Sunday, December 06, 2009

Coming Off the Ledge: Cardinals 30, Vikings 17 (updated below)

ESPN Box Score

Seeing the Vikes play a dud game on Sunday night is brutal. Did you spend the day watching other football, getting excited? Did you have a full day's worth of anticipation for this game? How empty were you feeling in the fourth quarter?

A disappointed salute to the Cardinals: they beat the Vikes in every conceivable way tonight.

The Pass Rush and the Safeties

The pass rush from the defensive line has been masking some serious deficiencies in the secondary. If an opposing offense is able to neutralize the pass rush from the front four, a good quarterback can smoke this secondary.

It might be comforting to shout "But Antoine Winfield! Antoine Winfield!," but that really isn't helpful. For one thing, we don't know when he'll be back or how effective he'll be when he does come back. And just as important, Winfield isn't going to be coming back to play safety. Right now Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson are struggling to cover and to tackle.

If the front four can't get to the QB, then the Vikes may try blitz. That, too, can be shredded, since the safeties aren't that good and the nickel backs will struggle against good WRs, too.

Against a quality opponent, the Vikings must get a pass rush from the defensive line if they are going to be successful on defense.

The Cardinals were able to block the Viking front four tonight, and Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin, and Larry Fitzgerald were able to run wild around the Viking secondary.

He looked rough today: throwing inaccurate passes flying past receivers, hitting defenders in the hands, looking uncomfortable in the pocket.

The panic of course is that any late-season struggles are signs of Favre's declining, exhausted body giving out. I'm not going to overreact to one bad game--that's just the concern. And I'm actually not worried about the interceptions terribly: that's regression toward the mean that still leaves Favre's INT rate incredibly low.

I thought the shovel pass in the red zone on 3rd and 4 was lousy. With a good QB and several good receivers, just let your QB drop back and try find an open guy.

I'm an advocate of abandoning the run when it isn't working and especially when you get down. I can't recall many games when Adrian Peterson was getting completely stuffed most of the game, and then later became effective. When the run isn't there, run calls are wasted downs. If you still want Peterson to make plays throw him the ball.

E.J. Henderson
It's hard to see Henderson go down. I hope the best for him personally.

The Vikes have been remarkably healthy most of the season, but losing their middle linebacker is going to hurt (just a guess: the Vikes are forced to play a lot of nickel anyway, so Ben Leber and Chad Greenway probably become the two nickel linebackers going forward. I don't know what they'll do in base 4-3 sets). They suffered other injuries tonight, but none appear as serious as Henderson's.

What the Vikings aren't
The Vikings are not competing with the New Orleans Saints for NFC juggernaut status. Though the Saints dodged the flying monkey poop today, they are the NFC's juggernaut. The Vikings aren't: they are a very good team, and they should still get the #2 seed, but they aren't a matching juggernaut. That doesn't mean the Vikings cannot beat the Saints in the playoffs, should we meet them; there are some features of the matchup that I think favor the Vikes. They're still a 10-2 Super Bowl contender.

Some good things
The Packers have a tough matchup with the Ravens tomorrow night; not that it could fully assuage tonight's disappointment, but seeing one purple-jerseyed team win in week 13 would still make us smile.

Percy Harvin is good. He frequently picks up first downs out of the slot, and his garbage-time touchdown weirdly encouraged me (it might have just been seeing a lively throw from Favre to remind me tonight was an aberration). When you have a player so great at catching a ball around the sticks on 3rd down, who can sneak into the backfield and rush the ball, and who can also go deep downfield and make plays, how does a defense stop him? Generally, they don't.

That, and Romeo Crennel's talking beer cans. That is hilarious.

Addendum: New Level of Anxiety
I just looked at the schedule: 8-4 Arizona's last four games are away against the 49ers and Lions, home for the Rams and Packers. They've got a shot at winning out, and if they do, the Vikes need to win three of their last four to keep the #2 seed. We've got a two game lead over the Cards for that first-round bye, but the Vikes' remaining schedule (Bengals, at Panthers and Bears, Giants) is tougher. So, if you were looking for anxiety, it's there now (the Cowboys and Eagles are each 8-4 too). The Vikes need to get that first-round bye.

Addendum 2
I feel lousy when the Vikes lose, and so the day after a Viking loss, I generally eat very healthy and get all sorts of work accomplished. So look out, Monday, PV is coming to get you!

Update 3
If you're looking for encouragement, here are some December box scores of recent Super Bowl teams.

These things happen.


  1. I guess what bothers me most is not what the loss says about the Vikings chances against the Cardinals, or the Cowboys or even the Packers, it's what it says about their chances against the Saints - who are obviously the class of the NFC

    The Saints do everything the Cardinals do, both on offence and defence, only they do it all better. After watching tonight's debacle, I'm not so confident about the Vikings chances of giving the Saints a decent game as I was about eight hours ago.

    And remember when we were so worried early in the season about the offensive line's pass blocking? Well, it's the run blocking that worries me now. I'm seeing no holes for Peterson to run through. There is no push up front. We don't knock guys off their feet or even move them a little. We know Peterson is boom or bust, but right now it's all bust and no boom. Maybe he could do a little better finding a crease and getting three yards instead of one or none. But all I'm seeing right now is him repeatedly running into a wall of defenders, or getting caught from behind by a linebacker or safety that goes unblocked from the weak side. The run blocking really seems poor right now.

  2. Anonymous3:38 AM

    I think Winfield would have helped. What it came down to was one on one the Cards recievers could beat the Vikings corners. What can Benny Sapp do against Anquan Boldin? On the otherside the Cards had the perfect scheme ready for the Vikings. Had the Vikings been able to run and play defense it would have been moot, but forced to throw... there were no open men and Favre forced it some.


  3. Anonymous8:23 AM

    The Vikings got EXPOSED!
    They cannot run the football. This has been about 6 weeks in the making. AP is a star and rushed for 19 yards? No line play. We replied on Favre and we can run the ball
    Our defensive backs cannot cover anybody, not just the safeties.
    No pass rush!
    10-2 is good, but there is work to be done. Maybe this beat down will wake them up and they can play better football. Tough schedule!
    Can little Henderson take his brothers place?

    Still a huge fan, but disappointed.

  4. Maybe I wasn't that observant, but as I watched the game last night it seemed to me that the Vikings were getting out-schemed and thus quite possibly out-coached.

    Maybe I'm still biased against Childress, but that's what I really observed from the game.

    But the Cards still outplayed the Vikes as well.

  5. Anonymous12:50 PM

    Ben seems correct. The Card's were a better prepared team for what we did. We may have needed as a-- kicking to wake us up a little bit.

  6. Anonymous6:13 AM

    The weeding through discussions which may be required is really worth what you will gather to
    help make a greatly- enlightened final choice. This is called the three-day detox challenge and a lot of people have done it.
    You may still be at the stage where you associate greens with money, rather than with vegetables.

    Also visit my homepage; power juicer as seen on tv

  7. Anonymous3:57 AM

    Excellent article. Keep writing such kind of info on your site.
    Im really impressed by it.
    Hey there, You have performed an excellent job. I'll definitely digg it and for my part recommend to my friends. I'm sure they
    will be benefited from this website.

    Also visit my blog post :: adiphene product reviews

  8. Anonymous3:28 AM

    Increasing the amount of calories taken in is what adds more fat and
    weight to our bodies. Stretch when you wake up, stretch when you
    stand up, stretch while waiting in line, get used
    to making your parts move. - 2 cups of popcorn mixed with two tablespoons trail mix.

    Look at my blog post ...