Will Moss' Return Help Running Game?

Opinions vary at Winter Park on how much Randy Moss' absence has affected the running game, but there is little doubt that the star wide receiver changes the way a defense plays the Vikings.

Maybe the Vikings' receivers areen't the only ones welcoming Randy Moss back with open arms. Maybe the running backs should be the ones counting the days until Moss returns to the playing field.

Ever since Moss was sidelined, the running game has been hushed. Part of that can be attributed to the team falling behind so quickly that it has to rely more on the pass. But the Vikings have noticed something else with their offense sans Moss.

"Guys have to change the defense just because Moss is on the field," running back Onterrio Smith said. "You have to defend him with double-coverage. Without him out there they can drop eight in the box on us and it affects our running game in return."

Quality control assistant coach Randy Hanson, who handles film preparation of opposing defenses, has noticed something when Moss is out. With Moss out, opposing defenses resemble themselves from the week before. In turn, the Vikings offense recognizes the opponent's defensive scheme on game day because they saw it on film during the week. When Moss is in the lineup, the scouting becomes more difficult.

"Here's exactly what I've noticed: When Moss has been healthy we'd see them on film and say, "They're not going to run that against us. They won't do this against us,' " Hanson said. "When he wasn't playing we were getting a lot more of what we'd see on tape.

"When Moss is playing we get a lot of two-deep coverages. When Randy was out, we'd get a lot of single-high coverage."

That single-high coverage usually means one more player is up close defending the run.

Head coach Mike Tice doesn't see the correlation between a weak running game being the result of no Moss.

"There's really no correlation to anything," Tice said. "You can look into it any which way you want. When you get behind two scores like we have in a number of games over the course of a four-week period, it has nothing to do with Randy Moss at all. … We don't call as many runs when we're behind in games."

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, for one, thinks the running game will be better served with Moss in the lineup.

"Not having Randy out there and being able to dictate where we can run the ball and when we can run against the cover-2 probably has something to do with it," he said. "Another thing, the defenses we've played have pretty good defensive fronts and no one runs the ball very well against them."



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