Personnel That Might Have Been

The contention by media types at Winter Park is that the Vikings might not have the offensive personnel to become successful this season. But former Vikings and players that the team pursued in free agency were having monster days for their new teams on Sunday. See what they did and what Brad Childress had to say about his offense.

As the Vikings returned to Minneapolis from their three-point defeat in Kansas City, it had to be tempting to look at what happened around the league and wonder "what if?"

Head coach Brad Childress said last year toward the end of their offensive struggles that he knows his scheme can create a "kick-ass offense." So far, that hasn't been the case, especially in the passing game.

In three games, Vikings quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bollinger have combined for passing yardages of 163, 192 and 165.

It's hardly the 281-yard average that Randall Cunningham, Brad Johnson and Jay Fiedler combined for in 1998, and nobody expected the 2007 version of offense to be that explosive. Many were hoping, however, that it would be serviceable enough to win games that the defense kept them in. It's not exactly "kick ass," which might be a term reserved for how the Eagles operated their similar offense on Sunday.

Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb not only survived a week of questioning surrounding his comments on black quarterbacks receiving more criticism, he thrived when he took the field.

Against the Lions team that held the Vikings to 192 yards passing, McNabb passed his way to 381 yards in the air and four touchdowns. Throwing salt in Childress's league-wide gaze is the fact that McNabb's favorite target was Kevin Curtis, the same receiver that chose the Eagles over the Vikings during free agency despite Minnesota making the better offer.

Curtis caught 11 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns. All of the Vikings' wide receivers on Sunday combined for six catches for 56 yards and no touchdowns.

And then there were the former Vikings who helped lead their new teams to victories with their contributions in the passing games.

The biggest and best was Randy Moss, who continues his career rebirth in New England with a legitimate quarterback and an offense that is red hot. Moss lit up the Bills for 115 yards on five receptions, including two touchdowns. That gives him five touchdowns and 403 yards in three games – that's two more touchdowns and only 150 fewer yards than he had all of last year with the failing Oakland Raiders. It's already more touchdowns than the Vikings' leading touchdown-grabber from last year (Marcus Robison with four) and less than 250 yards away from Travis Taylor's team-leading mark of 651 yards receiving.

Getting into the end zone has quickly become a sore point for the Vikings against in 2007. "We're driving it between the 30-yard lines. We're not finishing drives and we need to able to finish drives," Childress said.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has found that putting the ball near Moss means a completion almost all of the time, a simpatico the Vikings' receivers and quarterbacks don't currently share.

That was evident Sunday when Kelly Holcomb overthrew a wide-open Robert Ferguson as he was running into the end zone.

"Obviously, we had an opportunity to make a play for seven points to Ferguson there," Childress said Monday. "Whether you say Ferguson should catch it or Holcomb should throw it, one of the things I hate most is, ‘Somebody make a play,' but one half of that has got to make a play. There were a couple of pretty good plays to be had." Speaking of quarterbacks, Daunte Culpepper didn't do so poorly either on Sunday. The Vikings castoff returned from rehabbing his broken-down knee in a strip mall, as Childress put it, to start the second half for the Raiders against Cleveland and completed 8 of 14 passes for 118 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.

It was Culpepper's first action of the season, and he completed 57.1 percent of his passes for an 84.8 passer rating. Both of those numbers are better than any performance the Vikings' threesome of quarterbacks have put together in their first three games.

And then there was receiver Nate Burleson, allowed to test the open market in Childress's first free agency period at the helm. Burleson signed a lucrative deal with the Seattle Seahawks and struggled in his first season there. On Sunday, however, he followed the trend of former Vikings and could-have-been Vikings to add insult to offensive ineptitude.

Burleson caught the game-winning 22-yard touchdown pass with 1:06 to play against the Cleveland Browns. It gave the Seahawks a 24-21 win. Burleson caught six passes for 76 yards on Sunday – one-third of his receptions total from last season and more than one-third of his yardage total – in the Seahawks' version of the West Coast Offense.

The lesson from Sunday is that the offensive style might not matter – what matters is that the Vikings just don't seem to have the playmakers needed at quarterback or wide receiver despite at one time having a collection of talent or pursuing others that might have made all the difference in two early-season losses.


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