Road sacks hard to come by

The Vikings are 1-4 on the road, but one of the most amazing discrepancies in their home-vs.-road statistics comes in the sack department. See the numbers and the reaction from Winter Park.

When NFL players and coaches talk about the challenges of playing a road game, it is usually based on travel schedules, staying in unfamiliar hotels and mostly dealing with crowd noise.

That last factor affects the visiting offense because most NFL fans know that being loud while their defense is on the field helps make it difficult for the opposing offense to hear the snap count or adjustments being made at the line of scrimmage.

That argument doesn't seem to hold true with the Vikings, who have taken 13 of their 28 sacks this season on the road – including five last week in Tampa Bay despite quarterback Gus Frerotte's admission that crowd noise wasn't a factor.

"There really wasn't that much noise. The stadium wasn't that full. Besides the blaring speakers and shooting the cannon off, it wasn't really that loud," Frerotte said. "I was surprised to see how few of fans they had there. When I played there before, it was usually packed."

The alarming statistic for the Vikings' road woes seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom. It isn't their offensive line that seems to struggle on the road, it's their defensive line.

As a defense, the Vikings have generated 26 sacks this season. Only four of those have come in their five road games, in which they have a 1-4 record. In their five home games, in which the Vikings are 4-1, they have 22 sacks. It's an amazing discrepancy.

At Tampa on Sunday, the Vikings' only sack came when linebacker Chad Greenway stopped a scrambling Jeff Garcia inches short of the line of scrimmage. Garcia's mobility despite being 38 years old caused the Vikings problems most of the game. He rushed six times for 21 yards, including five times in the second half for 17 yards, but Vikings coach Brad Childress said that Garcia's mobility shouldn't have taken the aggressiveness out of the defensive lineman's pass rush.

"You really still have to rush the passer. You can't stand there and play peek-a-boo with the guy like that because if you give receivers long enough in this deal they're going to wiggle open. You have to have your pass-rush integrity," Childress said. "He has an uncanny ability, really, to start moving, even before most quarterbacks move, before your first read is not open. He's pushing up in any kind of seam or lane. Anything he sees he's going to try and take. (He's) very good at it. In terms of a mush rush or anything like that we want to do, that's not how we operate. We wanted to push the pocket with the tackles and cave it with the ends. (On) a couple of them he had to move because he had to move. (We) just weren't able to get a hand on him."

Although the Vikings were credited with six quarterback hurries against Garcia, their leading sackers this season, Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, didn't have a sack and weren't credited with a quarterback hurry.

In fact, Allen is the only defensive lineman to have a sack on the road this year – he has two, both at Chicago. The other two road sacks belong to Greenway on Garcia and cornerback Antoine Winfield on Drew Brees in New Orleans.

"We play a lot better at home. Crowd noise is a factor. The offensive linemen are slow to get off the ball when we're here," Winfield said. "It's quiet on the road. They can hear the quarterback signaling so they can get off the ball at the right time."

Despite the Vikings' issues on the road this season – they are 0-4 in outdoor stadiums – Childress said he isn't concerned about the road woes becoming too much of a concern for his players.

"The road is the road. You have to have a road mentality as you get on the plane and go and know that it is obviously going to be a noisy environment," he said. "But short of playing in quicksand, I don't know. You know places like the Louisiana Superdome are hard places to play because it is noisy down there. You talk about the environment. I don't think it becomes a mindset thing. It's not, ‘Oh boy, here we go again. We are playing outdoors on the road. We are 0-4.' I don't think that ever enters into a professional athlete's mind."

However, the Vikings' defensive linemen may want to try to rectify their lack of sacks on the road this weekend when they travel to Jacksonville.

THE OTHER SIDE

Frerotte maintains that the noise wasn't a factor in him taking sacks Sunday, but he did succumb to five of them. Childress said Frerotte could have thrown the ball away on a couple of those sacks.

"I think he was out of the pocket on a couple of them and probably could have thrown them away and avoided. … On a couple, guys physically got beat. I'm not sure I'd assign any of them to coverage sacks, (but) probably more physical breakdowns than anything," Childress said. "Like I said, when you put yourself in that must-pass situation, which everyone is going to get to, whether it's third-and-long and they're pinning their ears back, you have to get the ball out of your hand and be very proficient because of all the pass-rush games and the intensity they're bringing it with."

NOTES

  • WR Bobby Wade (thigh), TE Garrett Mills (ankle) and Allen (shoulder) did not practice on Wednesday. LB Vinny Ciurciu (hand), CB Benny Sapp (concussion) and S Madieu Williams (shoulder) were limited.

  • For the Jaguars, RB Greg Jones (ankle), CB Omare Lowe (knee), CB Rashean Mathis (foot), RB Fred Taylor (neck) and WR Troy Williamson (groin) did not participate. DT John Henderson (knee) was limited and WR Matt Jones (thigh) participated fully.

  • Nine NFL teams have winning records on the road this season, but only two of those teams reside in the NFC. In fact, both of those winning NFC road teams – the New York Giants and Washington Redskins – play in the NFC East. None of the other NFC divisions have a team with a winning road record.

  • The NFC North's best road teams have been the Bears and Packers, who are each 2-3 away from the familiar surroundings of their home field.

  • Frerotte understands why the officiating crew on Sunday didn't call pass interference on Bucs LB Derrick Brooks, who appeared to have held the left arm of Adrian Peterson on an important fourth-down incompletion. "Game speed and game tempo, that's a tight call for the ref to make and you're probably not going to get that call on the road," Frerotte said.

    Childress said he talked with the NFL's vice president of officiating, Mike Pereira, on Wednesday morning about the fourth-down non-call against Brooks, but Childress declined to give specifics of the conversation.

  • Frerotte said there was at least one chance to get the ball deep downfield against Tampa Bay, but on that pass intended for Bernard Berrian the quarterback's hand was hit and the ball fluttered to the ground just past the line of scrimmage.

  • Childress on the revelation that his quarterback in Philadelphia, Donovan McNabb, didn't realized that NFL teams could tie after one overtime period in the regular season: "I think it's gotten enough play already. I had a laugh with Andy Reid about that the other night. Who was the dumbass with that guy when he was a rookie? I didn't see myself get blamed – yet. But, you know, it's early."


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