Monday, October 19, 2009

Favre Provides New Vikings' Metric

Following Sunday's unnecessarily harrowing victory over the visiting Baltimore Ravens, the Minnesota Vikings stand 6-0 and atop the NFC North, the NFC, and the NFL. And more evident than the suddenly suspect play of the Minnesota defense and the inability of Adrian Peterson to put together both scoring and yardage numbers, has been the ability of quarterback Brett Favre to lead the Vikings to victory.

After two games, those fans still bewilderingly calling for Tarvaris Jackson to start, at least had reason to wonder whether all of the drama and the lack of cohesiveness between Favre and his teammates was worth the signing. In those first two games--both against awful competition--Favre put up some fairly pedestrian numbers, accounting for 265 passing yards and three touchdowns. Not bad, but probably something either Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson could have done.

Over the Vikings' last four games, however, the tide has turned noticeably against those questioning the Vikings' acquisition of Favre. In those four games, Favre has amassed 1,082 passing yards and nine touchdown passes. And those numbers likely would be gaudier had there been a need for Favre to stay in the St. Louis game until the end.

Add to the numbers, Favre's persistent ability to step up in the pocket in the face of pressure and his new-found willingness to eat the ball when all options truly are covered, and there is little to dislike about Favre's 2009 performance, except that, at age 40, it is unlikely that there will be too many encores.

With Favre in the lineup this season, the Vikings are undefeated. Without him in the lineup, it is conceivable that the team would be as bad as 2-4, with certain losses to Baltimore, San Francisco, and Green Bay, and possibly even a loss at Detroit, if faced with a similar 10-0 deficit at halftime.

That makes the Vikings a plus 3.5 with Favre or a minus 3.5 with any other quarterback on their roster.

While Favre has begun to thrive, he has done so despite the relative malaise in Adrian Peterson's game. After opening the season at Cleveland with 180 yards rushing and three touchdowns, Peterson has produced just 88 yards per game and four touchdowns over the past five games. Those numbers would be fine for Chester Taylor, but not for Peterson.

Despite his relatively modest performances prior to yesterday's 143-yard showing, Peterson remains number one in the league in rushing and first among running backs in first downs obtained. But the numbers could and ought to be better. And, if they were, the Vikings might be less concerned about the minutes that their defense is on the field and wondering less about how they got into position to have to hold on at the end against Baltimore.

The answer for Peterson appears obvious. He needs more touches and more consistency in those touches.

Against Cleveland, Peterson carried the ball 25 times. Against Detroit, San Francisco, and St. Louis, however, he carried the ball 15, 19, and 15 times, respectively. Yesterday, he carried the ball 22 times and, on the twentieth carry, broke a play for 57 yards. That's the cumulative effect that Peterson has on defenses, an effect that he cannot have if he does not accumulate carries.

But Peterson's numbers take a back seat to the effect that his carry totals portend for the team. In games in which Peterson has rushed 22 or more times, the Vikings have held strong time of possession advantages over their opponents. In two of the three games that Peterson has rushed less than 20 times, the Vikings have had a time of possession disadvantage--an important distinction given the Vikings' current defensive struggles.

Up Next: Zorn on His Way Out in D.C.

6 comments:

Peter said...

So the big questions now are: can Peterson run effectively against Pittsburgh on real grass next Sunday? and will the injured secondary hold up against passing yardage leader Ben Roethlisberger?

If Winfield is missing and Sapp isn't 100%, I don't like week 7 at all. At least Minnesota being 6-2 at the bye is now a worst-case scenario.

Cabrito said...

So I see Wilf is about to award Childress a contract extension. I wonder what prompts his enthusiasm. Could it be that Chili made the playoffs last year? (First playoff appearance in 3 years of head coaching; lost only playoff game.) Could it be his 6-0 record this year? (Half of victories against 3 teams with combined 2-16 record; other half via nail biting finishes that included a last second miracle pass and a missed field goal.) Maybe it's his prescience and persistence in talking Brett Favre out of retirement. (Actually a tacit admission by Chili that all his other quarterback plans during the previous three years had gone miserably awry.) Or perhaps it's his dazzling strategic maneuvers at the end of games.

As an example of the latter, consider his skillful time management at the end of the Baltimore game, which enabled the Vikings to emerge victorious. On third and 6 in the red zone with 2:30 to go in the game, Chili decided to run the ball. The Vikings sorely needed a touchdown at that point, to prevent the possibility of the Ravens winning with a long field goal at the end. Chili figured it would be better to take 30 seconds off the clock rather than risk an incomplete pass. The fans booed, realizing that it mattered little whether Baltimore had two and a half minutes or just two minutes to mount their final drive, even without any time outs left. As it turned out, the third down run failed, the Vikings kicked a field goal, the Ravens got the ball back with slightly less than two minutes to play, and -- surprise, surprise -- drove into position for a 44 yard field goal at the end. They missed, but the question arises, who was right, Chili or all the fans who booed? We all know the answer to that one, except perhaps Wilf.

Your opinion of the contract extension, VG?

vikes geek said...

Peter,

My guess is no and no, particularly if the grass in Pittsburgh is mud. I'm not convinced that Peterson is healthy, and I'm certain that the line behind which he is running is not blocking even as well as it did last year.

With Winfield and Sapp out, the Vikings essentially have two Waswa Serwangas playing in nickel. And with the continuing invisibility of the safeties, that's a recipe for a Tennessee-like performance against a decent quarterback and respectable receivers.

VG

vikes geek said...

Cabrito,

I will be posting on this late, late, late, tonight/early, early, early tomorrow. In short, it would be an impulse buy.

VG

ticketkingintern said...

While I don't mind that Brett Favre is receiving much of the praise for our AMAZING record, I can't help but wonder how he would have stacked up for another team, would he be playing this well if he were back on the Packers Roster? I can't help but think that it is the youth of this roster that keeps him fighting to prove that he has what it takes, maybe the rest of the Vikes are not playing at his caliber but they are encouraging him to play that well...

vikes geek said...

TKI,

I think you are correct. Favre's performance is a function not only of his ability, but also of the ability around him. He likely would have struggled more behind the Packers' offensive line. With that said, it is unlikely that either Sage or Tarvaris would have matched Favre's performance in 2009. I think it is safe to say that Childress' "care-taker" quarterback theory has taken a hit with Favre's signing. And that might ultimately prove beneficial to Childress.

VG