To Run Or Not To Run

Whether it is Cris Carter, Daunte Culpepper or Dennis Green, the Vikings don't sound completely sure of this offense's identity.

The Vikings enter Sunday's game against Detroit still looking to establish a running game. The team is averaging 3.9 yards per carry and rookie Michael Bennett leads the Vikings with 168 yards on 48 carries (3.5 average) with no rushing touchdowns.

In the Vikings' 28-15 loss at New Orleans in Week 4, the Vikings only had 11 rushing attempts for 34 yards — a 3.1 average.

These struggles should not come as a big surprise. Not after the sudden retirement of Robert Smith following last season and losses in the past few years along the offensive line, including the tragic death of Korey Stringer.

So, what's the answer? Well, there might not be one for the short term.

"We might not be a good running team," coach Dennis Green said. "That still doesn't mean we're not going to be a playoff team. It very well could be that all we can do is throw the ball. If it is, then let's start throwing it.

"You want to have balance. That's what you think it takes to win and it should. But we also have to recognize who we are. If we're not going to be a good running team, we have to be a better passing team. Plain and simple."

Receiver Cris Carter, who has been with the Vikings since 1990, has seen this team operate without a strong running game before. "We did it in 1994, we did it in 1995," he said. "Then there were periods when Robert Smith was hurt, and we still were a dominant passing team. Whatever they decide to do is going to be fine with me. People think I call the plays, but I don't. If I called them we would throw about 90 percent of the time. But you have to have balance. It helps out. We have had good success either way.

"The thing about it is if you throw the ball you are not eating up a lot of clock because the clock is not moving. There are some things there that could come back to hurt you as far as your defense. With our defense being undersized, it does not play to our strength as far as that is concerned."

Asked about Green's comments on the running game, Carter said: "Whatever he wants to say is fine. To me, it's not going to matter. It doesn't make sense to me to say we are a passing team, we can't run. It doesn't make sense. … Every year we always say we are going to try to run the ball. We always say that. But when you have the wideouts we have, it's difficult."

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, for one, isn't about to give up on the running game. "We are still going to run the ball," he said. "We are going to run the ball effectively. We just have to get to the point where we are all working together, getting the same effort, just getting it done. We definitely have a great football team … We have backs that can move the ball on the ground. I still have a lot of confidence in our running game, but at the same time we are definitely going to have to throw the ball and be effective with the pass, too."

Troubled since preseason
Carter, who enters the Lions game with 15 receptions for 203 yards and two touchdowns, said he was a little surprised the Vikings offense was still searching for an identity four games into the season. But his next comment proved more revealing.

"For me, things have not been well for a long time, so I'm not overly surprised by the result of it," Carter said. "I can see that based on what we have been able to do in the past it's not the same."

Asked if these feeling dated to last season, Carter said: "No, from the preseason. Last year we were very, very good offensively. … This (team) is a lot different offensively than we have been for a number of years." VU

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