10 QUESTIONS - Patriots at Vikings
Viking Update Publisher Tim Yotter is this week's guest on 10 questions.
10) Now that Culpepper has moved on and Moss is with the Raiders, is life better, worse or the same in Minnesota?
For sure, it's different. The locker room doesn't seem divided or tense like it could be at times when those players were around, for different reasons. But there is no doubt that the offense has changed dramatically without those two. Brad Johnson is a much more conservative quarterback, which has translated into fewer turnovers and keeping the Vikings in every game even if they weren't scoring a lot. However, there is no doubt they have been missing that explosive element without Moss. With a better offensive line and a receiver corps that isn't as established, teams are loading the front more often to stop the run.
9) How much of a difference has new Vikings head coach Brad Childress made from the old regime of Mike Tice or Denny Green?
It's a more disciplined and team approach. Tice tried to be friends with Randy Moss, and eventually that hurt him. I also think Tice tried to stick by Daunte Culpepper too much, and eventually that hurt him as well. Childress is more upfront with the players, and I've had several players tell me they just didn't know what to expect with Tice, no matter what he told them. Childress doesn't call out his players like Tice did on occasion, but he isn't afraid to take disciplinary action, which Tice didn't do.
8) Minnesota is sitting at 4-2, a couple of games behind the undefeated Bears. What were the expectations heading into the season and how have the outcomes differed from those expectations?
The general consensus was that if the Vikings could get through these first two months of the season with a .500 record, that would be good enough to contend for a playoff spot. They've had a very tough schedule to start the season, going to Washington, hosting Carolina and the Bears, then getting a bit of a respite with Buffalo (whom they lost to) and Detroit, before traveling to Seattle and now playing New England. After this game, the quality of opponents drops off. The thinking was that with new schemes on offense and defense, a whole new coaching staff and several new starters, it would take a while for the team to jell. That was true with the offensive running game, but the defense has been playing lights-out all season. They now have the No. 1 rushing defense in the league and their lesser-ranked pass defense has a little to do with teams giving up on the run and trying to throw more often. Chicago was favored to win the division, but the magnitude of their incredible start is surprising. The Vikings had them on the ropes at home, but gave that game away when they had a 16-12 lead and fumbled in their own territory with 3:30 left. Chicago scored a touchdown off that turnover to win the game.
7) No Q&A would be complete without asking about the whole Seattle-Minnesota poison pill battle. For those who didn't know, can you tell readers about the Steve Hutchinson and Nate Burleson situations, and how it's impacted the Vikings?
Vikings VP of football operations Rob Brzezinski said he has told the league about this loophole in the Collective Bargaining Agreement for years and no one closed it. So eventually he and Hutchinson's agent, Tom Condon, decided that it was worth it to exploit it in this situation. Hutchinson was disappointed that Seattle had taken care of running back Shaun Alexander with a big contract and tackle Walter Jones previously by using the franchise tag on him before giving him a big contract. Instead of franchising Hutchinson, Seattle placed the transition tag on him and figured they'd match any offer he got. Instead, knowing that Jones was being paid slightly more than $49 million over seven years, the Vikings put together an offer for Hutchinson that was $49 million over seven years, and the whole contract had to be guaranteed if he wasn't the highest paid offensive lineman on the roster at the time of the offer. The Seahawks weren't allowed to redo Jones' contract because of that "at the time of the offer" provision in the Vikings' offer and Seattle wasn't willing to guarantee his contract. So the Vikings essentially exploited a loophole to get the best guard in football. The Seahawks countered by offering Vikings receiver Nate Burleson a seven-year, $49 million contract that was really worth only about one-third of that because of some ridiculous escalators. Burleson might be worth what the contract's real value is, but he's nowhere near a $7 million-a-year receiver. The Seahawks also put the clause in Burleson's offer that if he played five games in Minnesota, the whole contract would have to be guaranteed. I don't blame Seattle for doing that after what the Vikings did to them, but there is no question that Minnesota came out on the winning end. Hutchinson has been a very solid player while getting used to a new blocking scheme, while Burleson has dropped to the fourth or fifth receiver in Seattle and hasn't caught a pass in his last two games, including Minnesota's 31-13 in Seattle last week.
6) The Vikings beat up - at least on the scoreboard - the Seattle Seahawks last week. Are there any positives or negatives from that game that you think may impact the game on Monday night?
One thing that should be noted is that Seattle was without Shaun Alexander, and Matt Hasselbeck left the game early in the third quarter with a sprained knee. However, the Vikings were tied 10-10 at the half and outplayed Seattle in the second half. The biggest surprise in that game was the resurgence of the Vikings' passing game. They had been moving the ball decently in past games, but they have really struggled to get it into the end zone. They scored on a halfback pass, a 40-yard pass from Brad Johnson to Marcus Robinson and then a 95-yard run by Chester Taylor. Robinson came on strong when the Vikings lost Troy Williamson to a concussion, but now it looks like Robinson will be out on Monday night with a lower back issue. The other aspect they really improved upon was penalties. They had been one of the most penalized teams in the league, and they didn't have one procedural penalty in the loud confines of Qwest Field.