Sunday, September 13, 2009

Vikings enforce Brown-out

Now that's how you start a season.

Adrian Peterson had a great day, with a highlight-reel 64-yard run to put the effective nail in the coffin, and the defense stuffed the Browns' offense until a late, garbage-time TD. The quarterbacking and special teams? Well, that's another matter. But first the good.

Adrian Peterson. What more is there to say? Even if you want to stick AP with the "inconsistent" label, he had 116 yards on 24 carries, a 4.8 average, if you take away his 64-yarder. And boy, was that run a thing of beauty, especially the part where he casually threw aside the last Cleveland defender and then turned on the jets to outrun everyone to the end zone. Right now, there's definitely nobody in the NFL with his combination of strength and speed, and there might not have ever been anyone with his physical skills. And to think some idiots wanted the Vikings to take Brady Quinn in the 2007 draft...

("Some idiots" should include a link to my post on my SportingNews blog dating back to the '07 draft where I expounded just that idea. But SN is unavailable due to heavy traffic related to the start of the NFL season. Yet another good reason why I don't use that blog any more.)

The defense. Apart from that late Cleveland TD, when mostly backups were in the game, the defense allowed just 188 yards, forced three fumbles and a pick, and sacked Quinn five times. This unit looked lights out in the preseason and, apart from a 73-yard Cleveland drive in the second quarter, the first unit stymied the Browns all day long. (But see below.)

The rookies. I may be coming around on Percy Harvin. With Bernard Berrian out, he was practically our #1 receiver, and while his numbers -- 3 catches for 36 yards (and a TD) and 2 rushes for 22 yards -- weren't huge, he had that "exciting" look every time he touched the ball. His 33-yard average on three kick returns wasn't too shabby, either.

Phil Loadholt also looked good at right tackle. I'll admit to not paying too much attention to line play, but he did nothing to embarrass himself (unlike Ryan Cook most of last year) and when I did pay attention to him, he seemed to handle his man cleanly. A key factor in my appreciation for Percy Harvin will be the play of Phil Loadholt, to make me feel better about the team passing on Michael Oher in the first round. So far, so good.

And while he's not a rookie, how about Darius Reynaud? Oh my goodness, we might have a kick returner and a punt returner! And to think we gave up on Maurice Hicks...

Those were the good. Then there's the not-so-good:

Punt coverage. Let's get this one out of the way. Really, apart from that second-quarter TD return by Josh Cribbs, who's maybe the best return man in the game, the coverage units did pretty well. Cribbs' other two punt returns netted exactly zero total yards, and he managed just 23.3 yards on six kickoff returns. But hoo boy, did it seem like more of the same after that TD. I'll still hold my breath every time Chris Kluwe boots one...

The rush defense. OK, so they weren't exactly shredded, but how on earth does Jamal freakin' Lewis manage 5.2 yards per carry against us? Unacceptable!

Him. Wasn't Brett Favre supposed to stretch the field and keep the defense from stacking the line against Adrian Peterson (who never had any good rushing games with our usual assortment of medicore QBs)? Memory may fail me, but I can only recall about three or four passes that went longer than 10 yards downfield, with a lot of dump-offs and short passes and way too many sacks (4) for the number of dropbacks (25). I'd say two of the sacks weren't Favre's fault, but on the other two (the first two, if I recall), he had plenty of time.

Now, there are a few legitimate reasons for Favre's mediocre play. One is, as previously mentioned, the lack of Bernard Berrian. And Brian Billick (we'll get back to him in a minute) brought up a semi-good point when he mentioned that the reason Favre took one of his sacks was so that he wouldn't toss up one of his well-known no-chance passes for a sure-fire turnover. Finally, with Peterson running the ball like he did and the defense playing as well as it did, Favre didn't need to take big risks and go down the field with any risky plays; to his credit, I didn't see any of those "oh no"-type passes from Favre.

But if he's not going to provide an extra dimension to the passing game, why is Brett Favre here? Did he do anything today that Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels couldn't have done? We'll never know, of course, but if all we wanted from a QB is 110 passing yards per game, we sure didn't need to cough up $25 million for it. Last year, the Vikings' lowest net passing yards in a single games (subtracting sacks) was 104. Today, it was 85. This is progress?

(And going back to Brian Billick...I believe he had three "That's just Brett being Brett"s, two "He's only been here a month"s, and two or three "He needs to work with his receivers"es. Let the excuses begin continue!)

Cleveland's probably not a good team. Still, it's good to know that even when the QB is barely contributing, the Vikings can put up 34 points. It was a team effort -- offense, defense, and special teams -- and if the team looks like this all year long, I won't be disappointed.

1 comment:

Peter said...

I totally agree with you about liking Harvin in light of Loadholt's performance so far. Maybe Minnesota knows what they're doing after all. Nice drafting.

I want fewer carries for Peterson. He's on pace for 400 this year (not that runrates mean much one game in; Brees in on pace for 96 TDs this year). But c'mon. If the game is in hand enough for Jackson to play QB, then pull Peterson. (although, to be fair, Peterson's 25th carry was the unreal 64 yard TD that put the game out of reach for Cleveland)

I was glad to see Favre's pass attempts limited to 21. Dink&dunk doesn't bother me, but I'll feel better after I see some long completions in pressure situations. Kudos to Favre for playing his proper role: a compliment to AP.

Center John Sullivan needs work. He seems like the nervous type, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for his first pro start and because of the tough matchup against Shaun Rodgers. But he has got to stop letting the defense slip past him so often.

I was pleased with the pass defense. Even though their outstanding LT silenced Jared Allen, Minnesota still got 5 sakcs and lots of pressure. The secondary played well. Quinn's no star (yet), but with the Browns trying to catch up the Vikings held 'em back just fine.