Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What Monday night's festivities says about the Minnesota Vikings immediate future

I thought about riffing on the Seattle-Green Bay Monday Night Football debacle, but the only thing I can come up with is this: It was great!

I taped the game last night because I couldn't watch it live, but was curious to see how both teams – who the Vikings will play this season – would perform. Usually when I tape these non-Viking games I always peek at the score periodically on the Internet. But Monday night I was disciplined. I waited until 10 p.m. (I'm in the Mountain time zone), when I knew the game would be over, and clicked on my PVR. I had no frickin' idea what was about to go down. So I got to watch a moment that will go down in NFL and Monday Night Football infamy – only two hours later.

Results and bad calls aside, the game did give me some insight into what the play of the two teams means for the Vikings when they face these two squads (the Seahawk game is Nov. 4, the Packer games are Dec. 2nd and Dec. 30). Both of these teams could be in very different places than they are right now by the time they play Minnesota. Whatever – here are some thoughts.

When the Vikings play the Seawhawks  

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson seems like an impressive kid, but he and the Seattle offense struggled to get much going against Green Bay's defense. Part of that is inexperience. There is also the matter that Wilson doesn't have a wide receiver or tight end that can get open consistently. Marshawn Lynch is a tough, courageous runner, but he's not a guy who is going to kill you with explosive plays. This is a unit I can see a Viking defense – youth and warts and all – handling.

How did the Seattle defense get so good, though? They sent waves of defensive lineman at Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on Monday, the linebackers are good (but not as good as Jon Gruden made them out to be during the telecast) and the Seahawks secondary really impressed me. Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman are huge corners (6'3 and 6'4 guys). If the refs allow some jersey tugging and jostling beyond five yards, which they did against the Packers, these guys are tough to beat in press coverage. And the safeties, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, are no slouches.

It will be a challenge for the Vikings wide receivers to make much hay against this secondary. But I think the Vikes can run on Seattle, especially if Seahawks rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin is on the field on first or second downs. As we saw Monday night against Green Bay, he can get after the passer, but he doesn't have much lead in his pants.  

By the way, the Seahawks sure aren't getting much of a return on their Sidney Rice investment, are they?

When the Vikings play the Packers

Maybe this is going to be one of those outlier years for Rodgers and the Packers where the offense just can't get it together. Or maybe Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson should have spent a draft pick on some offensive lineman instead of going defense-heavy in April's college meat market.

I don't remember right tackle Bryan Bulaga being that bad, but he was an absolute turnstile Monday night. On every replay you could watch him either getting beat by a Seahawk pass rusher or lying on his back. No wonder Rodgers resorted to throwing the ball in less than a second during the second half. That's something I expect you will see Green Bay and Rodgers do a lot against the Vikings. It worked against Seattle and it could work against Minnesota. It would surely frustrate Jared Allen and Brian Robison. The Packers also have a deep set of wideouts who can take those short, quick throws and turn them into first downs by running after the catch. They haven't scored more than 23 points in a game yet. But this passing attack is too full of talented players for it to continue struggling. I expect the Pack will be able to move the ball consistently against the Vikings defense.

Defensively, they've got a lot of rookies and young players who are getting a lot of playing time. There will be ups and downs with this group – just like there will be ups and downs with the Vikings young defensive players. The Seattle game happened to be one of the up moments.

The Green Bay games will be yet another test Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder must pass. Wayward passes that hit defenders in the numbers – as Ponder has managed to do in the first three games – won't be dropped by the Green Bay ballhawks. He can't commit costly turnovers. The Vikings will also have to figure out what to do against linebacker Clay Matthews. Good luck.    

By the time the first Packers game rolls around, Jerome Simpson will be fully acclimatized with the offence and (hopefully) rookie Jarius Wright will have emerged as a viable receiving option. The Vikings will need to protect Ponder well and receivers not named Harvin will have to make plays.

5 comments:

  1. This is one of the kinds of posts I love. Now that the Vikings have made themselves more interesting, what can we learn from teams on their schedule about MN's not-too-distant future? Speculation is fun right now.

    Both teams have one-dimensional offenses at this point. I think the Vikings' main goal against Seattle should be similar to the SF game: get a 7+ point lead and keep it. Rush the passer effectively with 4. Keep Lynch from getting a bazillion touches.

    Against Green Bay the goal should be to keep the game within reach until the 4th, then get aggressive. The running game should be effective enough to help the passing game at that point. A big day from AP wouldn't hurt!

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  2. Seahawks only had two sacks in their first two games total. Rodgers was sacked three times by SF and five times by Chicago. I think the 8 sacks were more about the Packers line than the Seattle pash rush.

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  3. TBird:

    Sacks don't always tell the full story, of course. I didn't get a chance to watch the previous two Seahawks games, but it sounded like their defense hounded Romo pretty good in the win over Dallas. The good news for the Vikings is the offensive line's pass blocking seems to have really improved this year.

    Peter:

    What you wrote. I do think we'll have to get used to workmanlike games from Peterson this year. He's missing that extra gear, which is understandable.

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  4. Packers complain about the officials, and they were terrible. What about the refs at Lambeau. The Packers get EVERY call and I don't hear any Packers tweets etc about that.
    What goes around, comes around!

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  5. Anon 4:43 p.m.:

    It couldn't have happened to a nicer team.

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