Behind Enemy Lines: Cowboys, Part I

In Part of this week's "Behind Enemy Lines," Roy Philpott of throws his Vikings questions to Think Adrian Peterson was one of the subjects?

Roy Philpott: Did you have any indication to think Adrian Peterson would have the kind of success he's had through this point in the season?

Tim Yotter:
There have been indications throughout the offseason and the start of the regular season that he could become a 1,000-yard back even in a split-time role. The key, however, was if he would stay healthy and get enough carries to make a huge impact, and he did exactly that on Sunday at Soldier Field. The offensive line had their best game since the zone blocking schemes were implemented last year and Peterson is simply a guy that can exploit a hole and turn it into a touchdown. He really does have it all – speed, size, vision. We have to see how he progresses on pass protection this week against the 3-4 defense of the Cowboys, so it wouldn't surprise me to see Chester Taylor in there as much as Peterson just to have that blocking experience.

RP: Is Peterson a dangerous threat through the air?

Although he caught very few passes at Oklahoma, he has shown no problems with catching the ball out of the backfield and I think they'd be wise to do that even more, as he is very elusive once he gets in space. However, the few times he has been lined up wide, he has come in motion to fake the reverse, so we haven't seen yet if he will be sent on any deep routes.

RP: The Vikings are near the bottom of the NFL in passing offense through the first five games of the season. What's wrong there and talk about Tarvaris Jackson? What kind of skills does he bring to the table as a starting quarterback?

They are ranked 28th in pass defense largely because of the inexperience at the skill positions, including quarterback, although veteran backup Kelly Holcomb didn't experience much success in his two games filling in for Jackson when he was injured. They just aren't quite in sync with the passing offense yet. They are young and in a fairly complex offense and don't have a true No. 1 receiver – mostly No. 3-type guys with the exception of Sidney Rice, who could eventually should develop into a No. 2 or maybe No. 1. But so far, they need to get the passing game on track because the opportunities are there with defenses usually cheating toward the line to stop the run.

RP: On Peterson's two long touchdown runs last week, was that more of him and his natural ability or was that a result of the play of the Vikings' offensive line?

The offensive line was giving him a chance to gain 10 yards, and after that it was all him and some downfield blocking by the receivers. He set up the blocks at the line of scrimmage beautifully and then bounced the run to where the hole was. After that, once in space, he has a good change of direction for a big guy and can make a lot of people miss and take bad angles.

RP: With the talent currently on this team and with the overall lack of playoff-caliber teams in the NFC, do you believe the Vikings can make the playoffs this year?

If they do, it would be because of that lack of overall talent in the conference. They need to keep to their strengths and continue to try to get Peterson the ball, and Jackson needs to continue to get better with each game. He's only five starts into his professional career and doesn't have impressive receivers to help him with that adjustment. But what he does have is the best rushing offense in the league and a decent offensive line. Now he needs to become a better decision-maker because his athletic skills – strong arm and ability to run for some first downs – are there. If he can become a better decision-maker, they might have a chance to make the playoffs off of their strong defense and running game.

RP: If you could list one area of weakness for the Vikings' defense that Dallas should exploit, what would it be?

No question that the Vikings have struggled with defending the pass. Some of that has to do with their ability to stop the run (No. 2 in the league) and teams passing on them more, but they haven't been able to apply a lot of pressure on the quarterback and that could mean good things for Tony Romo. The Vikings enter every game trying to take away the run and make a team one-dimensional, and teams with good quarterbacks have been able to exploit that in the passing game.

RP: What are your thoughts on Randy Moss in New England? Have the Vikings recovered yet from him leaving for Oakland a few years ago?

Yes and no. There aren't that many players left on the team from when Moss was here, so they probably don't realize how prolific the Vikings offense once was. But at the end of his time in Minnesota, it was probably time to move on given the conditions at that time. Moss is great when the team is winning but when then-owner Red McCombs wasn't willing to spend money around his featured players there wasn't enough talent to sustain consistent playoff teams. Had the current ownership group been there to spend to win, it probably would have been a different story and a different decision made. But it was also a time when Moss looked like he was going to be banged up for the rest of his career with various recurring and nagging injuries. The problem in Minnesota is that they still haven't adequately replaced him. As long as he's on the field and the Patriots have the talent around, I see no reason why the most athletically gifted receiver to ever play the game can't continue to put up staggering numbers.

RP: It seems like the Vikings' defensive line is getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks but the pass defense is struggling. Is it as simple as suggesting the Minnesota secondary just isn't that good?

I think it is more a case of the Vikings not getting consistent pressure from the edges of their defensive line. They started with 10 sacks in the first two games combined, but the last three games have produced only one sack in each contest. That has left receivers enough time to find the soft spots in the zone defense and make the secondary look worse than it is. They also haven't been producing the turnovers and returns they thrived on earlier in the season. The Bears scored two late touchdowns and long touchdowns last week because of errors in the secondary, but most of the time I'd put more of the responsibility on not getting enough pressure on the quarterback.

Roy Philpott is the publisher of and Tim Yotter is the publisher of

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