Reaction to the Action

Matt Birk is the only Pro Bowler on the Vikings' offensive line, as line coach Mike Tice is given the difficult prospect of building a cohesive unit from mixed parts. In New Orleans, that line allowed six sacks. Meanwhile, the Saints offensive line showed their talent and chemistry in protecting their quarterback.

Take away three big miscues during the Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans Saints game and, like every other game, the results could have been different. The three in question: When the officials called a 42-yard pass interference penalty on Vikings cornerback Eric Kelly at the start of the third quarter after good coverage; Cris Carter's fumble into the end zone instead of a touchdown; and the fumble recovery for a touchdown by Saints defensive back Chris Oldham.

Even with those three plays removed the same problem still might exist for the Vikings — the offense not being in sync. It seemed like the team was waiting for the offense to perform to their high expectations of the last few years, but rather than wait it easily could be corrected by having all 11 players working together for success on every play.

There was a lot of confusion on the Vikings' offensive side of the ball, as the New Orleans fans got into the game to such an extent that they took away the offensive edge from the Vikings' linemen. With so much noise in the stadium the offensive linemen have a hard time hearing the audibles, let alone the cadence. Therefore, they will actually move on the snap of the ball, which takes away the advantage of knowing the snap count.

I was very intrigued watching the start of the game, as the Vikings defense started with a dime package, which means six defensive backs, one linebacker and the normal four down linemen. The part that was unique was that the Saints countered with a no-huddle offense, which surprised me to some degree since quarterback Aaron Brooks really hasn't had that much playing time even though he is a three-year veteran. To run the no-huddle effectively you need a cohesive, up-front unit that has played together for some time, so I started to check out the Saints' offensive line. They have a group that has played together for 19 consecutive games, with three of its members — Chris Naeole, Kyle Turley and William Roaf — being No. 1 draft choices. Add 13-year veteran Jerry Fontenot at center and you can understand how smoothly they can start this offense. It doesn't mean the Saints should have won, of course, but give that unit a wild crowd, a touchdown on a Daunte Culpepper fumble and a sure touchdown by Carter negated because of his fumble and it sure makes for a rough day for the Vikings.

Winning on the road is tough, but the Vikings made it tougher for themselves. They didn't establish a running game and they turned the ball over too many times. You can have all the superstars in the world, but when you are missing that cohesive offensive line and give your opponent too many other advantages, it will always make for a tough Sunday afternoon. VU

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