Berrian, Frerotte a growing connection

The Vikings started the season thinking WR Bernard Berrian would give them a deep threat on the receiving end of Tarvaris Jackson passes. But Berrian's biggest days have come with Gus Frerotte on the throwing end, as the two have put up some big numbers in the last three games.

As defenses continue to commit to stopping the Vikings' rushing attack – Sunday's 1.44-yard average per run was easily the worst in the Brad Childress era – the offense can take some solace from the fact that quarterback Gus Frerotte and wide receiver Bernard Berrian are starting to create a connection.

Each of the two are closing in on career marks and could reach them Sunday against Detroit if they have the same kind of production they did Monday night against the New Orleans Saints, when Frerotte threw for 222 yards and Berrian had 110 yards receiving. The quarterback needs 174 yards passing to reach 20,000 yards for his career. The receiver needs a touchdown to break the 100-point barrier in his career.

The production with the two seems to increase every game since Frerotte was named the Vikings' starter three games into the season.

"We're just working our way to getting better, getting to know each other," Frerotte said. "I missed him on a deep ball, I missed him on a back shoulder. It's just those things we've got to get to know each other. Once he figures out how I like to throw things in certain situations, we're going to be much better. Much, much better."

Each of those misses that Frerotte referenced could have been touchdowns. If the ball had been thrown a bit further downfield or to the outside on the deep ball, Berrian might have had far more yardage. If the other pass Frerotte mentioned had been thrown further outside, cornerback Tracy Porter wouldn't have gotten his hand on the ball and Berrian would have had another touchdown instead of the team settling for a field goal at the end of the first half.

But the fact that those two miscues happened and Berrian still had his first 100-yard game in purple – the first for a Vikings receiver since the 2006 season – says the Vikings could be developing a deep passing threat once again. That didn't happen much in the first half of Monday night's game – Berrian had two catches for 28 yards and was thrown at in the end zone twice without success – and the Vikings would like to establish a deep passing game earlier if the defense allows.

"I would like to see them hit (earlier), provided that they are giving you the coverage that you are looking for," head coach Brad Childress said. "There were a couple of times where we were attacking one coverage and got another, but that's the chess match that goes on. I say it all the time, you would be upset if we threw it up into coverage and they did have deep coverage at that point in time. I think it is important that we as an offense stay ahead of the down-and-distance. Our first downs were not very good (Monday) and when you put yourself in obvious downs, you put yourself in passing downs, where everybody in the place knows you are going to pass it. That makes it a little bit tougher to operate."

By the end of the game, however, Berrian had accounted for nearly half of Frerotte's passing yardage, garnering six catches for 110 yards. It seems to be a case of growing production for Berrian.

In his first game as a Viking, after signing a six-year deal with $16 million in guarantees, Berrian had three catches for 38 yards. In his second game, he had no receptions. But since the Vikings inserted Frerotte as their starting quarterback, Berrian has 14 catches for 267 yards and a touchdown in the last three games.

Ironically, the touchdown was a case of one receiver running the wrong the route. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Vikings trailed 27-20 and Frerotte was looking deep on third-and-17 from the 34-yard line. He stood in the pocket and delivered the ball down the middle of the field for Aundrae Allison, but Berrian was also coming from the other side of the field. Either could have caught the ball, but the two collided and Berrian held onto the ball in the end zone while Porter walked away with a dislocated wrist that ended his season.

"I really thought Aundrae was going to catch it because he was running the post and I thought it was going to land right in his lap. The guy hit me and I just saw Bernard catch it out of nowhere," Frerotte said without saying who was supposed to be in the middle of the field and who was supposed to be running a corner route. "I don't know. I just knew that we had a post running down the middle. I had to put some air on it."

"They both got the same message, suffice it to say," Childress said. "It was a really heads-up play by Gus. I'm not sure how he messaged it. It was down to about three seconds as he went from right to left, so obviously a mixed message."

That game-tying touchdown came just three plays after Frerotte left the game for one play after being hit in the head. He said he was "dizzy" with "some birds flying around in my head," but he wasn't going to stay out of the game long.

"Any time that something like that happens, they evaluate you on the sidelines. They won't let you come right back in, so I had to prove to them that I was able to go back in the game," said Frerotte, who was accused of sneaking back into the game after one play. "They were trying to tackle me and not let me go back out, but I wasn't having any of that."

By that point, Frerotte had taken his share of hits, but he was only sacked one time and completed numerous passes while taking hits.

"I always say that the quarterback is a lot tougher than you give him credit for. Everybody wants to think that that's a prima donna-type guy, but those guys have to be mentally and physically tough to stand there in the face of what amounts to a big hit or a rush where they know that they're going to get hit just to be able to make a play."

A growing number of times, those are going for big plays to Berrian.

NOTES

  • Prior to Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions at the Metrodome, the Vikings will honor former LB Wally Hilgenberg, who died Sept. 23 from ALS. Hilgenberg's family will sound the Gjallarhorn, and the Vikings will observe a moment of silence. Hilgenberg was originally drafted by Detroit in 1964 and played for the Vikings from 1968-1979, starting 116 of the 157 games in which he played. He played in all four Vikings Super Bowls and ranks 12th in team history (seventh among linebackers) with 739 tackles.

  • The last time the Lions competed in the playoffs, Frerotte led them to the the NFC Wild Card game against Washington following the 1999 season. Frerotte started six games that year and helped engineer a 23-22 comeback win over the Vikings at the Pontiac Silverdome in the regular-season finale. Still, Frerotte said there won't be any extra emotions while facing one of his former teams.

    "No emotions really. I probably don't know anybody left from when I was there back in the old dome days. Just another game that we have to prepare for," he said.


  • Viking Update Top Stories