Sunday, November 1, 2009

For the first time, Vikings celebrate Favre winning in Green Bay

Apart from a third quarter that had me swearing like George Carlin, the Vikings dominated the Packers in Lambeau Sunday, putting another lopsided number on the scoreboard in a 38-26 road victory that puts them at 7-1 going and in solid command of their division going into the bye. Brett Favre was nearly flawless, Percy Harvin had several big returns and a great TD catch-and-run, Adrian Peterson had just enough explosiveness in him to make a difference, and the defense...well, the less said about that third quarter, the better.

I figured going into the game that one of two things would happen: that Brett Favre would have an amazing performance and add to his improbable highlight reel that includes his Monday Night win after his father's death and his 6 TD game with the Jets last year; or that he would have an absolutely horrid performance -- at least three interceptions and possibly an injury, in a bit of karmic justice that would make Earl Hickey cringe. Fortunately, it was the former.

On the other side of the ball, the absence of Antoine Winfield can't fully explain the poor coverage, poorer tackling, and generally poor effort by what is rapidly becoming one of the more porous defenses in the league. We expect Benny Sapp and Karl Paymah to suck, but when Chad Greenway is missing tackles and Jared Allen hardly sniffs the quarterback for a whole half, something is wrong. And, while not a defensive play, let's pretend what Brian Robison did on that kickoff return never happened.

Against teams with a pulse (discounting Cleveland, Detroit, and St. Louis), the defense has given up 24, 23, 31, 13 (I'll discount those two return TDs in the Pittsburgh game), and 26 points. Elite defenses don't get routinely shredded by opposing quarterbacks, and right now -- and arguably, all season -- the Vikings have not had an elite defense. They have an exciting defense, one that picks up sacks in bunches and is pretty good at forcing turnovers, but that doesn't mean they're great. This unit definitely needs work during the bye week; Leslie Frazier's got his work cut out for him.

And I'll take a little time to gripe about the officiating again. On the play when the Vikings were called for roughing the quarterback, the defensive end was clearly held by the right tackle. So, not only was it a horrible call on the roughing, but also a horrible non-call on the holding. Even Troy Aikman, he of many concussions, thought the roughing call was lame. That should say something.

In the end, though, a win's a win, Green Bay has been swept, and the Vikings hold a commanding lead in their division. Even if the Packers beat the Bucs next week (likely), they'll be two games back for real and, thanks to the sweep, effectively three back. The Bears host the Cardinals next week, which is hardly a gimme, so they will be two (if they win) or three (if they lose) back after next week.

And the Vikings' next three opponents coming out of the bye? Detroit, Seattle, and Chicago, all at home. 3-0, or at least 2-1, over that run is highly probable. In fact, the Vikings don't even need to leave Minnesota again for over a month, not until a December 6 contest in Arizona. Home cooking sure tastes good when you're 7-1.

1 comment:

joe km fischer said...

My concern about the Viking defense is when opponents go into throw-every-down mode. In both Packer games and the Raven game, the Viking defense played very well for at least a half, but when the opponent was forced into a position to throw all the time, they exploited the Vikes. It's hard to rush a passer every down, and it's harder to stop a team that's willing to take more risks because they are down. I think the weakness of the team is the secondary. When opponents try a balanced attack, that weakness can be covered; when opponents are willing to throw every down (and risk a QB beating and throws downfield because they're behind), that weakness can't be covered. Winfield returning will help, but the safeties just have to play better.

But that's a serious concern: there's no lead big enough for the Vikings to trust, and in the playoffs they'll have to face some potent passing games.