Behind Enemy Lines: Part 1

There's more to this game than Brett Favre, though he certainly is a focal point. So, our Scout.com experts look ahead to Monday, with five questions to Viking Update's Tim Yotter.

Bill Huber: Well, let's cut to the chase. Either one of us could have beaten the Browns in Week 1, and the passing game in Week 2 made the phrase "dink and dunk" seem like the Run and Shoot. We've seen Brett Favre's incredible game-winning pass against San Francisco a bunch of times, but how did he play for the first 59 minutes?

Tim Yotter: At times, Favre was shaky to start the game. He threw a couple of wobblers that fell incomplete and had me wondering what was going on. He also had a number of passes that were simply dropped. In the first half, he completed only 50 percent of his passes, but he also threw for 153 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. The 49ers have a very good run defense, so the Vikings and Adrian Peterson had tough sledding, meaning they really needed Favre and this was the game he finally opened it up. As you mentioned, he was mostly dink and dunk in the first couple of games, but against the 49ers, he hit four different receivers with pass plays of more than 30 yards, including the game-winning touchdown. One thing that gets lost in that final touchdown is that Favre engineered a 10-play, 80-yard drive in 1:27 with no timeouts. That's almost as impressive to me as the touchdown itself. We're not used to see an efficient two-minute drill in Minnesota.

As Bernard Berrian gets more on the same page with Favre, that should help open up the deep passing game as well. The main issue, however, is an offensive line that has struggled to adequately protect Favre and give him enough time to go downfield. If I'm Dom Capers, I'm bringing a safety over the top to help with a speed receiver (Bernard Berrian or Percy Harvin) and then getting the corners in tight coverage for underneath routes.

 

BH: Does this team look more or less Super through three weeks than they might have had Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson been under center? In other words, through three weeks, did the Vikings make the right call by accommodating the Waffle King?

TY: So far, so good. Favre has put the whipped cream and the strawberries on top of those waffles. The big concern I would have is trying to keep his ironman status alive. Favre is getting hit early and often and, quite frankly, I'm not sure either Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels — both of whom were hurting in training camp or preseason — would still be out there. Favre looked extremely sore after Sunday's game, but I doubt he misses this game for anything but paralysis. He was given Monday through Wednesday off from actual practice, so it will be interesting to see how he looks these next few days. He is making mostly the right decisions and seems to have the respect and confidence of his teammates. As a short-term band-aid, they have made the right decision. How it affects their future, who knows? But I'm guessing Brad Childress is more concerned with this season and keeping his job than he is about developing another "quarterback of the future" like he spent his first three years attempting with Jackson.

 

BH: The Browns and 49ers run 3-4 defenses, and the Packers will bring theirs to the dome on Monday. I know you wrote back in August that the Vikings were struggling against the 3-4. What's the story now?

TY: I think they are getting more and more used to it, but their biggest challenge lies with right tackle Phil Loadholt. I talked to him last week about it and he said he only faced the 3-4 once during his entire college career (two years at Oklahoma and two at a community college). Loadholt, like Bryant McKinnie, is a huge physical specimen and should develop into a solid player, but getting him comfortable enough to just play naturally and not have to worry about the differences in defenses from week to week is part of the maturation process. I find it interesting that the Vikings are so used to facing the Packers, but this defense offers a new wrinkle in their scouting. I believe the Packers have a real opportunity to pressure Favre and rely on their cornerbacks to do the job in coverage. The Vikings need to have their receivers break more tackles and pop some longer gains to get the Packers out of an aggressive mode.

 

BH: We know about the Williams Wall and Jared Allen, but tell us about Ray Edwards, who will be trying to exploit right tackle Allen Barbre? And just how much better is the defense with E.J. Henderson back in the middle?

TY: Edwards has been able to take advantage of some single teams and get pressure on the quarterback. This could be a prime opportunity for him exploit a weaker player. Edwards isn't as quick as Allen, but he has been a solid run-side end and goes hard to the quarterback as well. The defensive linemen have claimed they haven't had a lot of great opportunities to rush the passer with max protection and quick throws and I'd expect a lot of that from the Packers, given their problems in protection of late.

As for Henderson, I view him as maybe the top linebacker in the division when healthy, but that's been a problem the last year. He suffered dislocated toes in Week 4 last year, putting him on injured reserve, and has been dealing with a shoulder injury the last week-plus. He played through the shoulder and didn't show any obvious signs, but time will tell just how banged up it is.

 

BH: Aside from the quarterback play last year, the Vikings' one Achilles heel appeared to be special teams. Will Blackmon's punt return for a touchdown helped the Packers win in Week 1 last year, and his repeat performance almost rallied the Packers in the rematch. Are the special teams still a major weakness or are they at least good enough?

TY: After giving up a league-record seven special teams touchdowns last year, the Vikings have given up two this year. One came in the opener when they figured they got a little too excited and let some of their lane responsibilities lapse. A premier returner like Josh Cribbs is going to take advantage of that. The other came last week when the line was beaten physically and Ray McDonald blocked a field goal that Nate Clements returned for a touchdown as time expired in the first half. The first touchdown was a mental error and the second was mostly a physical error. They claim the special teams are improved, but they aren't off to a good start in proving that. Since their kick return coverage has been solid, I tend to give the coverage the benefit of the doubt. But I also believe they need more consistency from punter Chris Kluwe. He's got a huge leg, but he seems to struggle at times when they ask him to directional kick or put more hang time on it. Either one of those tactics will be key.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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