Notebook: The Line's Best Game?

Lost in the hoopla of Adrian Peterson's record-setting Sunday were the men in front of him creating a crease for him to exploit. A couple of the offensive linemen and the head coach talked about the progress and changes being made there.

Somebody had to block for Adrian Peterson's record-setting 224-yard rushing performance and Chester Taylor's 83 additional ground yards on Sunday.

In fact, a number of people did, and they were starting to get their due credit on Monday after about 20 games of questioning the legitimacy or wisdom of the zone blocking schemes the Vikings instituted when head coach Brad Childress took the reins.

Childress mentioned some good downfield blocking by receivers on a number of Peterson's longer runs – he had touchdown trots of 67 yards, 73 yards and 35 yards. But the offensive line helped to set the tone against the Bears and looked "totally in harmony," according to Childress.

"People have to play in front of him for him to do those kind of things and I thought they did a very good job in all areas within the offensive line, and then the thing that particularly stands out on a couple of those runs is wide receivers that have people pressed up in the back end and they are straining to finish in the back end and that ends up springing him all the more," Childress said.

That's true. Peterson picked up blocks from wide receivers Robert Ferguson and Bobby Wade downfield on one of his long touchdown runs. Pro Bowl center Matt Birk agreed that it was a complete offensive effort that helped Peterson set the franchise record, and said the offensive line's part of the equation has more to do with execution than schemes.

"No matter what your scheme is, I think it comes down to execution and I think guys were on the same page. … I don't think it's possible for an offensive line to be in a zone, I don't know what that's like, but it was a great effort by the line, tight ends, fullbacks, wide receivers, everybody just getting up and getting after it," Birk said.

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who had been the target of criticism for sub-par play the previous game when he was ill, said he thought the offensive line as a whole had its best game since the zone blocking schemes were instituted before the 2006 season.

"It seemed like everybody was on point yesterday. Everybody was on the same page and everybody was on their blocks and made things happen, especially when we've got an explosive running back like him," McKinnie said.

But it wasn't just in the running game that the line held up. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said he could barely remember getting touched, despite being sacked once and the Bears being credited with four quarterback hurries.

That was still a good accomplishment with the Bears entering Sunday tied for the NFL lead with 17 sacks. But Birk wasn't going to let one solid game hinder the team's efforts to keep making strides in the offense.

"When you watch the film, there are certainly things you can clean up," he said. "We played with a lot of physicality, and if you do that, that's where I think it all starts in the run game."

McKinnie said the coaches found success early running to the left and decided to continue with what was working.

"It was working at the beginning and they were like, ‘Oh, we might as well keep running that play.' It just happened to be the left side that we were making progress out of it," he said.

On the right side, guard Anthony Herrera got his first start of the season after rotating as a substitute during the first four games of the season. He will continue to start after his solid performance, according to Childress.

"He played against a powerful guy in there in Tommie Harris at times and I thought he did a great job of changing the line of scrimmage," Childress said. "With the pass rush thing, he wasn't completely clean in his technique, but he had the ability with his athleticism to be able get back into position where he could finish and move a guy out of the throwing lane."

Last year under the Vikings' new blocking schemes, Herrera was only active for two games after playing in 10 games with six starts in 2005. Childress said Herrera has made a lot of progress since those early days in the zone blocking scheme.

"Night and day. He plays with great passion and enthusiasm. You can see him in one of those touchdowns runs jumping up and down and kind of punching his fists. He gets excited and that's a plus, but it can also be a minus because he can still kind of revert to, as we say, kind of cowboy some things – just kind of get out of the box with his techniques or his fundamentals, or I am going to do it this way this time," Childress said. "I have just seen that evolution in the last year to where he is using the fundamentals and techniques that he needs to use to be able to be successful. He has good tools in terms of foot quickness and strength, but I just see him kind of settling in, whether it's because he got married in the offseason or he wants to play on. Who knows, but he has kind of settled in a little bit and has not reverted."

NOTES

  • Linebacker Vinny Ciurciu suffered a high ankle sprain, fullback Naufahu Tahi had a sprained medial collateral ligament – Childress calling him a "real pain-tolerant kid" – and defensive end Erasmus James was still dealing with a shoulder injury Monday. James played Sunday for the first time since tearing his anterior cruicate ligament in Week 2 of the 2006 season and having two subsequent knee surgeries. His shoulder injury occurred last week in practice but wasn't serious enough to keep him from getting limited snaps against Chicago.

  • Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, playing for the first time in three games because of a groin strain, was "no worse for wear," according to Childress.

  • Childress said the team showed good discipline on the road. The team had only two penalties – a false start on tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and an illegal contact penalty on linebacker E.J. Henderson that Childress termed "questionable."

  • If you thought the Vikings were crazy for punting to Bears return man Devin Hester, that wasn't the plan. Childress said all of the punts by Chris Kluwe were supposed to go out of bounds.

  • While the running game received the vast majority of the attention – 311 yards rushing will do that – the passing game has some areas to improve, but Childress said it is "heading in the right direction." Tarvaris Jackson completed 9 of 23 passes for 136 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Some of the incompletions were dropped balls – Childress referenced two by rookie Sidney Rice on slants and another by Troy Williamson – but a couple of other incompletions were the result of inaccuracy. Childress said Jackson was hit on a long incompletion to Williamson and that Jackson just rushed an overthrow to a wide-open Tony Richardson on a third-down miss in the second quarter with the game tied 14-14.

  • The Vikings are trying to get Pat Williams and Ben Leber more plays when teams attempt to put Minnesota's defense in nickel situations with five defensive backs. Leber will be seeing a little action in those situations and Chad Greenway a little less. E.J. Henderson said his role will remain unchanged, playing on nearly every defensive down.

  • Childress said Jackson was 14 of 15 in managing the game before the snap, getting the Vikings into a better play against the defense being presented at the line of scrimmage.

  • While the Vikings' pass defense officially dropped to last in the league, their rush offense became tops in the league before Monday night's statistics were factored in.


  • Viking Update Top Stories