Notebook: Talent to Spread, Spy Games & More

The Vikings were expecting the Atlanta Falcons to spread out their offense and test the Vikings' defensive secondary. However, the Detroit Lions appear more poised to do that. Plus, more reaction on the accusations against the Patriots, the Vikings' only offensive touchdown last week, and more.

Last week, the Vikings were entering their season opener not fully knowing how Bobby Petrino's system would adapt into the NFL, yet Minnesota was expecting their defense to be spread out with three or more Falcons receivers on the field at one time.

"They spread a good bit. They emptied the backfield some," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "Most generally, they played with the tight end. I don't exactly remember how many times it was just four wides, but they weren't a tight U-formation type of outfit. Every team kind of presents just a little bit different dimension to you, and obviously (Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz) likes to throw the ball up the field and hit those big plays."

This week Childress and Company are expecting more of the same, but the Detroit Lions might have the best receiving corps in the league, an assertion that Lions quarterback Jon Kitna said he will leave to other to determine. But it's obvious that Childress fully expects the Lions to use their arsenal of receivers.

"We are going to see a good bit of four wide receivers on the field. You've got a chance to see five wide receivers on the field. They are going to spread you all over," he said. "It's not so much Where's Waldo – where is he at? – it's how you line up to the formations that they are giving you. We're going to let our rules take care of all that based on the defensive call and that's what you go through as you go through all of those adjustments making sure that you are spread the right way."

Kitna was asked if he was surprised that the Falcons didn't spread out the Vikings even more.

"You've got to have that kind of personnel. Atlanta is a football team that just came off leading the NFL in rushing for the last two or three years in a row, and that's not their personality. They are who they are," he said. "They built their team a certain way, but the Vikings present a lot of challenges. You can try to spread them out – that is all well and good, but the problem with that is now you are putting your offensive linemen on islands with those big guys inside. That presents challenges in and of itself."

Last week, the Vikings produced six sacks after going through the entire 2006 season with only 30 sacks. However, four of those sacks came in the fourth quarter when the Falcons were trying to catch up – they entered the final period with a 10-0 deficit.

The Lions should be more capable of playing catch-up if needed with a better receiving contingent – Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson, Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald – and probably a better quarterback in Jon Kitna.

Incidentally, Kitna said his comments in the offseason regarding the Lions' expectations of 10 wins and his talks of getting 50 touchdowns passes weren't predictions.

"That wasn't a prediction. Somebody was just asking, ‘What is the expectation level for this team with all of the weapons that you have?' I said we joke about it on the field and when we do breakdowns as receivers and quarterbacks when we are done working out or whatever that hey, we throw out the number 50 but we understand that one guy has done that. Again, we're not going to limit ourselves to anything. We'll just take what comes. In this division with the defenses that we play, touchdown passes are hard to come by."


Ever since news broke about the Patriots being accused of videotaping the in-game defensive signals of the New York Jets, coaches around the league have been asked about it.

Childress was among them on Wednesday, but he wasn't about to pin the Vikings' 31-7 loss to the Patriots last year on stolen signals.

"I can't say that I can put that on that. That was a pretty good whipping and nobody beat us with a video camera or anything like that over the head," Childress said.

That Oct. 30 loss to the Patriots started a trend of Vikings opponents spreading out their defense with three-, four- and five-receiver sets and going no huddle – a ploy that exposed weaknesses in the team's pass defense. But Childress wasn't about to pile on the accusations or acknowledge that the league-prohibited activity of filming signals is prevalent throughout the league.

"I know our quarterbacks love to look at their signal-caller and see if they can grab anything. It's no different than a guy standing on second base trying to steal a signal. That's what quarterbacks do – they stand and watch the signal-caller and see if they can get a bead on something," Childress said.

Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson agreed that quarterbacks – especially backups – often look at the signals being sent in to see if they can decipher anything that will help their offense. That part is legal; filming signals is prohibited by the league. "We can look, but you can't have somebody else filming it. But as a quarterback, you try to get a hint on what people are doing, especially if I'm the backup," he said. "If I can help my starter out by getting a hint on the sign, that's good."

Former Vikings defensive coordinator and current Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he was wasn't "totally" shocked by the accusations against the Patriots.

"You hear rumors of things of that nature. It's nothing new. In terms of confirming it, it's never been confirmed in any instance to my knowledge," Tomlin said. "But usually where there is smoke, there's fire. Those rumors are founded on something. So it's not totally shocking, no."


The Vikings' lone touchdown by their offense Sunday came on a swing pass to Adrian Peterson that he turned into a 60-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. It turns out that play was a combination of good timing and good execution.

Childress broke it down Wednesday.

"First of all, it was an all-out blitz and (Peterson) had to come from one side of the backfield to the other side of the backfield with the tight end crossing in front of him, all behind the quarterback, so there were a few moving parts if you go back and look at it," Childress said. "Tarvaris (Jackson) basically is going to blind throw him. He held people off as long as he could, drew them to him, and then had to feather the ball because Adrian is not up to speed. Plus, he's got a defensive end that is peeling late to try and cover him, so there were some issues. The ball was dropping out of the sky, he's starting to turn and run."

Because of the Falcons' blitz and Jackson drawing the defenders to him, Peterson didn't have too many would-be tacklers to avoid.

"Matt Birk was kind of lonely down the field. There was nobody for him to block because they blitzed us," Childress said.


Asked how far along middle linebacker E.J. Henderson has progressed as a vocal leader, Childress said, "He's never going to get up and give you a speech for the overthrow of the federal government or anything like that."

Later, a reporter started to ask a question about the defensive coordinators that Childress has hired in the past two years despite Childress's reputation as being an offensive guru or genius. Childress interrupted the question at that point and said with a laugh, "It used to be."

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