Thursday, September 09, 2010

Coming off the ledge: Vikings 9, Saints 14

ESPN Box Score

After a vicious offseason of wondering what might have been, it was good for a real football game to start. A few plays into it, and it was just a football game, just a chance to watch the Vikings and root for them to win. It’s like it always was.

So what does this game tell us about the Vikings 2010 season? If the rest of the season is like this game, they’ll gurgle and sputter and play flat and generally underachieve to mediocrity (I can see it: there have been plenty of playoff teams that followed up the next year by losing close games early in the season and then not sucking, exactly, but just performing like an average team). Or does the fact that they went on the road with a depleted secondary and competed to within five points of the defending champion show that the Vikings are still going to be competitive and are still ready to push for a Super Bowl over the next 15 games? Well, who knows. It’s another nine days until the Vikings get the Miami Dolphins in Thunderdome (a matchup I like a lot, but we’ll wait for that). I would have read way too much into a win tonight, but I’m afraid we can’t read way too much into this loss. We saw a lot of problems, especially receivers failing to step up and the thin secondary looking vulnerable. Those problems are also fixable (I think the WRs will perform better, and certainly the eventual return of Chris Cook and Cedric Griffin will help the secondary).

This team needs to rush the passer.
There are holes in the secondary; the defensive backs occasionally did an admirable job, occasionally looked bad, and occasionally looked bad but were bailed out when Saint receivers couldn’t finish a play. Even when they do rush the passer, a smart mobile QB like Brees can make the necessary moves to throw the pass downfield. But right now, if the Vikes don't get to the QB, they don't have the DBs to cover.

Brett Favre looks off...
But let’s remember how 2009 started. The Vikings played against a terrible Cleveland Browns team, and Favre really only needed to make a couple of throws of note. Is Favre any different in early September 2010 than he was in early September 2009? I doubt it--he just had a tougher matchup and was asked to do more this year.

Greg Camarillo
Bernard Berrian…a very disappointing dud game. Percy Harvin…a very disappointing dud game. Visanthe Shiancoe made plays in the first half, and then was simply not a factor.

Greg Camarillo barely played, but I think he needs to. I think the Vikings will like what they get if he’s on the field more. The Vikings showed in their offensive formations and personnel tonight that protecting Favre was a priority—but they’re going to have to give more receivers a chance to make plays. Harvin and Berrian disappointed, but as Camarillo gets more acclimated to the team and playbook, he’s a guy that should make plays and be a reliable pass catcher on third down.

That Saint kicker
Yes, I shouted profane things at him when he missed those field goals about why he didn’t do that in January.

Defiance
A few hours before the game, I went for a walk. I started thinking about all the negative predictions for the Vikes, the positive predictions for the Packers, about that game in January, about the upcoming game. Pretty soon I was walking really, really fast, and I had a vicious scowl on my face (I'm not sure, but I think people who saw me avoided me).

And I realized that I had spent the offseason in a fetal crouch, variously wincing, pouting, and avoiding. But to borrow a phrase from Jimmy McNulty, “What the fuck did I do?” Fear and trembling is no way to go through a season.

So screw the Saints, screw the Packers, screw the league, screw the national media, screw football karma. Viking fans have been coming back from disappointment for most of 49 years. We still come back donning purple with desperate hope. There’s no reason to sulk. We’ll stand behind this team. We’ll shout. We’ll leap with joy at their wins. We'll root. It’s football season.

The last line of the last song I heard on this walk? “It’s gonna happen (HAPPEN SOME TIME)…Maybe this time I’ll wiiiiiiiinnnnnnnn!!!!!”

Well, not tonight. 0-1 isn't fun. Waiting nine days to play again won't be fun. But I'm not sulking, and you shouldn't either. Come in off the ledge, everybody--it's a new day.

Share your thoughts, suckers.

12 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:27 PM

    Tonight was a good example of why I was surprised they cut Javon Walker. He's not great or anything, but he's a big-bodied receiver who can play on the outside. Berrian is becoming more and more of a dud, and Percy Harvin cannot play on the outside, period.

    This team only has one receiver capable of playing on the outside, and that's Berrian, who is not playing well. Harvin is a slot receiver; Camarillo is a slot receiver; Greg Lewis isn't much but what he is is a slot receiver.

    The Vikings need to get a big, physical receiver who can make tough catches. Someone that Favre can throw the ball to in tight spaces, and can use their body to outmuscle defenders. Their receivers, right now, are too similar.

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  2. Anonymous11:42 PM

    The offense for all the weapons is so boring and predictable. Lets run on first down. If its 3rd ans short lets stack the line with TE's making it impossible for AP to find a hole. Fuck why wasn't there more run plays for Harvin. Some wildcat.

    We hold the Saints to 14 and we lose ? Ugh

    I know its old hat to pin losses on Childress but I did not see any imagination at all.

    Refs were no help either. That was a catch by Kleinsasser. Nuts !

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  3. In one way, the seeds of this loss were sown in that NFC Championship game: that's when Sidney Rice and Cedric Griffin were injured. Tonight's deficiencies were blatantly obvious (WRs couldn't make plays, the secondary was vulnerable), and those two losses had a big part.

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  4. We should add that the run defense was disappointing in the second half: the Saints pushed the Vikings around when they wanted to and needed to.

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  5. There was no chemistry on offense, I really hope it develops over the next two games.
    Also, Peterson needs to be used better in the passing game.

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  6. Anonymous10:07 AM

    i've read a lot about how comfortable favre looked but to be honest there isn't a quarterback in the league that completes passes when his recievers are blanketed. the difference in performance between the two qbs is one guy had open recievers underneath and on screens throughout the evening and the other guy did not--at least in the second half. i'm not worried about favre, at all, he made some really strong throws. berrian, though, and harvin... you have to think they are better than what they showed last night. berrian in particular looked very poor.

    rk

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  7. I agree there are some questions about offensive strategy and playcalling, but I think RK is right about WRs. It's difficult to assess what the plan was when WRs are failing to get open.

    I get that the Vikings focused their strategy on pass protection, but for that to work I think they'd need to have some downfield sideline patterns develop (they never did). And for that pass protect strategy to work, they'd also have to commit even greater to the run, in my view.

    Albert Young was a less than inspiring replacement for Chester Taylor, too. His runs look like wasted plays, and he doesn't provide the same potential receiving threat that Taylor does. Taylor could end up being a big loss, unless Gerhart does something.

    Disappointing performance from the skill positions all around.

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  8. You mean the WRs that you felt were fine? The ones that can't get open? (with one who when he gets open reminds me of the wonderful hands of Troy Williamson...)

    Not saying Housh would have been a better fit (who needs another slot WR), but they should have or should be doing something.

    This is the year and they should be all in....I don't care what it takes to get Vincent Jackson.....just go get him (or any other athletic WR....the Giants seem to have an abundance, why couldn't we get one of those in the Sage trade?)

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  9. Anonymous 11:27's comments are correct: the team is loaded with slot receivers.

    Bernard Berrian is probably still what he has always been: a fast guy that can be a deep threat, but with shaky hands, inconsistency, and a tendency for completely invisible games.

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  10. The more I thought about it, the more I blame the Vikings' offensive strategy for the WRs' failure to get open. They went with formations and personnel focused on protecting the passer, sending fewer WRs into patterns.

    To put it crudely, when you send three or four WRs into patterns, you get to match up a WR against an opponents #3 or #4 DB, you give one more receiver a chance to get open, you bring the number of eligible receivers closer to the number of defensive backs covering, etc.

    By playing such a defensive offensive game (sitting back and counting on a heavy pass rush), the Vikings regularly sent one or two WRs into a secondary that was full of defenders.

    Obviously TV doesn't show everything about coverage, but whenever Favre threw to a WR downfield, didn't it seem like there was more than one defender right there? The Saints didn't bring a heavy pass rush, so the Vikings were doing something like max protect for something that never came. Jim Kleinsasser is on the field to block, not go out and make plays. They didn't really adjust--they could have used Camarillo and Lewis more to try find somebody in the secondary to exploit. They kept blockers back, didn't try to spread the defense out with multiple WRs, and basically let Favre sit back there and watch two WRs get covered well.

    There's strategy there. If you're going to put in a bunch of big blockers, run the ball a lot. If the Vikes wanted to exploit with the pass, they should have used more WRs more often.

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  11. Childress said in an interview that they didn't have an answer. He said something like they rushed 3 and dropped 8 back and we couldn't do anything.

    So our coach recognizes that they were doing max coverage and hardly rushing and was unable to adjust. They obviously were outsmarted (showing the coach isn't the best...). All the talk before the game was about Operation Blitz Brett and how teams are going to try and knock him out of the game, but then Gregg Williams brilliantly didn't do that and the Vikings were unable to adjust in game. (so our head coach was outsmarted by their defensive coordinator....)

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  12. purplefavre10:48 PM

    It's okay. The Vikings and #4 need adversity. We need to be doubted. We need antagonists. So bring on Aaron Rodgers in his cowboy hat and bolo tie (what he wore to a recent Packer luncheon, convincing a bunch of teammates to do the same to show how they're going to the SB in Dallas). Bring on Jim Souhan and his overcompensation for his own insecurities through "writing"...Then starting about game 4 and hitting stride at game 9, the Vikings shall do great things.

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