Sunday, October 25, 2009

Passing Unfancy: Vikings/Steelers

The defense wasn't a problem on Sunday. Even with Antoine Winfield out (for a while, it seems), the Vikings held the defending Super Bowl champs' offense to a reasonable 259 yards and 13 points.

Unfortunately, the Vikings offense had the ball during the game too, and that rarely ended well. To wit:

* My father's name is Ronald, so whenever I see referee Ron Winter calling a game, I joke that he's my dad. If that's true, he's off my Christmas list this year. The most egregious bad call was the tripping penalty on Jeff Dugan, a play that I, my Steelers-fan friend, and the entire crew of NBC's Football Night in America, thought was an awful call. It negated a go-ahead touchdown pass to Sidney Rice, and three plays later, Brett Favre was sacked, stripped, and LaMarr Woodley was running to the end zone.

Also, earlier in the game, Benny Sapp was called for a 15-yard roughing call when he dove at Ben Roethlisberger just as he was heading out of bounds. He left his feet as Roethlisberger still had one foot inbounds, though he made contact after the quarterback was out of bounds. Dubious call, I thought, but since quarterbacks aren't allowed to be hit any more, I tried not to grouse too much...

...until a few minutes later, when Favre was shoved to the ground after releasing the ball. No flag. Again, it wasn't the most egregious sin, and one that shouldn't be a penalty in the NFL, but usually is. I hate to harp on officiating and use it as an excuse, but this was one of those kind of games where every questionable call seemed to go against the Vikings.

Except that tripping call. That wasn't questionable at all.

* When the Vikings weren't having penalties (11 in all) called against them or turning the ball over and giving up 6 points to the opposing defense, they were calling plays. Pass plays. All. The. Damn. Time.

Starting with the fifth drive, in the second quarter, here was the Vikings' play selection:

Fifth drive:
Run; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; run; run; pass; run

Sixth drive:
Pass; run; pass; pass; pass; run

Seventh drive:
Run (kneeldown at end of half)

Eighth drive:
Pass; run; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; run (penalty); run; pass; pass

Ninth drive:
Run; pass; pass

Tenth drive:
Run; pass; pass; pass; pass; run; pass (penalty); pass; pass; pass; pass; run; pass; pass (penalty); pass; pass; pass

Discounting the kneeldown, from 10:34 in the second quarter until the Woodley touchdown at 6:23 in the fourth, the Vikings called 39 passes and 13 runs. Adrian Peterson had 11 runs (one negated by a penalty) and 2 receptions over that span. Five of those runs came with the ball spotted inside one team's five-yard line (four goal-line carries against the Steelers and one with the Vikings backed up on their own three), so Peterson only really had six chances for a big play for over half the game -- eight if you count his receptions (and I'm sure William Gay does).

With Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin ailing, instead of handing off to the best player in football, Brad Childress called plays designed for Greg Lewis, Jim Kleinsasser, and Naufahu Tahi, with predictable results. The Vikings never trailed by more than three during this span, and their last drive in the first half (#6) started with 3:30 on the clock, and actually included two runs in six plays (one a draw on third and long for Chester Taylor). Yes, there were some long-yardage plays in there, when passes seemed obvious, but again, are you better off running with Peterson or Taylor in those situations or tossing it to Tahi and Kleinsasser? And how exactly did you get in second-and-long and third-and-long? Perhaps by not running the ball as much as you should?

This was what I feared more than anything once it became obvious that Brett Favre could still get it done. Brad Childress desperately wanted to throw all the time when he had Tarvaris Jackson as his quarterback, so you knew that he was salivating over the possibility of throwing 50+ times a game with Favre in the game, and that's exactly what he did. The Vikings called 23 runs and 55 dropbacks (passes plus sacks), with 10 of them coming with the Vikings down and three and a half minutes or less in the game, when an all-pass approach is appropriate. Removing those and Favre's kneeldown, it was a 45:22 pass:run ratio. There is no way the Vikings should have a 2:1 pass:run ratio unless the score is out of hand or Peterson (and probably Taylor) is hurt. No way at all.

I know there are a lot of worthy choices, but this is Brad Childress's worst-called game ever. My friend and I kept saying, "This one will be a run. It has to be a run." We were rarely correct. People will say that the two Pittsburgh defensive TD returns and the questionable penalties were the reasons we lost, and while they didn't help, the team shouldn't have been in a situation where those two plays decided the game. This one goes on the coaching staff and a horrendous job of play calling.

Let's hold off on that contract extension talk, shall we?


TMac said...

Chilly is really not good. No Aaron Smith and a slow Troy means you guys should have run much more than you did. Who knows if the Steelers stop the running game because Chilly never gave them a chance.

At least we know the best coach on the Vikings staff in 2006.

Anonymous said...

Good post. I was watching the game thinking the same thing. It seems like Chilli & Co. abandon the run if down in the second-half, even if it's three points and there is lots of time on the clock. I really agree that extension talk is to early, at least wait for the vikes to make the playoffs and win a couple games.

steelers picks said...

Refs blew this one! Negated a favre TD on a bad call which ended in 6 the other way on fumble recovery. Great game, would have been nice to see the refs get that one correct.

tagskie said...

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