Monday, October 06, 2008

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 30, Saints 27

Let's not analyze this too much.  It was a very weird win for a very flawed team.  But Viking wins are like orgasms; even if they're not great, they're still better than anything else that's going to happen to you that day.

Things to feel good about
We have Antoine Winfield on the Vikings.  Yet another Viking win keyed by big plays from #26.  He's an awesome player and he's been giving us spectacular performances like this since 2004.  Tonight he had several great tackles (including a few stopping RBs for little to no gain), another signature sack-forced fumble-fumble recover, and of course the return of a blocked kick for a touchdown.  I really will work on my wife to name any future daughter we have Winfield (we can call her Winnie--that's not bad, right?).  I'm pretty sure the compromise will be naming any future cat Winfield.  C'est la vie.

Bernard Berrian had a major impact on this game.  6 catches for 110 yards and a game-tying touchdown reception, and he drew the pass interference that set up the game-winning field goal.  He still drops passes, but he also makes plays; tonight he made plays that directly helped the Vikings win the game.  We have a receiver defenders have to account for.

Gus Frerotte is taking frequent shots downfield, and good things are happening as a result.  In the second half, Frerotte hit Berrian for a 36 yard completion and a 33 yard touchdown, and another deep pass resulted in a 42 yard penalty on the Saints.  For an offense that struggles to maintain drives, attempting to complete deep passes is key.

The Viking pass rush is good.  Tonight the pass rush forced Drew Brees into several incompletions, and might have sacked him if Brees wasn't so adept and stepping forward away from pass rushers.

Continuing concerns
Cedric Griffin's pass defense looks perpetually awful; far too many passes are completed right in front of him.  At this point I'm wondering if the Vikings wouldn't be better off moving another CB up the depth chart; Griffin has some talent (he's a good tackler and a hard hitter), but he's really struggling in coverage.

The coverage on punts and kicks has been terrible.  There's a tendency to complain about the Viking coaches' decision to punt again to Reggie Bush.  My bigger complaint is in the coverage; you can't punt away all the time, and you've got to be able to tackle returners.  The Vikings have to find a way to competently cover punt and kick returns with the players they have on the roster.

Adrian Peterson can still have get-completely-smothered-and-make-little-to-no-impact games.  That's worrisome, but I suppose even Barry Sanders in his prime could have those games.

Pass protection has been erratic at best; if Gus Frerotte weren't doing such a good job throwing the ball quickly, stepping up to avoid rushers, and making throws while getting hit, the Vikes would be taking sacks and getting roughed up bad.  They've got to do a better job protecting a 37 year old gunner.

It's scary that the Vikings are so bad in the red zone, their best chance for a touchdown is to try a halfback pass to a tight end.

Over the long run, I'm worried about the linebacker corps without E.J. Henderson.  Henderson was such a reliable playmaker, and I think his replacement(s) will miss some tackles, getting to positions just a step slow.

Smiling Tonight
When the Saints had the ball with the score tied 27-27 and they had just completed a long pass, I thought "Even if next week's game is blacked out, I'm still not going to the game.  Suck on that, Zygi!"  And now I'm enjoying the bliss that comes immediately after a close Viking victory.

Gus Frerotte to Bernard Berrian: I like it.


  1. Anonymous11:50 PM

    "...a halfback pass to a tight end."

    I think you mean:

    "...a veteran halfback wobbly, inaccurate, and horribly out of place pass to a tight end."

    Seriously, Taylor threw it to the left, while there was at least 10 yards of open endzone to his right. And I loved how his arm went shot back behind his head after he released. Reminds me of third grade touch football...

  2. Anonymous11:54 PM a tight end that is best known for dropping touchdown passes.

    Seriously, who calls our offensive plays?

    Without those punt returns it wouldn't have been close. But then again, Brees could have tore up our pass defense for two touchdowns on those drives, so it's hard to say.
    It was a win.

    I don't know what to think about Peterson. There has to be a better way to open things up for him, but like you said, every elite RB has off games.

    3-3 going into the bye?

  3. PV:

    I've been wondering since last seasons why the Vikings don't start Charles Gordon instead of Griffin. Gordon seems to be a much better cover corner.

    But the reality is, with the way teams throw the ball on the Vikings D, even if Griffin isn't the starter, he's going to be playing lots (and getting beat lots) anyway. And I don't think Benny Sapp or the Marcus "Inactive" McCauley would do any better.

  4. Anonymous7:37 AM

    j-rod, Vikes bye is week 8. They can't be 3-3.

    I'm thinking 3-3 after the Lions, though.

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  6. Anonymous12:20 PM

    Saints found another amazing way to lose a game! We've now done it 3 times.

    Both these teams will be the same place in January.

    Congrats on an 8-8 team, I know how it feels.


  7. If Antoine Winfield is the team MVP for the game, then Martin Gramatica is the runner up.

  8. This game was a gift and has saved our season for the time being.

    I too was chanting a childress firing in my mind by the half, despite being up 10, I knew it meant nothing. Frerotte won us this game. Berrian and Wade did still drop some passes that should have been caught, and the run game wasn't AP's fault by any means. The offensive line did nothing to give him an opportunity, they played poorly against a second string Saints D line.

    The defense looked very good again, however I completely agree with Griffin. He made a huge hit and continues to tackle well, but I'm not convinced he understands the concept of a zone coverage. He is too "reactionary" and does not "anticipate" the quarterback's actions. Therefore he may not get any interceptions or pass deflections, at least not near the league average for a corner. He is sub par and just doesn't fit in our zone defense system.

    Playcalling once again was horrbile in the first half. Predictable, no creativity, and just plain weak. It wasn't until the second half that we came out throwing some serious pass plays and play actions. Also we brought more blitz packages in the second half which led to pressure on Brees (although he avoided many sack opportunities) but did allow winfield another sack/fumble.

    Continuing to punt to Bush was a terrible mistake, even the commentary crew was laughing and becoming mind boggled at the decisions.

    Another thing I wanted to point out was the complete lack of urgency within the final two minutes of the first half. We had excellent field position, got the ball downfield on pass play, and I saw no one rushing to the line of scrimmage. We even called a run play there after. What is seriously going on in the mind of Brad Childress?

    He doesn't play to win the game, he plays not to lose it. That's why the Vikings won't have a successful season under this chump.

  9. I forgot to point out how much we missed EJ Henderson in this game. Bush was able to turn the corner on run plays to the sidelines, and it was because big, strong, and FAST EJ Henderson was not there to make the big play tackle. Winfield stepped up later, but if teams avoid the williams wall in the middle, I fear they will have success running sweeps to either side.

  10. --I must be one of the few people who thought the clock management at the end of the half was fine. If they had moved slowly and never got a good shot at the end zone as a result, I'd be peeved. But they moved methodically, used all the clock to prevent the Saints from getting the ball, then had two legitimate, solid plays to try complete passes in the end zone. The execution was off: Frerotte's passes were off target, and Berrian was well-covered. While it was happening, it looked slow, but they really did set themselves up for a good shot at a touchdown. They just didn't finish (which they don't ever do). I'm not sure they did things that differently than good offensive teams do--it's just that good offensive teams are more likely to complete the TD pass with two shots from the 15 yard line.

    --Apparently Kluwe was supposed to punt out of bounds and didn't. But that doesn't concern me. What concerns me is that all season long the Viking coverage of punt returns and kick returns has been very, very poor. Rather than blaming the coaches/punter for not kicking out of bounds, I'm blaming the coaches/players for being so bad in coverage that they need to kick it out of bounds. In all the praise for Reggie Bush, there was little note that the Vikings did a terrible job covering him on those punts. If they should have kicked it away, it was for two reasons: one is that Bush is good, second is that the Viking return coverage is terrible. That needs to improve.

    --I'm wondering whether Cedric Griffin has been below "replacement level" (a designation I don't like for offensive players, but I think it works for defensive players). Would whomever takes his place do better? Would a replacement free agent do better? In coverage, everything just gets completed in front of him. Sure, against a team like the Saints, the Vikes will be in nickel (at least) and he'd still have to be in. But the Titans were lining up in heavy run formations, and Griffin was in getting exploited. Griffin is a good tackler, but one reason he makes tackles is because he gives up the completions in front of him.