Monday, November 24, 2008

Vikings tame Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars are consistently rated as one of the least popular franchises in the NFL, despite their generally winning ways. After the show they put on for their hometown fans yesterday against the Vikings, it's easy to see why.

With a 14-0 lead before two minutes had elapsed in the game, the Vikings practically cruised to a victory over the bumbling Jaguars, 30-12. Between the turnovers (5), penalties (8 for 81 yards), and missed field goals (2), the Jags shot themselves in the foot over and over and the Vikings were good enough to take advantage of an extremely sloppy team.

The Vikings were far from perfect, however. Gus Frerotte seems to be getting worse with age, throwing many inaccurate balls and lobbing up a terrible interception while getting battered around and knocked out of the game three times. After the third one, crazy as it sounds, I was actually optimistic about seeing Tarvaris Jackson come in. That's how bad Frerotte's been lately.

And, while I'm not against the early benching of Adrian Peterson -- if he broke the team rules, he should be punished -- Brad Childress again showed how utterly unwilling he is to run the ball unless absolutely necessary. There were 29 called runs in the game (17 to Peterson, 9 to Chester Taylor, 2 by Bernard Berrian, and 1 QB sneak) and 24 called passes (20 passes, 3 sacks, and 1 QB scramble). More runs than passes, yes, but barely...and the Vikings led the entire game! The "best" decision? With the Vikings enjoying a first-and-goal on the one, Childress called a play-action pass. Frerotte dropped back and was immediately dropped for a 10-yard loss. A field goal followed three plays later. Unbelieveable. Brad Childress, why don't you want to run the ball? Please answer that. Please. I'm begging you.

Then there's the defense, which gave up way too many third-down conversions, some of them on long yardage. The Jacksonville run game was shut down, as usual, but that was largely due to Jacksonville abandoning the run early, due to their big deficit. For the early parts of the game, David Garrard had all day to throw or, like Jeff Garcia a week before, was able to avoid pressure and either scramble for yards or find a receiver downfield. His final numbers -- 27-45 for 317 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions, along with 4 sacks -- aren't that great, taken from a standpoint of averages, but they hide the fact that the Jags pretty much had their way with the Vikings' pass defense all day and was only stymied by turnovers and penalties.

And where to start on punt coverage? I think I just won't.

Really, this was about the least dominating 18-point win you'll ever see in football. Jacksonville outgained the Vikings by nearly 100 yards (321 to 226), added another 211 yards on returns (compared to 55 for the Vikings) and only lost the time of possession battle (30:29 to 29:31) on the Vikings' final kneel-down "drive."

Next week is a big Sunday night game against Chicago, which, even in week 13, can have the effect of virtually ending the Vikings' playoff hopes. A loss against the Bears puts the Vikings at 6-6 and, having been swept by the Bears, would put them effectively two games back of the 7-5 Bears, with a brutal December schedule upcoming. A win puts the Vikings at 7-5, one game up on the Bears and, depending on the Packers, could put them in sole charge of the division.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves. For now, we'll just have to root for the Saints. And, since I need Drew Brees to get my fantasy team five points, I don't think I'll have a problem with that.

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