Isn't That Special?

The biggest Vikings weakness meets the Chiefs strong suit Saturday, and special teams could affect the result of the game -- and many fear it is certain to.

Ask any coach -- from pro to college to high school -- and you'll hear the same mantra. It goes something like this -- "there are three teams: offense, defense and special teams."

The one certainty going into Saturday's game with the Chiefs is that both offenses are better than both defenses. In gambler-speak, that means bet the over. But, if both defenses are equally inept, what does that leave? Special teams.

Perhaps no two teams have as different an outlook on special teams as the Vikings and Chiefs. K.C. wouldn't be 12-2 if not for its special teams -- in a good way. The Vikes wouldn't be 8-6 if not for its special teams -- in a bad way.

In short, special teams could be a recipe for disaster Saturday if the Vikings don't pay "special attention" the Phase Three of winning football games. Consider the following;

KICKING -- The Chiefs have former 1998 anti-Christ Morten Andersen as their field goal kicker. He's deadly inside 47 yards. The Vikings have Aaron Elling, who Mike Tice isn't confident in beyond 40 yards.

PUNTING -- The Chiefs are near the bottom in yards-per-punt in the AFC. The Vikes are near the bottom of the NFC is yards-per-punt and, because their punter can't seem to hold on to a ball, they signed a punter cut by the Chiefs in training camp.

RETURNS -- The Vikings have been switching up return men all year -- both on kicks and punts. The Chiefs have Dante Hall, the most dangerous return man in the league.

The big concern Saturday shouldn't be how to shut down Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez, it should be finding a way to not let the "Third Phase" of a football game be the phase that determines who wins and who loses.

* The jackals are out. VU has received multiple correspondence from "haters" that say since the NFL and AFL merged, only one team has started 6-0 and not made the playoffs. That was the 1978 Redskins, who started 8-3 and lost their last five games.
* Reporting 101 Primer: For those who cover the Vikes and scan VU, one of the areas that turned the 8-8 Chiefs of 2002 into the 12-2 Chiefs of 2003 was the understanding of how one big play can turn a game -- and they have the Vikes to thank. In the season opener last year, former Viking Dwayne Rudd thought he got a game-ending sack on Trent Green. Instead, the play was still alive and Rudd was penalized. Andersen hit a field goal with no time remaining to give the Chiefs a win they had no business getting. They've learned from it and have the Vikes to thank for not re-signing Rudd.
* If Rushen Jones is active Sunday, watch for the Chiefs special teamers to try to lay him out. K.C. coach Dick Vermeil took heat after Jones laid out Damean Douglas for the year on a hit Vermeil didn't actually see, but said someone should "shoot him in the head." It was gone...but not forgotten.
* Chris Claiborne sat out Wednesday's practice and, while listed as questionable, is likely not going to play a signifcant role Saturday with his Achilles injury.
* Michael Bennett didn't finish practice Wednesday, leaving his role as the go-to back in question.
* Mike Rosenthal is still recovering from a concussion, but following two post-concussion tests, he's expected to start Saturday.
* The Chiefs have some signifcant injuries heading into Saturday's game. WR Marc Boerigter is expected to remain out with an ankle injury and three key defensive players -- DT Eric Downing (hamstring), LB Mike Maslowski (knee) and safety Greg Wesley (thigh) -- are listed as questionable.

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