Monday, September 21, 2009

Motoring through Motor City

Pardon the late commentary on yesterday's win over the Lions. My best guess is that I picked up something at the sports bar that's left me coughing, sniffling, and nigh exhausted since about halftime of the late games yesterday, and not in any real mood for doing much of anything, including blogging. It'll probably be another early bedtime for me tonight, too.

(Cheap shot alert: Yesterday did prove, though, that I'm a better wide receiver than Troy Williamson, who, as we all know, can't even catch a cold. And he won't be catching anything else for the rest of this year, either. His first two years in Jacksonville: eight catches, 64 yards and four kick returns for 84 yards. And we thought his time in Minnesota was bad.)

But the Vikings did play yesterday, and played generally well, though it would be nice if they'd show up for the first half of games. They've actually been outscored 23-17 in the first half of both their games this year. But they've made up for it with a 44-10 scoring margin in the second halves of their two games this year. And while Detroit and Cleveland aren't exactly powerhouses, going 2-0 on the road to start your season is very nice indeed.

I still like E.J. Henderson, but Chad Greenway might be the team's best linebacker. If he would have fielded that onside kick near the end of the game cleanly, he might have gone for 6, to go with his two interceptions.

Still, it's not all perfect. Maybe I'm being greedy after all these years of seeing running games absolutely shut down, but I'm a little worried about the team's sudden "vulnerability" to the run. Kevin Smith averaged 3.5 yards on 24 carries this week, to go with Jamal Lewis's 5.2 last week on 11 carries. That's exactly 4.0 yards per carry (35-140) to the two teams' primary running backs. Are we sure the Williams Wall hasn't been suspended?

(Here's a crazy thought...when the Vikings went up by a couple touchdowns, I was actually glad that the Lions would have to pass instead of run. With the Vikings giving up a total of 315 yards passing through two games, they might be better against the pass than they are against the run now. Weird.)

Then there's Brett Favre.

His long pass for the game went for 13 yards (to Sidney Rice), and, though his first two games, he's thrown for 265 yards on 48 pass attempts (37 completions). That's an average of just 5.52 yards per pass attempt, not too far off the league average of 6.2, but that doesn't take his (excellent) completion percentage into account. His 7.16 yards per completion is well below the league average of 10.64 (and his personal Y/C of 11.36). Essentially, the Vikings have absolutely no deep passing game, which I thought was why Brett Favre was brought in. You know, to open up the running game, which has been horrible these two ga -- oh, wait. It hasn't.

But, while he's been limited, you have to give credit to Favre for what he has accomplished. He's throwing almost exclusively short, which inflates his completion percentage (a league-leading 77.1%) and hasn't contributed a single turnover. The team being 2-0 doesn't hurt his cause, either. I can't even get worked up too much over the sacks, which are for minimal yardage (4.1 each), seem to be as much the offensive line's fault as anything, and may be helping to contribute to the lack of interceptions. He's been solid, but let's face it: Did you really think Brett Lorenzo Favre would be this good of a "game manager"? Highly unlikely.

The upcoming schedule is still mostly soft. Of the next four games, three are at home, with the only road game being against the Rams, who look worse than the Lions these days. 4-1 or even 5-0 seems likely once Baltimore comes to town in week 6, and maybe the "extended preseason" will help Favre adjust to his new surroundings and become a quarterback worthy of a $12 million paycheck. The thing is, I'm not sure at this point I want him to.


Peter said...

I'm starting to think Minnesota's lousy pass defense in 2006 and 2007 contributed to the Vikings being #1 in rush defense. Not to take anything away from the likes of the Williams fellas, but why run when you can throw? I know the Vikings only allowed something like 70 yards per game for 3 years, but what was the yardage per carry? Where did that rank among the league? I always heard that "Well, MIN's pass defense isn't as bad as it seems. They allow a lot of yards, sure, but opponents attempt a lot more passes against the Vikings than against other teams". Why can't the same concept apply to the rush defense? I'd be curious to see the results. I may try to look that up.

Other than the pass protection issues, I'm choosing to not worry about Favre until the team really needs him to get them out of a bad spot and he does something to let them down. For now, he's doing what it takes to win. Even if that's not much, I won't complain.

Jason said...

The yardage per carry was exceptional -- 3.3 in 2008 (1st in the league), 3.1 in 2007 (2nd), and 2.8 in 2006 (1st). They're currently at 4.0 (14th) for 2009, and that's against a couple teams not really known for their strong running games.

You're mostly right about the pass defense, though. Opposing rate stats the last few years have not been exceptional.