Will The Copycats Come Out?

Other teams may try to emulate what New England pulled off on Monday night, but the recurring theme at Winter Park is that other teams don't have Tom Brady at quarterback. Even so, the Vikings' weaknesses were exposed.

So much for that impressive victory in Seattle. Or at least that's the way it seemed Monday night for the Vikings.

A week after beating the Seahawks at Qwest Field, Minnesota was crushed 31-7 by New England at the Metrodome. The loss before a national television audience offered the Vikings a harsh dose of reality.

New England seemed to exploit just about every weakness the Vikings possess as Patriots coach Bill Belichick took first-year head coach Brad Childress to school.

The lesson began not with Belichick challenging the Vikings' strength but rather going right at their weakness. Minnesota entered the game with the No. 2 run defense in the NFL, so Belichick and his staff devised a game plan that called for quarterback Tom Brady to attack the Vikings' much weaker pass defense.

The Patriots came out in a spread offense and Brady ended up throwing for 372 yards and four touchdowns.

Finding the shortcomings in the Vikings' offense was much easier. A unit that scored a season-high three touchdowns in a 31-13 victory over the Seahawks reverted back to its early-season struggles and veteran quarterback Brad Johnson ended up being benched in the fourth quarter after throwing three interceptions.

The problems on defense mean the Vikings are likely to see plenty of copycat versions of spread offenses over the next few weeks.

"I think you can have a chance to see it any week," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "I don't know that everybody is set up to do it quite that way. They kind of major in it, Brady and that group. I think they probably just made a conscious decision that they weren't going to try to slam the ball against the wall and decided that their best fortune would be to spread people out and put us on air."

But before anyone thinks this is it for Childress' team, take a look at the Vikings' upcoming schedule.

Minnesota's next four games are against clubs with a combined 7-22 record. The stretch begins on Sunday when the Vikings visit 2-5 San Francisco. Home games against Green Bay (3-4) and Arizona (1-7) will be sandwiched around a trip to 1-6 Miami.

Realistically, and barring a complete meltdown, the Vikings should enter their Dec. 3 game at Chicago with either an 8-3 or 7-4 record.

Anything short of a 3-1 mark during this stretch will be a major disappointment for Childress and Co. While the Vikings are coming off a sub-par performance against the Patriots, the 49ers were drubbed 41-10 in Chicago.

The Vikings' biggest problem might be their health. Receiver Marcus Robinson (lower back) and middle linebacker Napoleon Harris (dislocated wrist) could miss the game. Defensive tackles Pat Williams (knee) and Kevin Williams (high ankle sprain), as well as center Matt Birk (hyper-extended knee) were all listed as questionable on the first injury report of the week.

SERIES HISTORY: 42nd meeting. The 49ers lead the series 21-19-1, including 12-7-1 in San Francisco. This will be the Vikings' first trip to San Francisco since the 1997 season, when they played the 49ers in the regular season and again in the playoffs. San Francisco won both games. The Vikings won the past two meetings in 1999 and 2003.


  • The 49ers beat the Vikings 38-22 in an NFC Divisional playoff game on Jan. 3, 1998. Quarterback Randall Cunningham led the Vikings with 331 passing yards and three touchdowns and receiver Cris Carter caught six passes for 93 yards and two scores.

  • Quarterback Brad Johnson, playing for Washington, completed 32 of 47 passes for a career-high 471 yards and two touchdowns on Dec. 26, 1999 at San Francisco.

  • The 49ers handed the Vikings perhaps their most humiliating defeat during a 3-13 season in 1984, cruising to a 51-7 victory at Candlestick Park. That was the second to last game of Les Steckel's one-year tenure as the Vikings' head coach. Minnesota linebacker Scott Studwell had 20 tackles in that game.

  • The Vikings pulled off one of their biggest postseason upsets on Jan. 9, 1988, beating the host 49ers, 36-24. Vikings receiver Anthony Carter broke a 37-year-old playoff yardage record by catching 10 passes for 227 yards. San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana completed only 12 of 26 passes for 109 yards and was benched for the first time in his career. The Vikings then lost in the NFC title game to Washington.

  • The 49ers returned the favor the following season by beating the Vikings 34-9 in the NFC playoffs at Candlestick Park. This time Joe Montana completed three touchdown passes to Jerry Rice and Vikings quarterback Wade Wilson was sacked six times. Anthony Carter had only three catches for 45 yards.

  • Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell entered the NFL in 1997 as an undrafted free agent with San Francisco. He was waived by the 49ers and then claimed by Green Bay. Longwell spent nine seasons with the Packers before joining the Vikings during the offseason. He already has gotten a bit of revenge against San Francisco, connecting on a 35-yard field goal with 54 seconds left to give the Packers a 31-28 victory on Oct. 15, 2000.

  • Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams posted the first sacks of his career when he brought down San Francisco's Tim Rattay in the Vikings' 35-7 victory on Sept. 28, 2003.

  • LB Ben Leber was ill Wednesday and was put on the injury report as probable, meaning it's a virtual certainty he will play Sunday.

  • RB Chester Taylor practiced Wednesday after suffering a shoulder stinger Monday. Taylor, who also took a shot to the head in the first half, did not miss significant time because of the injuries but had only 10 carries for 22 yards.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 3 — Games in which the Vikings' offense has failed to score a touchdown this season.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I would say that after coaching quarterbacks over the course of time, I'm not a short hook guy. But by the same token, it's kind of like Popeye; that's all I can stands, I can't stands no more, and that was it." — Vikings coach Brad Childress when asked about his philosophy on when to pull a quarterback and why he yanked Brad Johnson in the fourth quarter Monday night against New England.

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