Fueling The Offense

It's probably no coincidence that Michael Bennett had a career day when Jim Kleinsasser returned to the lineup. It's just proof as to how the whole offense has to work together.

Michael Bennett continues to mature.

The 24-year-old second-year running back from Wisconsin came to the Vikings as a first-round pick last year after just one full season of experience at the college level. Now, with each game he gets under his belt he continues to refine his game for the pro level.

"I think Michael Bennett is doing exactly what we thought he would do, and that's maturing as a football player," head coach Mike Tice said.

His catch-and-run touchdown to tie the score in the Detroit game was perhaps the first pure example this season (he scored an 80-yard touchdown against Pittsburgh on a similar play last season) of what Bennett can bring to the offense. He took a simple screen pass and instantly turned it into six points. His cutting ability, explosiveness and pure speed had no less than four defenders taking the wrong pursuit angles as Bennett danced into the end zone.

"He had the big screen to tie the game up," Tice said. "Michael Bennett really got us going. He really turned the energy up on the football team You could really feel the difference on the sideline when Mike had that play. That was a big play for us."

There really does seem to be an enhanced psychological effect with a player like Bennett. It seems that nothing lifts your own team, or demoralizes the opposing team more than when a player is able to carry the ball through an entire defense.

One step in the wrong direction can be all it takes for Bennett to break the big one from anywhere on the field.

Robert Smith, who was more of an upright long-strider, had very deceptive speed that often induced defenders into taking poor angles of pursuit.

With Bennett, the style is different but the effect the same. It is Bennett's sharp cutting ability, acceleration and pure speed that can have defenders falling to the turf trying to change directions. His ability to reach top speed so quickly is truly rare.

Stay low, stay healthy
To stay healthy, tight end Jim Kleinsasser might need to go down low when approaching would-be tacklers in the open field.

"I think it's something that Jimmy is going to have to look at doing more of — not letting these guys take his legs out," Tice said. "I wouldn't want to tackle him high. I mean, he's a big guy.

"I think it's obvious to all that we're a better offensive football team and we have more weapons when we have Byron (Chamberlain) and Jimmy on the field, along with Randy (Moss) and whoever might be the second wide receiver."

Those two tight ends do make a difference.

"Without a doubt, Jimmy (Kleinsasser) and Byron (Chamberlain) are two of our better players," Tice said. "We'll be able to get them involved in our passing game. We can see Byron and Jimmy out there blocking on the edge and pass protecting. It really gives us a lot more weapons.

"Teams are going to try to take Randy out of the ratio. And if they do, we have got to be patient and take what they give us. And that is why Randy and the coaches in the booth, and on the sidelines, talk about ‘Forget it!' I am out of the game, so let's go.

"That was really encouraging to hear that type of conversation going on amongst the players and coaches on the sidelines. That is a big, big step for this football team."

Guess there's the Randy Ratio and then there's the desire to be productive as an offense. It's good to hear they have the horse before the cart.

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