Notebook: Jets Present Unique Challenge

Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin says the New York Jets bring a different road map than most teams in the NFL. See what Tomlin is expecting, plus get notes and quotes on Brad Johnson's bounce-back performance, an unsettling trend in special teams and more.

The Vikings have faced many varied game plans from their opponents this season, from empty backfields and crazy passing games to teams that tried a balanced attack against the league's No. 1 rush defense.

So when Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin stepped the podium this week and sent out an unprompted plea to fans in the Metrodome on Sunday, it seemed noteworthy. Tomlin said he expected the New York Jets to use a no-huddle offense often – and the unusual part of the equation is that they like to use that strategy on the road, according to Tomlin.

"(It's) a somewhat unique challenge for us. Some things that they do offensively are very challenging," Tomlin said. "They'll operate out of a no-huddle. They give a lot of autonomy to Chad Pennington at the line of scrimmage. … We anticipate them potentially to operate out of the no-huddle offense. That has been a weapon of theirs on the road.

"A lot of people resist no-huddle offense for communication purposes on the road. They welcome that challenge. They feel like over time they'll take the fans out of the game. I think their philosophy is when you huddle up the fans are cued into when to increase the crowd noise, so I'll issue a challenge to our fans this week to combat that by being loud throughout the course of a drive when they are on offense."

The Vikings have the 27th-ranked pass defense in the league, and being that Jets head coach Eric Mangini is a former Patriots assistant coach, he probably is well-versed with the success New England had with a spread offense in a 31-7 win over the Vikings on Oct. 30.

"I don't know what their philosophies or reasonings are in terms of when they do it," Tomlin said. "I know that they don't mind doing it on the road."


Vikings center Matt Birk wasn't surprised that 15-year veteran quarterback Brad Johnson was able to bounce back from his worst outing of the season in Chicago, endure a litany of requests to have him replaced and then put up a more efficient win against the Detroit Lions.

"It's being a pro. You have a bad week, you put it behind you. You're eager to prove yourself the next. I have high expectations of Brad, just like everybody else, seeing what he's capable of over the years. He just rarely seems to disappoint," Birk said.

Johnson threw four interceptions, no touchdowns and had a 10.3 passer rating in Chicago on Dec. 3. In Detroit last Sunday, he threw one interception, no touchdowns and had a 66.3 rating in a game where the offense scored four rushing touchdowns, including Johnson's first rushing touchdown in five years. His one interception, however, was an ill-advised late pass on an out route that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.


Last week, Vikings coach Brad Childress said there would be a "call to arms" to improve the special teams coverage units after they gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown to the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 26 and a punt return for a touchdown to the Chicago Bears on Dec. 3.

Wednesday, however, the team's personnel decision-makers appeared to have a call to feet.

The Vikings worked out punters Mike Barr, Gabe Lindstrom, B.J. Sander and Joel Stelly, along with kickers Tony Yelk and Matt Prater and long snappers Adam Johnson and Landon Schrage.

Special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said those tryouts were simply to check the team's options for the offseason.

"There wasn't anything more to that than we've had guys in all year long at different positions just to keep an idea of who's out there in case of an emergency," Ferraro said.

There had been talk that the Vikings might look to sign a kickoff specialist, as Ryan Longwell's kickoffs often have been fielded around the 10-yard line, but Ferraro refuted that notion.

"There's been no talk about that. Again, when you do that as you just said, you are taking away a roster spot that's probably going to be directly related to a special teams player, three or four core special teams players, so no, there's been no talk about that."


The cliché is that statistics are for losers, but the statistics say that kickoff returner Bethel Johnson hasn't been producing like he was earlier in the season.

Johnson's first game returning kicks for the Vikings on Oct. 22 in Seattle was his best game. He averaged 31 yards on four returns.

Over the next five games, he averaged between 20.5 and 26.0 yards per return. But in the last two weeks, Johnson has averaged 15.5 and 17.5 yards per return.

Ferraro disputed the notion that Johnson has lost some explosiveness.

"I really think it's a team concept. It really is. He's really done a good job with what's been there, and quite frankly there hasn't been a lot there," Ferraro said. "We need to do a better job with that this week. We need to give him some seams to run with. I really don't think it's directly related to anything Bethel is doing.

"Other than the one that we didn't field in Chicago, which you know you've got to field those things. There was one other maybe he could have made a better decision, but overall no. That's been directly related to us not doing as good a job as we need to in the front and the wedge, and it's been one player here, one player there. But it hasn't been related to anything that Bethel is doing. He's been doing a good job with what he's had to return the ball with."


Brooks Bollinger returned to practice this week and has been throwing the ball, but he remains questionable on the injury report after suffering a separated non-throwing shoulder against the Bears.

"You just have to see how it affects him. Is it going to get tired? Is it still going to stay strong? We just have to see how it progresses through the week," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Thursday.


The highly paid offensive line has been under the microscope since training camp, but center Matt Birk said there is never a cupcake matchup in the trenches.

"A buddy of mine, who played a long time, said, 'I'm waiting for the week when they come in with the game plan on Wednesday morning and say, 'Hey guys, it really doesn't matter how we play up front this week because we're going to win anyway.' You're never going to hear that," Birk said. "It's never easy. Like I say, you've just got to carry over the week of work and come out ready to go Sunday."

Viking Update Top Stories