Monday, October 13, 2008

Parallel, Pessimism, and Defense

In 2004, the Minnesota Vikings won a late season game against the Detroit Lions 28-27. Daunte Culpepper's 404 yards and 3 touchdown passes were hardly "ugly," but the defense entirely collapsed, allowing Joey Harrington to throw for 361 yards and lead the Lions to what should have been a game tying touchdown drive. But the Lions botched the extra point, and the Vikings escaped with a lucky win.

But within the win was obvious evidence of the Vikings' weaknesses. They proceeded to lose three of the next four games: the defense continued to struggle, and the offense had its bad days, too.

It's reasonable, then, to be pessimistic after the Vikings' 12-10 win against the Lions Sunday. The Vikes struggled to beat an awful Lion team, and so they may struggle and lose when they play better opponents the rest of the season.

Why, then, do I maintain some hope for this team (beyond my generally optimistic disposition regarding the Vikes)?

Mainly, it is my hope that a team with a great defense but a bad offense (with a couple of playmakers) can pull out more close wins than a team with a great offense but a bad defense (with a couple of playmakers). The 2004 Vikings had a spectacular passing game and found themselves in a lot of close games, but often lost those close games because of very bad defensive efforts. I'm hoping the 2008 Vikings can get stops in close games, and the Viking offense an do just enough to score some points.

I also maintain the grudging hope the offense can improve. After all, they do have some playmakers (AP can be dominant, and Bernard Berrian has 398 yards and 2 TDs in the 4 games Gus Frerotte started). And they did move the ball against the Lions (392 net yards); they destroyed themselves with badly timed penalties and turnovers (mistakes that may be eliminated).  The team also continues to stink on 3rd down (3/15), and I'm less optimistic that perpetual problem can be rectified.

In essence, I hope a dominant defensive unit can lead a team to more wins than losses, as long as the offense and special teams units don't entirely tank.  If that's the case, 9-10 wins is still possible.

But I also won't be surprised if the offense and special teams units do entirely tank.  If that's the case, 6-7 wins is probable.


8 comments:

  1. The Vikings still seem to be on the same sort of track that the 05 Jaguars were on...the Jags lost their seventh game but then went on an 8-1 tear and won 12 games that year. Minnesota played worse in their first game, so if the Vikes fall to 3-4 and then go 8-1 down the stretch we're looking at 11-5. Right where I thought they should be!

    Now, just exactly how the Vikings would go on a streak like that is somewhat beyond me at this point, but you can't be too pessimistic as a Vikings fan at this point. Take that from a Lions fan.

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  2. Anonymous10:40 AM

    If you look at our offense we have enough pieces in place to be an above average to good offensive squad yet we continue to come up short. I feel this is becasue Childress tries to make players fit into his system instead of buidling an offense around the players strengths. Right now we are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and until we stop doing that we are going to struggle.

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  3. It is entirely Childress' risk averse offensive strategy that is holding this team back on offense.

    This is an 8-8 team in a year when a reasonably well coached offense could have put this team at 12 wins and division title.

    This has to be the end of the Childress experiment, doesn't it?

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  4. Anonymous12:10 PM

    The Pacifist has pointed out the next coach will be amazed how good Peterson is, lets only hope. We have players, now we need some ideas on offense. How about some new formations? Some new wrinkles now and then would help. KFAN pointed out how defensive coordinators lick their chops on how to stop our offense. N.O. and Detroit were bad defenses and our offense could not score points. Yes, we won, but no thanks to the offense. At some point the defense and special teams will nto win us games.

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  5. Anonymous12:56 PM

    Since Frerrotte's been dubbed starter, I've actually seen some glimmers of hope for the offense. First of all, they've become a little less Bill Walsh (which they've never been built for) and more Air Coryell. With a power running game and a speedy receiving corp (when healthy) better suited for intermediate-to-long work than short and precise, perhaps this is a welcome change. Maybe the coaching staff is finally letting their personnel dictate strategy, and not their theories. Even Frerrote is a good fit, as a pure pocket guy with a D-stretching arm who's willing to take licks (an unfortunate necessity if you're going to be patient enough to let stuff develop downfield) and tough enough to get up after them. Tarvaris Jackson has the requisite arm strength should they decide to carry this into the future, but unfortunately doesn't have requisite patience or feel in the pocket, and isn't the type who seems to be able to take a big hit and shake it off, mentally/physically.

    That said, there's still zero flow offensively. I struggle to think of a single Childress-era offensive game, maybe offensive possession, where I thought, "man, these guys are clicking." At least none that didn't involve a huge Peterson run. If/when Sidney Rice returns, and if Allison can ever move from "looks ready to break out" to really doing so, then maybe things will be different. We'll see. Better tight end play would help, too.

    I've also got to say I believe the O-line is maybe the most overrated aspect of this team. Detroit had 4 sacks in 4 games coming into the game. Yesterday they rolled up 5. And while Peterson had a decent, solid day, he was held below his typically robust 5+ yards-per-carry. A lot of that could be due to stacking the box, but still, that's pretty putrid, and potentially a big concern down the road.

    Defensively, I agree they're fine, but I can't consider them dominant. They still seem to let a few too many third down conversions slip through their fingers. And while the defensive line is improved, I'm not sure I'd call it great by any means. Williams had a monster day yeserday and is posting really good numbers again. Pat Williams is doing his thing. Allen's been a bit disappointing, and he's off pace from his past numbers, but he has been an improvement. Frankly, I'd like to see them rotate Robison more with Edwards. Edwards has all the tools in the world to be a good one, but as was the knock on him coming out of Purdue, he just doesn't play as well as he "should," for whatever reason. Robison, meanwhile, posted 4.5 sacks last year in very limited action, making him one of their more productive defenders on a per-minute basis.

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  6. PV! Gonzo from The Daily Norseman here.

    I got an e-mail asking if I could do an interview with the Fox affiliate in Minneapolis about the Vikings. Since I'm in Mississippi, I really can't do it, and when he asked for a recommendation, yours was the first name that came to mind.

    When you see this, if you're interested, drop me an e-mail at DailyNorseman@gmail.com and I'll pass his contact info on to you.

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  7. I have to agree with lack of use at the TE position. By biggest question is what happened to Jim Kleinsasser? He was a pretty decent target pre-childress era. Now he's rarely used. He has good hands, and can usually get open in the flats. I've seen him break tackles one-on-one vs a small DB. The guy used to be able to play, why isn't he used more?

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  8. Peter4:44 PM

    cdub,

    Isn't ol' Kleiny more of a blocking TE? I seem to recall Wiggin getting all the TE targets pre-Childress.

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