Monday, January 04, 2010

Vikings' Coaches Reach Oz

The Minnesota Vikings got a measure of revenge against the New York Giants for a nearly decade-ago beating that they took at they hand of yesterday's adversary. While the Vikings' dressing-down of the disinterested New Yorkers was not quite the same as the Giants' shellacking of the favored Vikings in the 2000 playoffs, the significance of the Vikings' victory on Sunday looms large.

After two weeks of fiddling with both the offense and the defense, the Vikings' coaches finally conceded what they ought to have conceded three weeks ago. Namely, the Vikings are at their best when the team uses the pass to establish the run. That's the no-brainer that we've been preaching since head coach Brad Childress arrived in Minnesota and, frankly, since this site has existed. In the modern NFL, teams need to be able to run the ball, but they need even more to establish the passing game. That demonstration ensures that teams will be able to run the ball well.

This maxim is, of course, a reversal of the 1980's mantra of establishing the run to establish the pass and a completely new way of thinking for coaches, like Childress, who hark back to the 1970's philosophy of using the run to establish the run. It likely is also yet another bitter ego pill for the Vikings' head coach to swallow--assuming he has taken his medicine in full--coming on the heals of his admission at the start of the season that the Vikings were not equipped to improve on their 10-6, one-and-done playoff run of last season with Tarvaris Jackson as the starting quarterback. After all, it was only last season that Childress proudly pointed to his passing game as akin to "a long hand-off."

The second half of last week's loss at Chicago indelibly demonstrated the need for a new direction in the Vikings' offensive coaching philosophy. It's not that the markings were not already scrawled upon every wall confronting Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevill, it's just that they preferred not to take note. Against the Bears, Favre finally forced his coaches' hands, twice waving off goal-line personnel in favor of a spread- and hurry-up offense; the first time, the coaches disregarded Favre's gestures and the Vikings' offense predictably came up short. The second time, the coaches acquiesced and the Vikings scored.

On Sunday, against the Giants, the Vikings went the Favre route, passing first and running second. The result was the type of victory that the Vikings should have claimed over the Bears one week earlier. Adrian Peterson finished the game with 54 yards rushing and one touchdown, but not because the line could not unbottle the defensive front. Rather, Peterson finished with one of his best per-carry averages of the season--just under 10 yards per rush--because the offensive line did not have to run block against an eight-man front that knew that the Vikings would run the ball. That Peterson did not have well over 100 yards was a function of the team's passing philosophy and the Vikings pulling Peterson for most of the second half after establishing an insurmountable half-time lead.

In addition to using the pass to establish the run, the Vikings made other long-needed adjustments, using tight ends more in protection, switching Antoine Winfield to nickel and taking him out of the base defense and off the edge, trying some new faces at safety, and limiting Jasper Brinkley's defensive duties. The result was a much-needed, large-margin victory on the eve of the Vikings' Conference semi-final playoff match.

Up Next: Why Not Sage? Why Not Now? Plus, Things to Like About Childress.

1 comment:

Maroussia said...

It will be great to watch Minnesota Vikings, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.