Offenses have been attacking the Vikings' soft perimeter with screens and quick tosses since the Atlanta game a month ago. The Vikings expect San Diego to do the same with running back LaDainian Tomlinson and either Drew Brees or Doug Flutie at quarterback.
Several changes are being made defensively and with the practice schedule to strengthen the Vikings' defense. Something had to be done in the wake of a two-game home losing streak.
Two weeks ago, Giants quarterback Kerry Collins got into a quick-passing rhythm and threw for 375 yards in a 29-17 victory. Last week, the Packers ran for 261 yards on just 34 carries (7.7). Ahman Green ran for 137 yards on 21 carries (6.5) and caught five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown.
The key to beating the 1-7 Chargers is shutting down Tomlinson and the Chargers' screens immediately. Tomlinson is second in the AFC in rushing with 780 yards on 156 carries (5.0-yard average), and leads the Chargers with 47 receptions for 280 yards (6.0).
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Vikings LBs vs. Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson — Linebackers Greg Biekert, Henri Crockett and Chris Claiborne are coming off their worst two games of the season. The Giants and Packers destroyed the defense with quick tosses and screens. Expect the Chargers to try the same attack. Tomlinson averages 5.0 yards per carry, leads the team in receptions and also has thrown a touchdown pass.
INJURY IMPACT: LT Bryant McKinnie is a question mark to play against the Chargers because of a sprained left ankle. Everett Lindsay, a 10-year veteran with 65 career starts for the Vikings, Browns and Ravens, is expected to start if McKinnie can't go. Lindsay isn't as big as McKinnie, and will need help from a tight end or running back in pass protection.
CHARGERS GAME PLAN
Despite their horrendous record, the Chargers have the personnel to possibly defeat the Vikings. Or rather, the person: RB LaDainian Tomlinson. The Vikings defense traditionally struggles against power backs and players with good cutback ability, traits Tomlinson has in spades.
If Flutie plays, his height will come in to play. Many of the Vikings' 18 interceptions this season were the result of their defensive linemen getting their hands up when quarterbacks throw. The diminutive Flutie will likely be asked to bootleg and rollout on most pass attempts, playing to his strength and to a Vikings weakness.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: The Chargers' pass defense, which has allowed 15 passing touchdowns — tied for most in the NFL — vs. The Vikings' passing offense, which is ranked No. 6 overall. What's going to be critical here is Quentin Jammer, who is likely going to find himself on Randy Moss much of the time. Jammer has been slowed the past two games with a chronic ankle sprain which doesn't seem to get better. Moss has played the Chargers only once, but he had seven catches for 127 yards and a touchdown, with a long of 60. The Chargers might have to ditch their preferred man coverage to give Jammer — and anyone else — help in derailing Moss. If Jammer was to go down, his replacement will be Kevin Ross and rookie Drayton Florence. Both, as with most CBs, would be overmatched against Moss. Another key is the Chargers generating some kind of pass rush to disrupt Daunte Culpepper. But the Chargers haven't much success getting to quarterbacks getting rid of the ball as quickly as Culpepper
INJURY IMPACT: C Jason Ball (ankle) didn't practice and doesn't look like a go for the third straight week. Veteran Cory Raymer replaces him.