Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Saint-ly present

If you're like me, you hate that some stores are already putting up Christmas decorations in early October. Pre-Halloween is just too early for Santa Claus and Jingle Bells, in my opinion.

Fortunately for the Vikings, though, the Saints are were in a giving mood last night, offering up a very early Christmas present Monday night in the form of a 30-27 win where the team looked positively Viking-like, committing a mind-boggling plethora of costly errors.

After the first drive of the game, when the Saints got a kickoff return that set them up at midfield and then promptly marched down for a TD, I thought it was going to be a blowout. When the Vikings punted on fourth-and-6 from the Saints' 36, I knew that Brad Childress and his moronic play-calling would cement the win for the Saints.

Then Martin Gramatica lined up for the field goal. I thought, "Hey, that's right, they have Martin Gramatica! If any kicker can find a way to lose the game, it's him!" And lo, it was made so, both on Antoine Winfield's return of the blocked FG and on Gramatica's missing a go-ahead kick late in the fourth quarter. Between those two points, the Saints, who looked nearly perfect up to that time, made a host of mistakes (interspersed with a few good plays). Notably:

* 11 penalties for 102 yards, including the big PI at the end of the game that set up the game-winning field goal.

* 3 turnovers (discounting the last-gasp interception on the hail mary), two deep in Vikings territory and one deep in their own, all of which essentially took points of the board for the Saints or handed them to the Vikings. And yes, Chad Greenway yanked on Reggie Bush's facemask. Nice to see a bad call go our way for once.

* A failed surprise onside kick, recoverd by Garrett Mills and converted into a Vikings field goal. Not a bad call, really, just a great job by Garrett Mills.

* Signing Martin Gramatica. Really, why?

Meanwhile, I'm not sure what to make of the Vikings special teams. The blocked field goal and Mills' recovery of the onside kick were great. Several long kickoff returns by Pierre Thomas gave the typically potent Saints' offense great field position, nullified only by some bizarrely bad plays later in their drives.

And then, of course, there was Reggie Bush. While I'm personally never a fan of "kicking away" from someone (here's an idea -- cover better), the real culprit in that debacle was Chris Kluwe. There, I said it. Forget that he kicked it to Bush in the first place. The problem was the complete lack of hang time on any of his second-half punts, giving Bush plenty of space to set up returns and torch the Vikings repeatedly. You'd think that having my least favorite coach criticize my favorite Viking player would make me explode, but on this one point, at least, I agree with Coach Childress.

Of course, Childress wasn't exactly a coaching genius throughout the rest of the game. There was that fourth-and-6 punt from the 36. Even more absurd, on the next drive, from the same field position, he attempted (and made) a 53-yard field goal. Huh?

And while I can't argue with the volume of passing this game, considering how much Adrian Peterson was swallowed up (to the tune of 32 yards on 21 carries), the "curious" (as Mike Tirico put it) choice to run twice on the final drive of the second quarter was perplexing. And, given Childress's overwhelming love of the pass, I was deathly afraid he was going to try to sneak a throw in on the final set of downs after the pass interference set up the Vikings inside the Saints' 20, instead of forcing New Orleans to run out the clock. Admit it, you were thinking the same thing, too.

The best coaching of the night? Whoever was calling the defensive plays for the Vikes. The Saints did next to nothing on offense in the second half and it was due in large part to the willingness of the Vikings to bring pressure in the form of extra attackers, whether it be linebackers, safeties, or corners. I haven't seen the Vikings pressure a QB like this since the last time we played Jon Kitna (who must be shaking in his boots after watching this game). Granted, whenever the rush didn't get to Drew Brees, and he had sufficient time, he'd zing it downfield for a completion, but there was just enough pressure to keep him off balance and prevent him from making a truly big play after the long pass to Devery Henderson in the first quarter. And next week we get Detroit. That could get real ugly, real quick.

In the end, a win's a win, and I'm glad for it. The Vikings actually did a few things right, though the Saints' mistakes were what really sealed the win for the Purple. Fortunately, the Vikings face a considerably more inept team next week and, while I shouldn't say we should get overconfident, it's not like the Vikings players read my blog anyway (and I know Brad Childress doesn't). So yeah, I'm going to be overconfident heading into the Detroit game. Why not? I haven't had the chance all year.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for blogging, I do like to get a little different perspective than the local papers. Two things, I agree with you on Kluwe punting, get some hangtime and then you don't have to worry about outkicking coverage or anything like that. I hate to see teams give tons of yardage away kicking OB or whatever, punters don't seem that good at it. But I have to back you, if chili said kick it out of bounds, do it. The other point, I think the end of half playcalling was fine, and talked to some other fans that felt the same way. MNF crew was looking for something to talk about. The Vikes got first downs, used their 2 timeouts effectively and had 2 legit shots at TD's, and kicked the FG on 4th down. That's about all any team can ask for, especially ours...

Lester's Legends said...

I guess a win's a win.