The Vikings' offensive line may not be featuring a consistent lineup, but it is getting the job done — and done well lately. Plus, get a bevy of player and coaching notes.
Not many teams would feel as comfortable with their fourth different right tackle starting as the Vikings do with second-year pro Adam Goldberg
. Goldberg, a former practice squad player who was too raw and weak to play in the league as a rookie free agent just a year ago, has moved ahead of rookie Nat Dorsey
, a fourth-round draft pick, and will keep the starting job as long as he continues to perform.
Goldberg got the start last week against Jacksonville and graded out above 1.7 on the Vikings' 2.0 grading scale. Anything 1.7 or above is considered a "winning performance."
Ironically, Sunday's game was the only time this season that all five offensive linemen graded out at 1.7 or higher. It happened with backup center Cory Withrow
starting in place of Pro Bowler Matt Birk
(hernia), Goldberg making his first NFL start because of Dorsey's injury and another ex-practice squad player, Adam Haayer
, playing the final 2 1/2 quarters at right guard because of Dave Dixon's sprained left knee.
With that makeshift right side of the line, the Vikings opened the second half with a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that consumed 9:26.
DT Kevin Williams' seven sacks are the second highest among defensive tackles. Atlanta's Rod Coleman has nine. Williams has 17 1/2 sacks in 27 career games, including 10 in his last 12 games.
WR-PR Nate Burleson's 11.0-yard punt return average ranks eighth in the NFL and fourth in the NFC. "I'm having a lot of fun with this," said Burleson, who is returning punts only because the No. 1 returner, Keenan Howry, is on injured reserve.
WR Randy Moss didn't catch a ball for five weeks because of a strained right hamstring, but his nine touchdown receptions are still tied for fourth in the NFL and tied for second in the NFC.
QB Daunte Culpepper ranks 13th in team history with 2,180 career rushing yards. He needs 85 to pass Herschel Walker for 12th place.
Coach Mike Tice is 10-5 in NFC North games, but he's 0-2 against the Bears on the road. Last year's 13-10 loss at Soldier Field was a critical defeat in the team's 3-7 season-ending slide.
RT Adam Goldberg said he has a very understanding wife. Brittany Goldberg has tended to all of the late night and early morning needs of their 2-week-old son, Eli. It's the couple's first child. "Brittany understands I have a job where I need to get my rest," Adam said. "But sometimes when I come downstairs to go to work, she gives me that look like she wants to rip my head off."
Vikings RG Dave Dixon and Bears coach Lovie Smith go way back. Smith was coaching linebackers at Arizona State 12 years ago when Dixon was playing defensive tackle for the Sun Devils.
TE Jermaine Wiggins, who has 47 catches for 465 yards this season, needs only four catches and 19 yards to top his career totals heading into this season. Most of Wiggins' catches and yards have come with him as the third or fourth option, or when QB Daunte Culpepper is scrambling under pressure. Wiggins, who came to the Vikings via free agency from NFC champion Carolina during the offseason, has a knack for gobbling up balls in the soft spots of the defense. "For lack of a better word, he's like a garbage man," said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
New Bears starting QB Chad Hutchinson and Vikings special-teams player Derek Ross have something in common. Both are castoffs of the Bill Parcells regime in Dallas.
In the first half of the last three games, the Vikings have allowed 340 yards rushing and 641 overall. In the second half of those games, they've allowed 166 rushing yards and 393 total. Simple alignment problems by anxious young players have been one of the main reasons for the slow starts. "Sometimes, you look at it and you get so frustrated," defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said of the alignment woes. "It would be different if it were a new play or a trick formation. But there's no excuse for it. These are things we go over and over and over."
Coach Mike Tice was asked if he felt comfortable at 7-4 considering there are only five teams with winning records in the NFC. "Not after last year, brother," Tice said. The Vikings started 6-0 last season but missed the playoffs after a 3-7 finish. The Vikings are exactly where they were after 11 games last season. They finished 2-3, losing at Chicago, St. Louis and Arizona while beating Kansas City and Seattle at home.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He wasn't very talkative after the game, and I don't blame him. ... There's not a lot of time to reminisce after a game when your guts have been ripped out because you lost." — Coach Mike Tice, when asked what he and Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, a close friend and former teammate of Tice, said to each other after Sunday's 27-16 Vikings victory.