Opposition Learning Quickly

The pause that doesn't refresh is what the Vikings are facing after Sunday's loss to the Packers. Teams are finding a weakness and continue to exploit it.

If the Vikings' three-game homestand proved something, it was the Vikings defense is vulnerable to the perimeter run. Denver exposed it with Clinton Portis. During that game, one VU staffer questioned why Denver ever went away from the sweep. By our count, the Broncos ran wide 10 times for 92 yards. The Giants learned from it and attacked the Vikings both in the run and pass game on the outside for big plays. The Packers perfected it – for the entire NFL to see.

If you read the final stats, it will say the Packers ran 34 times for 261 yards – an unholy 7.7-yard average. But keep in mind that five of those runs were three clock-killing runs intended to get nothing before the final field goal and two kneel-downs by Brett Favre to end the game. Take those five "non-runs" away and Green Bay ran 29 times for 260 yards – a much-worse 9-yard average every time the team ran the ball.

Just as every team has weaknesses – keep in mind that Tampa Bay, Carolina and St. Louis all lost Sunday, too – teams find ways to exploit them. It's not stunning that the New Orleans Saints have beaten the Buccaneers three straight times – twice at Tampa. They match up well. They have discovered weaknesses and continue to exploit them until changes are made.

The Vikings needs some changes on defense – whether through personnel or scheme. Teams have found their Achilles heel. With games against capable outside runners like LaDainian Tomlinson, Charlie Garner, Marshall Faulk, Shaun Alexander, Priest Holmes and Marcel Shipp still on the docket, this problem needs to be addressed now.

* Perhaps the most disheartening about the loss and why the defense will have the fingers pointed in its direction. In the second half, the Vikings offense had the ball four times. It scored on three of those drives. Typically, in tight games, that's enough to win. While not clicking in the Red Zone, the offense did enough to win – scoring on 75 percent of its second-half drives and not turning the ball over once.
* The media was abuzz about one player in particular Sunday. Both in conversations among fellow media members and merciless Vikings fans on the post-game call-in shows, Chris Hovan was savaged. While other high-profile players get dogged by the beat writers – John Randle, Reggie White, Warren Sapp, etc. – what set those players apart was making two or three big plays in succession that made you notice them. With all the hype surrounding Hovan and Brett Favre, it was expected. It didn't show up. While apologists can blame double-teams and the like, big players make big plays in big games. Could there have been a game bigger than Sunday night?
* Corey Chavous took over the NFL lead with his seventh interception. His pick in the second quarter led to the Vikings' second TD of the game to take a 14-13 lead.
* From the Clock Management Department comes this: There was a lot of discussion at halftime about the Vikings calling a time out with 1:20 to play in the second quarter. Green Bay was faced with a third-and-10 after Favre had been sacked on second down by Kevin Williams on his own 37. There was little doubt that Favre – on the clock once the ball was set – wasn't going to stop the clock. In all likelihood, he would have run the game clock down to 40-50 seconds and run a play – perhaps a run considering the success it had. Had he failed to get a first down or thrown an incompletion, the Vikes still would have 30 seconds and two time outs to make something happen. As it turned out, by calling a time out after the sack, the Vikings allowed Favre and the coaches the time to look in the playbook for an ideal third-down call. Knowing the Vikings would call their final time out if a run play failed, there was really nothing to lose. The result? A 27-yard designed screen to Ahman Green that put the Packers on the Vikings 36. When you wonder about clock management specifics, no time out called and the Vikings could very well have gone into halftime with a 14-13 lead and gotten the second-half kickoff. As it turned out, they went to halftime down 20-14 and never led again. Tick, tick, tick. That's clock management.
* How cursed is Favre? In his last six home games vs. the Vikings, he has six touchdown passes. In his last four games at the Metrodome, he has 10 TD passes.
* Despite making a gamelong effort to take Randy Moss away from the offense, Moss still managed six catches for 87 yards and a TD. In 12 career games vs. the Packers, he has 63 catches for 1,212 yards and 11 touchdowns. That's a big player making big plays in big games.
* With the Packers win, the all-time series between the two is again tied – now at 42-42-1 in 85 meetings.
* Will the Vikes and the Packers perhaps meet for Border Bowl III in the playoffs? Not if history has anything to do with it. The Vikings have faced 16 different franchises in the post season – but never the Packers.

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