Exposing Weaknesses

The Minnesota Vikings play the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm this week. This may be a different Viking squad that the Bolts face Sunday as the Vikings have lost two in a row and may be the unhappiest 6-2 team in the league. The Chargers are 1-7. Their sadness is well documented, but they do have a trick up their sleeve as Marty Schottenheimer plays coy about who will start Sunday.

Making the Vikings particularly grumpy is what opponents have done to their defense the past 10 quarters.

Ever since Broncos third-stringer Danny Kanell rallied Denver to 10 fourth-quarter points in a 28-20 loss at the Metrodome, the Vikings have surrendered 1,000 yards of offense and 69 points. They've lost consecutive games to the Giants (29-17) and Packers (30-27).

"It's a copy-cat league," safety Corey Chavous said. "Teams are watching what other teams are doing to us."

The Vikings' perimeter defense has been especially soft. They're giving up too much ground on quick tosses and screen passes.

Against Green Bay, Packers running back Ahman Green had 137 yards rushing on 21 carries (6.5) and caught five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown.

Green Bay ran for 261 yards on 34 carries, a 7.7-yard average. Receiver Donald Driver had a 45-yard end around.

"We didn't tackle well. Period. End of story," defensive tackle Chris Hovan said.

"If you don't stop the run, you're never going to win in this league," Vikings defensive coordinator George O'Leary said. "They attacked the outside, our perimeter. We kept trying to correct it, but we couldn't. The outside was killing us."

Enter the San Diego Chargers who hope to copy their way to victory.

LaDainian Tomlinson will see a healthy dose of screen passes and tosses outside. The Chargers plan on attacking the Vikings' weakness as many teams did to them earlier in the season.

The other hope is by pushing back the quarterback controversy between Doug Flutie and Drew Brees; it will open up more lanes as the Vikings must prepare for both.

"I haven't gotten to the point where we're ready to make an announcement," said Schottenheimer. "I understand the interest that everybody has, and it's certainly with good reason. However, it doesn't really benefit the Chargers in any way to make that announcement right now."

Schottenheimer said the Chargers are preparing both quarterbacks to play, to keep the Vikings guessing.

"We have to," he said. "We have two different styles of quarterback."


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