To Bennett Or Not To Bennett?

Coach Michael Tice likes his numbers-crunching abilities. Crunch these, coach. It might change his opinion of another Michael on the team.

Not all people assign significance to numbers. For example, when Daunte Culpepper went down last year, backup Gus Frerotte didn't lose. On the other side, when Randy Moss sustained the first injury of his career, the Vikings suffered.

But, Vikings coach Mike Tice is a "by the numbers" type of guy. He enjoys challenging the Ken Jennings-type Ubernerds at STATS Inc. On the next net-chat session, throw this number out, coach. Over the last two years, in games Michael Bennett has not been a factor, the Vikings are 12-3. Pause for a moment and reflect on that number. In games during that same span that Bennett has more than a cursory role in, the Vikings are 5-11.

Some stats can be dismissed as anomalies. This one can't. If two or more quarterbacks had such a disparity, there wouldn't be a question about what direction a team would take. Should running back be any different?

The bottom line is that the only Vikings with a lower average-per-carry number are wide receiver Kelly Campbell and fourth-down secret weapon Brian Russell. So Onterrio Smith is in the doghouse. So Mewelde Moore took too long to heal from an ankle injury. The numbers, as the sevants provide them, speak differently.

The NFL likes to use the phrase "touches" when it pertains to running backs – the combination of rushing attempts and receptions. In a formula much less complicated than E=mc2, the touch numbers speak for themselves. Moore has 92 touches for 617 yards – a 6.7-yard per touch average. Smith has 151 touches for 890 yards – a 5.9-yard average. Bennett has 80 touches for 440 yards – a 5.5-yard average.

Do the math for yourself. Whether the benchmark is record or production, success hasn't been found with Bennett as the backfield bell cow. In a game dissected by numbers, maybe the Vikings hopes shouldn't be pinned on No. 23.

FRIDAY NOTES
* All three Vikings dismissed from Wednesday's practice returned Thursday. Culpepper took all the first-team snaps, Jermaine Wiggins practiced throughout and Antoine Winfield was solid enough to open speculation that he may start Sunday.
* The Vikings placed practice squad WR Ryan Hoag on injured reserve – the curious nature of the injury is up to NFL Europe officials to decide – and signed WR Skyler Fulton.
* The Colts lead the NFL with teammates with the most sacks – Dwight Freeney (16) and Robert Mathis (10.5). They need four sacks to move to into fifth place all-time for one season but fall well short of a record that will be difficult to ever break – the tandem record of 39 set by Chris Doleman (21) and Keith Millard (18) for the Vikings in 1989.
* Only once in NFL history have two teams averaged more than 400 yards a game in one season. That was in 2000 when the Rams (442) and the Broncos (410) both earned wild card playoff berths. This year, three teams have a shot at beating that record. The Colts need 125 yards, the Chiefs need 148 and the Vikings need 381 to hit the four-long trifecta.

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