Vikings-49ers Box Score at NFL.com
It's amazing how quickly expectations can change. A month ago, the Vikings were beat 34-0, slipped to 3-6, and appeared to lose Adrian Peterson for the season. Today the Vikings won a road game by 20 points to move to 7-6 (above .500 for the first time since week one), and I'm disappointed how flat the Vikings played in the second half.
But we shouldn't take this win for granted. The 49ers are, indeed, quite bad, but the Vikings went on the road and took a 27-0 halftime lead behind excellent defense and a solid offensive performance, and coasted to a 27-7 win. Remember 2003, when the eventual 9-7 Vikings lost West Coast road games to the eventual 4-12 Chargers and 4-12 Raiders? This Viking team is better than that one; this Viking team goes on the road to play a far inferior team and simply takes care of its business. That's what a good defensive team does.
The 49ers showed a much stronger run defense than I expected, and they certainly focused on stopping the run. So it is encouraging that in the first half, Tarvaris Jackson was able to make plays to beat the 49er defense. He picked up first downs and threw accurate passes. At the end of the game he was 16-25, for 163 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions. Today his top receiver was Robert Ferguson, as the Vikings continue to mix it up in the mostly mediocre receiving corp.
In the first half, it was very frequently up to Jackson to advance the Vikings down the field, and he did a good job. Based on his early season performance, his strong quarterbacking during this four game winning streak has been quite unexpected, and quite enjoyable.
I'm afraid Ray Edwards' absence is going to hurt the Vikings at some point in the next three weeks. Edwards hasn't been a standout this season, but he's been solid. Without him, the pass rush just looked a little flat, and the run defense looked just a little susceptible. Defensive End is now a big weak spot for the Vikings--let's hope teams led by the likes of Brian Griese and Todd Collins don't find a way to exploit it.
Take away Chester Taylor's 84 yard touchdown run, and the Vikings rushed for 33 yards on 30 attempts (with a few kneeldowns in there too). Except for that play, the 49er run defense did to the Vikings what the Viking run defense usually does to opponents. Taylor was outplaying Peterson: as long as the Vikes have them both, they should try to go with the hottest player week to week, and I'd have liked to see more carries for Taylor in the second half. But today was probably an anomaly: I don't expect future opponents to play this well against the run (and after all, despite a lousy day running, the Vikes still broke out an 84 yard TD run, the longest of the season. Good job running by Chester Taylor, and very good downfield blocking by the receivers).
Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are just incredible. Before the season I called them the team MVPs, and despite Adrian Peterson, I'm not sure I'm ready to back off that statement.
Kevin Williams has so many long runbacks on turnovers, that it's almost easy to take for granted that he's a defensive tackle making these plays.
Like a lot of people who grew up with pro football in the 80s and 90s, I look at that 49er helmet and uniform and just expect a great team. But I'm not entirely sure this 2007 49er team isn't the worst team I've ever seen the Vikings play. They've got some talent to build on (Frank Gore can run like a monster, and Patrick Willis is better than I expected, and the defensive front seven obviously succeeded in shutting down Adrian Peterson), but they just look like a completely hopeless team.
This season the Vikes have won games by 21, 21, 24, 32, and 20 points this season. Before the season, there were a few of us that thought the Vikes could compete for a playoff spot, but I'm not sure anybody seriously thought the Vikings would win five games by 20 points or more.
The Vikings' play the Chicago Bears in the Metrodome next Monday. Earlier this season, the Vikes beat the Bears at Soldier Field for the first time since 2000, and with the way these teams have been playing lately, it's easy to be confident in the Vikings. With consecutive home games coming up, the Vikings have a great opportunity to seal their playoff destiny.
Holy Hitter has been looking forward to this game for months; he's never attended an NFL game, but he'll be coming with PV to the Metrodome next Monday to cheer on the 7-6 Vikings as they fight for a playoff spot. HH, I don't know if you're aware of this, but there's a completely ridiculous song they play at the Metrodome whenever the Vikings score. Hopefully, we will rise from our seats many a time to sing "Skol, Vikings, Skol!"
Addendum: Chester Taylor Long Runs
In 2006, Chester Taylor's 95 yard run was the longest run in the entire NFL season.
So far in 2007, Chester Taylor's 84 yard run appears to be the longest run in the entire NFL season.
Who says Chester Taylor isn't a big play running back?