Banged-Up Vikings Still Searching For Identity

The Vikings don't seem to completely have their identity figured out. Injuries and an inconsistent cast of players have contributed to that.

The Vikings don't seem to completely have their identity figured out. Injuries and an inconsistent cast of players have contributed to that.


The Vikings have a chance to enter the bye week with a .500 record after getting their first victory of the season last Sunday against a road weary and worn-down New Orleans Saints team. But if Minnesota is to even its record at 2-2 it will have to find a way to contain Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and win in the Georgia Dome.

That won't be easy.

Atlanta, coming off a 24-16 victory at Buffalo, beat defending NFC champion Philadelphia in its home opener and likely is looking forward to meeting a banged-up Vikings team that was atrocious in its road opener, a 37-8 against Cincinnati in Week 2.

While things definitely got better against New Orleans, the Vikings are clearly still trying to find an identity on both offense and defense and this latest batch of injuries hasn't helped matters.

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper passed for 300 yards and three touchdowns against the Saints. Most importantly, he did not turn over the ball after losing it 10 times (eight interceptions, two fumbles) in the first two games.

With top receiver Nate Burleson out because of a knee injury, Culpepper seemed to develop some chemistry with Travis Taylor, completing two first-quarter touchdown passes to the new receiver. Culpepper also hooked up with first-round pick Troy Williamson on a 53-yard touchdown, and running back Mewelde Moore had the team's first 100-yard rushing performance of the season.

But in the post-Randy Moss era it's clear this offense is still a work in progress. It's not just Moss' absence that has made a difference. Pro Bowl center Matt Birk, out for the season after having hip surgery, is missed as much or more than the Pro Bowl receiver.

Cory Withrow is the starting center for now, but it wouldn't be surprising if Melvin Fowler eventually assumes that role. A change at right guard also could be on the horizon, as rookie Marcus Johnson has struggled as the starter.

Ted Cottrell's defense made life miserable for the Saints, blitzing and causing all kinds of problems for quarterback Aaron Brooks. But this is another unit that is only starting to become comfortable with one another. Early-season injuries to a unit with five new starters has made the blending process that much longer.

Nickel back Brian Williams (knee) won't play Sunday, while defensive end Lance Johnstone (shoulder) is doubtful and linebacker E.J. Henderson (ankle), free safety Darren Sharper (knee) and defensive end Kenechi Udeze (knee) are questionable.


NOTES

  • RB Moe Williams sat out Wednesday's practice because of a knee injury but is listed as probable for Sunday.

  • LBs Sam Cowart (knee) and Dontarrious Thomas (hamstring) both practiced Wednesday and are listed as probable for Sunday.


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