cap to the better team.

But I don't want to end the season knowing the Packers won twice, when the Vikes played basically JV ball aginst them. I want to see the Vikes playing their best ball match up against Green Bay and may the best team win. Even if they lose, it will get rid of that taste of puke in my mouth that I felt for days after the 34-0 no show the Vikes pulled off last time.

Ryan said...

VG,

Good article. Nobody really expected the 49ers to win because they are, overall, a pretty pathetic team. However, as bad as the 49ers offense is, they have a very talented defense. So, I'm pretty happy with our offensive performance. T-Jax continued to look poised and calm in the pocket, and our passing game provided some spark. We converted consistently on third down and didn't make any really big mistakes. However, there is some places we will need to improve. Our special teams coverage showed some lapses. Also, I got the feeling that the team did a little bit of coasting in the second half. However, overall, it was a pretty solid game.

RM,

The 49ers sold out their pass defense to stop the run. I really think that where Peterson was (on the field or not) determined how they attacked our offense. In general, if Peterson was brought into the game, the 49ers would bring an extremely fierce blitz package in to catch him at the line or in the backfield. I really believe that the 49ers main goal was to prevent Peterson from running wild on them.

RM said...

bgman and Ryan,

Thanks for the explanations, they make sense to me (no easy task). bgman, the comment on our newfound offensive balance was a good point. I think that even though our passing game is much improved, teams are still going to try to make us beat them through the air. The next few weeks should tell us whether we can do that against mediocre teams, and (hopefully) good teams in the playoffs.