Sunday, November 25, 2007

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 41, Giants 17

Vikings-Giants Box Score on

Turnovers and Touchdowns
The story of the game: the Vikings intercepted Eli Manning four times; Darren Sharper, Dwight Smith, and Chad Greenway returned interceptions for touchdowns, and another INT from Smith led to Chester Taylor's eight yard touchdown. It can't be emphasized enough: that's what made this 41-17 road win happen. Sharper, Smith, and Greenway deserve a lot of credit for their savvy interceptions, and their tenacity in striving for the end zone after the interceptions (Ben Leber also deserves credit for a great tip in the red zone which led to Smith's game-clinching TD). It's exciting when the Vikings score defensive touchdowns, and it makes for a fun win. But there was another story of this defensive performance, a part of the story that had a lot to do with the defensive touchdowns of Sharper, Smith, and Greenway...

Pass Rush
Though the Vikings only had two sacks (which came late), they put constant pressure (and confusing pressure) on Eli Manning all game long and took him out of any rhythm. They blitzed effectively and strategically, and the defensive line played very well too. Keep it coming, Leslie Frazier: the defense looked outstanding today, and the pass rush was a huge part of it.

Sidney Rice
With 82 yards and a touchdown today, Sidney Rice looks to have real potential for a team in dire need of a playmaking wide receiver. He's made some big plays this year and shown flashes of real ability.

But the 2006 and 2007 drafts have been successful for the Vikings. Today, their first four selections of 2006 (Chad Greenway, Cedric Griffin, Ryan Cook, and Tarvaris Jackson) started in a 24 point win. Two of their 2007 selections (Sidney Rice and Marcus McCauley) played significantly and had an impact. The Vikings are putting a young nucleus together, and I think they're moving in the right direction.

Tarvaris Jackson

The most surprising claim I can make about the Vikings' 2007 season is this: Tarvaris Jackson's early season injuries have had a major negative impact on this team.

Tarvaris Jackson has missed four games. That sets the education process for a developing young quarterback back. That also set the evaluation process back for a franchise that needs to know if Jackson is the Revolution we hope him to be.

But the Vikings lost all four of those games. With Tarvaris Jackson as starter, the Vikings are an absurd 5-2.

Of course that's not all, or even mostly, about Tarvaris Jackson. In two of those wins Adrian Peterson had 300 all-purpose yards. In today's win, the defense had four interceptions and three touchdowns. But in hindsight, we can now see that of all the quarterbacks currently on the Viking roster, Tarvaris Jackson gives the team it's best chance to win.

Early in the season, Jackson's accuracy was a serious issue. Today he followed up a 17-22 game with a 10-12 game. Early in the season, injuries and decision making seemed to limit Jackson's running ability. Today he ran 5 times for 38 yards.

I have to say what I said last week: Viking fans should be slightly terrified about Tarvaris Jackson's improving performance. If he sucks, the Vikings know they need to get a starting quarterback this offseason. If Tarvaris succeeds, the Vikings can believe he's the answer at quarterback, and then the offseason becomes a little more doubtful (though if Tarvaris is the starter in 2008, this team MUST acquire a quality backup).

We were really, really wrong
After some fans (including me) suggested that the Vikings were quitting on Brad Childress during and after the 34-0 loss at Lambeau (in two games at Lambeau, Brad Childress' Vikings have zero offensive points. This about it), the Vikings have won two straight games, and the defense is playing hard, aggressive, and proud.

Enjoying today
The Vikings won two games in a row for the first time this season. They won their second road game of the season. They had three defensive touchdowns. Let's feel good.

Looking ahead
Next week, the 5-6 Vikings host the 6-5 Lions at Thunderdome. Adrian Peterson may return. Every game remaining on the Vikings' schedule is winnable--or loseable. But it should be fun.

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