Sunday, September 16, 2007

Coming off the ledge: Lions 20, Vikings 17 (OT)

Lions-Vikings Box Score (NFL.com)

It's over. The 10 game winning streak against Detroit is over. The Lions beat the Vikings for the first time since 2001. No longer can we just assume these 2 NFC North wins a year; now the Lions can beat the Vikings.

It's a reminder of why I hate football season. It's not particularly fun pacing about at the end of a tight game. It's certainly not fun going through a week after a loss, just waiting for the team to get another chance at a W. Typically after a close loss I'm torn to bits, reflecting on all the particular plays that could have swung the game the other way. That's pointless today, as there were clearly just as many plays that could have swung the game to Detroit earlier than overtime. Sure Ryan Longwell could have made his 52 yard field goal, but Jason Hanson could have made his 48 yard field goal. There's no use picking the game apart as a fan. But it's an empty, dead, frustrated feeling. For me, anyway, these losses challenge my very being and centeredness.

Why the Viking passing game stinks
The Detroit Lions were successful at penetrating the Viking offensive line today, on passing and running plays. On passing plays, however, Detroit's rush was particularly devestating: they were constantly able to get pressure to the quarterback. And this in particular destroyed the Vikings because:

a. Tarvaris Jackson was incapable of dealing with this pressure (hence four interceptions, and numerous hopeless or inaccurate throws).
b. The Vikings don't have a single WR capable of making a defense pay for a blitz, capable of making a big play to break a current blitz or prevent a future blitz.

To me, this was not primarily a playcalling issue (though a few more screens and swings could have been effective). The Vikings don't have the personnel to deal with a constant pass rush right now.

Defense
Early in the game the Vikes couldn't get much pass rush, and the Lions were able to exploit the Vikes in the air. The pass rush slowly developed, though. And of course the team forced a lot of turnovers (or Detroit handed the defense a lot of turnovers--it was a little of both). While the run defense is still basically impenetrable up the middle (even a run of no-gain seems like a disappointment--runs up the middle often end in loss of yards), in both the Atlanta and Detroit game the defense has shown vulnerability on the edges. Teams are able to hurt the Vikes off-tackle. That will need to improve.

Kevin Williams' burst through the line to force a fumble (returned for a TD by Ray Edwards) pretty much matches my memory of Pat Williams' burst through the line to force a fumble (returned for a TD by Ben Leber) against the Lions last season.

I thought Marcus McCauley played a pretty poor game. The Lions deliberately and successfully exploited the rookie. McCauley should have a good career, but against the Lion WRs, in his second career game, he was overmatched. He gave up completions and yards after catches. I noticed #31 getting beat more than any other number in the secondary.

There are some vulnerable spots on the defense, but mostly, it is performing very well.

Offense
Adrian Peterson is some sort of monster: he makes plays where he just bounces off defenders or pushes them back. He's a delight and I'm thrilled he's a Viking.

Everything else was horrible. No receivers could really make a play. Tarvaris Jackson never got comfortable and made many bad mistakes (I suppose a young QB is bound to have a 4 INT game in at least one of his early starts: let's hope there aren't too many)--he was very, very bad. The offensive line performed pretty poorly, as the Detroit defensive line (and blitzers) frequently outperformed the offensive line, penetrating the play and wrecking Viking plays. I was amazed as the Lions were able to constantly push back against the Viking offense. It was a very, very bad performance by the offense today.

The offense is going to need to improve if the team is going to compete against good teams this season. As it seems unlikely they can upgrade the personnel right now (Byron Leftwich?), they have to improve the offensive execution two ways:

a. improvement of current players--there are a lot of young offensive players that can improve and make more plays (and fewer mistakes).
b. creative and effective playcalling to make the most they can of the talent and experience they have.

As I've said, I see the problems as personnel issues more than playcalling issues. Still, the personnel now is what it is, and it's now on Brad Childress to improve the offense--by coaching up the young players, and by scheming and gameplanning effectively. I've preached patience with Brad Childress, and I still do. However, that doesn't mean waiting for Childress to show his offensive acumen in some unknown future: he needs to show what he can do for this offense now. It's his second season, and yes, the team lacks playmaking WRs or an experienced QB. But Childress needs to show he can make something happen.

Special Teams
Troy Williamson and Aundrae Allison each had a good return. That sort of field position is going to be necessary for the Vikes to compete this season.

Waiting on Week 3
When the Vikes win, I just want to savor it, and the week is fun. When the Vikes lose, I'm just looking forward to the next game. How will the Vikings play against Kansas City, apparently a bad football team? I'm not terribly worried about the Minnesota defense against Kansas City's offense, but can the offense move the ball, and limit errors, against the Chiefs' defense? What is the injury status of Chester Taylor? Tarvaris Jackson?

The Vikings lost a miserable, poorly played overtime game in Detroit. We've got to purge this ugliness from our souls.

6 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:52 PM

    IF anybody could get open, we would be decent on offense. Many plays Jaskson has nobody to throw to at all. He also seems to be throwing without planting his feet.
    Peterson is a stud. We have to find ways for him to get the ball.
    There must be a receiver out there who can creat some space and get open quicker than what we have.
    2-1 next Sunday then the Peckers come to town. 3-1 at the break is alright, but we must improve.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous9:19 AM

    i wouldn't think the chiefs could win. the vikings are best at shutting down the only thing the chiefs could do.

    rk

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous12:00 PM

    Yeah, until Jackson and his receivers demonstrate the ability to inflict a cost for loading the box a stunting with impunity, watching the Vikings offense is going to be brutal. Peterson will have his moments and some good games, but he desperately need help.

    Childress, God bless'im, has tied his wagon to the horse called Tavaris. I'm really pulling for both, but not with a large amount of confidence.

    ReplyDelete
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