Blocking A Problem For ‘Atrocious' Offense

Vikings coach Mike Tice didn't mince words when he called his team's offense atrocious. The main problem, according to Tice, is the interior blocking.

What happened to the Vikings offense?

That was the question a day after the Vikings' 24-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their season opener.

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper had five turnovers (three interceptions and two fumbles) and the lowest quarterback rating of his career (49.2); the offensive line, especially the interior players, failed to provide adequate blocking for the running game or sufficient protection for Culpepper; the running backs managed to gain a total of 14 yards on 12 carries; and the defense provided the team's only touchdown.

This certainly wasn't the type of debut that coach Mike Tice or new offensive coordinator Steve Loney were looking for in the first game without receiver Randy Moss.

"Offensively, it was atrocious," Tice said in his Monday afternoon news conference. "We had some not very good play inside, and we didn't play up to the speed at which our defense was playing at. We looked too big and too sluggish. We need to tighten some things up, a lot of things actually, to be honest with you."

Tice did not vow to make any changes, although rookie right guard Marcus Johnson was benched in the fourth quarter Sunday in favor of Adam Goldberg. Even if Tice wants to start Goldberg at right guard against the Bengals, he might not have that luxury. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie suffered a sprained left foot against the Buccaneers, and if he has to miss time, Goldberg would be shifted to that position. That would force the Vikings to start Johnson.

Tice made it clear he wasn't pleased with the inside blocking of center Cory Withrow or the guards, but is confident the problems can be corrected. "I just think that we need to settle some people down a little bit, get their steps lined up and make sure that we use the right techniques," he said.

If that can be corrected, Tice feels it will take care of several issues and enable Culpepper to return to his 2004 Pro Bowl form. "When there is early pressure on the quarterback, your internal clock tends to speed up a little bit," Tice said. "You know you don't have as much time because you hadn't had that much time from... like the first snap on.

"I think we have to make sure that ‘A-gaps' are protected. Those are the two gaps closest to the center. I really believe in my heart that everything you do in protection starts at making sure that those ‘A-gaps' are secure. They were not secure (against Tampa Bay). That is really where all the problems stem, quite honestly. We have to tighten that up."

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