Vikings-Panthers Box Score
Middle Linebacker E.J. Henderson has fast become one of my favorite Vikings. He's a terror, running all over the field, tackling running backs behind the line of scrimmage, slamming runners down in the open field. Certainly he's helped by Kevin Williams and Pat Williams taking up blockers and leaving him room. But in the open field and in the backfield, E.J. Henderson makes great tackles.
We need to find a name for the sort of play Winfield made: one man recorded a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown on a single play. And Winfield has been making these sorts of game-changing plays in his entire tenure with the Vikes. He's been a very fun player to watch.
Let's put it simply: today Gus Frerotte made throws that Tarvaris Jackson could not make. The 48 yard pass to Bernard Berrian is the best example. Frerotte was poised in the pocket, patiently buying time, and he stepped up and delivered a perfect rainbow to a WR that had beaten the coverage. It was a beautiful play, and Tarvaris Jackson has rarely shown us the ability to make it.
In other cases, Frerotte just looked poised making progressions, running plays, and picking at the defense.
And Frerotte makes Bernard Berrian a factor. In the first two games, Bernard Berrian looked like a free agent bust, but today he made a few of the big plays we expect from him. He'll benefit from Frerotte, and the Vikings will benefit from getting productive big plays from a WR. Frerotte appeared to allow the Vikings to open up the offense. Not only were the Vikes doing more three wideout sets, but they were actually sending wide receivers wide more frequently--when Jackson was in, they often had a WR tighter to the formation. They're spreading it out, opening up possibilities for the offense.
Frerotte's not perfect: he can throw a pretty ball, but he can also throw inaccurate passes. What's the ceiling for Gus Frerotte? At best, he could be our Trent Dilfer (how much hope did the 2000 Ravens give to fans of teams with lousy QBs?). With an extremely good defense, with a very good running game, if Frerotte can convert some 3rd downs, hit on some deep passes, the Viking season can definitely turn around.
The Pass Rush
In the first half, I thought Jake Delhomme often had too much time to throw. But starting late in the second half, the pass rush really picked up. In the second half, once the Vikes had the league and needed to stop the Panther pass, the pass rush became ferocious. In the second half, the defensive linemen rushing the passer did all we could have hoped from them.
The run defense is so smothering we take it for granted: for the most part, a team running the ball against the Vikings just isn't going to succeed.
Stopping Steve Smith
I don't have the answer about how, but the Viking defense clearly contained Steve Smith, especially in the second half.
A lucky day: my brother and I got tickets in the ninth row behind the end zone for cheap. It's a thrilling angle to watch a game. I found it particularly great watching the defense, seeing the pass coverage, the intensity of the pass rush, the fast-closing holes on run plays.
This is our team
Today we saw how the Vikings are going to win games. They're going to control the game defensively, stalling the run and rushing the passer, holding teams to few points and forcing some key turnovers. They're going to run the ball a lot on offense, converting some timely passes and some deep passes but mostly controlling the game as a run team. If Adrian Peterson breaks out for some long runs, they might blow opponents out. But 20-10 scores are something we should come to expect. And I'm happy with that, if it continues. I'm really enjoying watching a great defense do its work.