Yes, the Vikings won on Monday night, but their weaknesses on special teams were exposed again, and placing all the blame on Chris Kluwe isn't going to completely solve the issue.
Vikings head coach Brad Childress was incensed following the Vikings' 30-27 win Monday over the performance of punter Chris Kluwe
. After punting to Reggie Bush
and having two punts returned for touchdowns and a third that could have been had Bush not fallen down, Childress made it clear following the game that Kluwe had been instructed to kick two of those final three Bush returns out of bounds.
When asked about Kluwe's inability to knock his punts out of bounds with directional kicks, Childress was pretty candid about his performance following the game Monday, saying, "If he can't do that, I will find somebody who can kick the ball out of bounds."
On Tuesday, Childress seemed to soften his stance, but reiterated that the Vikings, who allowed more than 35 yards average on both kickoff and punt returns Monday night, need to improve on special teams return coverage with both areas at or near the bottom of the league.
However, all the blame can't be put on Kluwe. His punts were directed toward the right sideline for the punting unit and the coverage was dismal. On two of the punts, Bush started his return up the left sideline and broke the play to his right and found daylight. On the last punt return, he never got outside the left hashmark and simply raced up the left sideline for his second TD.
While Kluwe deserves a good share of the blame for not kicking the ball out of bounds, there were 10 other guys on the return team that are charged with making tackles that, by any measure, failed miserably in that job. There has been talk that the Vikings will put more starters on the return teams, which can be a Catch-22 if a star player like Chad Greenway
or Antoine Winfield
gets injured in the return game – both of them have in the last two years.
It was rare to see Childress throw an individual player under the bus when the team failed at an aspect of the game, but Kluwe doesn't deserve all the blame. There were 10 other players that didn't do their jobs properly the deserve as much "credit" for Bush's record-tying two-TD performance.
It's been said for much of the season that the Vikings' special teams has been anything but special. It starts with Kluwe, but there is blame to be shared.
In what came as a surprise to just about nobody, Antoine Winfield was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week Tuesday. In Monday's game, he had a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, eight tackles, five tackles for a loss and a 59-yard touchdown return of a blocked field goal.
E.J. Henderson had season-ending surgery to repair his dislocated toes and Childress declined to give specifics of what the procedure was or what the timetable for recovery is, playing the patented "I'm not a doctor" card. Henderson was placed on season-ending injured reserve Monday.
You won't find the type of diva activity in the Vikings locker room that we have seen elsewhere when a star player doesn't have the type of game he is expecting. Terrell Owens, for example, complained about not getting enough chances in the Cowboys' loss to the Redskins two weeks ago despite being targeted with 17 passes and running the ball twice on reverses. The Cowboys won last week over Cincinnati, but T.O. seemed morose after the game. When asked if Peterson was upset about having his worst game as a pro Monday night, Childress said just the opposite was true – he was giddy in the locker room. Childress said players like A.D. are more interested in the team getting a win than he is to run for 200 yards in a loss.
Do the Chiefs miss Jared Allen? Through five games, Kansas City has just three sacks as a team.
The Lions are the Vikings' next opponent and they have been absolutely gutted in their first four games. They have been outscored 147-66 for an average game score of 37-17. Their 81-point scoring differential through their first four games is the worst mark for the franchise in 60 years.
Raiders owner Al Davis is facing a potential fine from the league for making allegations that the Patriots tampered with former Viking Randy Moss, a charge the league says has no validity.
Word out of New Orleans is that the Saints are going to hold tryouts this week for a competition that could result in Martin Gramatica being released. Gramatica missed two field goals Monday – one that was blocked and returned for a TD and another that would have given the Saints a 30-27 lead with two minutes to play.
The Rams released and re-signed Eddie Kennison Tuesday much to the surprise of many fans – who thought Kennison had already retired. St. Louis also signed former Vikings WR Nate Jones to the practice squad.
Late in Monday's game, Saints rookie cornerback Tracy Porter, the team's second-round draft pick, was taken from the field with a towel wrapped around his right wrist. Porter, who had been receiving rave reviews over his first month, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a broken wrist – suffered on the touchdown pass from Gus Frerotte to Bernard Berrian.