Sullivan centering a more productive offense

John Sullivan is back at center and the Vikings offense is better for it. See the reaction and numbers that support how much of a difference Sullivan made Sunday, despite the interceptions that Brett Favre threw.

Much of attention this week has centered on who will be under center, not the starting center himself.

That's a sign of progress the way things have been going at center for the last month. Starter John Sullivan didn't play at all during the preseason because of a calf injury. After starting the first three games of the season, he suffered another calf injury on the first offensive play of the Detroit game on Sept. 26 and was out of the lineup for nearly three games.

After Ryan Cook and Jon Cooper both took turns taking a start in the middle of the offensive line, Sullivan returned against the Green Bay Packers and got great reviews for his performance Sunday night in his first action in almost a month.

"John Sullivan did a fantastic job with that blitz package (against Green Bay)," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "We had bodies on bodies on bodies."

The low-key Sullivan was quick to deflect praise.

"Obviously there are always corrections that can be made, little keys that you missed throughout the game. But for the most part, I think the entire offense is seeing it, whether it's the quarterback (or) guards and tackles calling out keys that then allows me to make the right call. Collectively as an offense we did a pretty good job," he said.

"… As a group, we were able to read a lot of their keys. It's a team we're familiar with because we play them a lot. Obviously a division rival. We can always be better, but overall it was a pretty good performance."

Favre took only one sack Sunday night in Green Bay. The only other time this season he was sacked fewer than two times was the season opener against the New Orleans Saints, when Sullivan was starting. With Cook and Cooper starting at center the previous two games, Favre was sacked four and three times, respectively.

Sullivan said he wasn't surprised that he was able to get in a good rhythm so quickly in his first action since Sept. 26.

"No, because even though I'm not out there, I'm taking every mental rep trying to help out Coop and Cook and point things out to Brett maybe that an offensive lineman sees easier than a quarterback," Sullivan said. "From that standpoint, no (not surprised) and I'm happy how the physical standpoint, physical side of the game, went. But everything can improve."

The numbers say a lot of things did improve offensively. The Vikings had 21 first downs, tied for second-most on the season (they had 16 and 14 in the previous two games without Sullivan). They had 402 yards of total offense, the first time they have exceeded the 400-yard mark this season, 34 yards more than their previous season high and more than double the 188 they produced against Dallas the week before in the Metrodome.

The Vikings also had their best game rushing the ball this season against Green Bay. As a team, they had 196 yards rushing, the first time they had more than 100 yards since Sullivan left the field with his second calf injury against the Lions.

"That's the whole offense executing. There were a lot of positives to take away from the tape, but it's hard to focus on them when you've lost," Sullivan said. "We try to focus on the things that we need to do better and hopefully go out and get a win this weekend."

Whether it is Favre or Tarvaris Jackson taking the snaps, the Vikings have to be feeling a little better about their offensive line with Sullivan making the calls, something he was "outstanding" in doing against the Packers, according to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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