Offensive line finds it protection groove

The Vikings offense did something Monday night that hadn't happened since 2007 – their quarterback wasn't sacked. See what players and coaches had to say about the newfound success and get updated team and player rankings.

Vikings coach Brad Childress wasn't going to say that Brett Favre is the difference between a 1-3 start last year and a 4-0 start this year, despite much of the same starting personnel in place except for the quarterback position.

However, there is one element that is different – the offensive line. The Vikings have replaced former Pro Bowl center Matt Birk with second-year player John Sullivan and swapped out right tackle Ryan Cook for rookie Phil Loadholt.

After giving up a combined nine sacks and many more knockdowns of Favre in the first three games, the Vikings looked as good as they have all year in protecting their quarterback Monday night against the Green Bay Packers.

Green Bay entered Monday night's game with only five sacks, but the Vikings shut them down even further, not allowing a sack and having Favre hurried only once. All of last year, the Vikings gave up at least one sack in each game and allowed a total of 43 for the season. The last time their quarterback wasn't sacked at all was on Dec. 9, 2007 against San Francisco, when Tarvaris Jackson was starting.

"I think the thing was they did a great job of pass protecting. (Favre) had his way back there. They were committing a lot of guys to the run," Childress said.

The Packers took away Adrian Peterson's effectiveness, limiting him to a 2.2-yard average on 25 carries, but Favre was able to take advantage in the passing game. He completed 24 of 31 passes for 271 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 135.3 passer rating.

"Pass protection was great. Their style of defense has obviously been chaotic for the teams they've played, and they mixed it up again (Monday night)," Favre said. "I thought we had a good mix of short passes, and just in general, the passing protection was awesome. They stopped the running game better than I thought. I thought we'd run the ball better. I was hoping we'd run the ball better. You don't want to, against a defense like that, throw the ball too many times, but it was better than I thought it was going to be, if we had to throw the ball as much."

The Vikings had faced a 3-4 defensive front twice previously this season, against Cleveland and San Francisco, and didn't have nearly the success protecting Favre against those teams as they did against the Packers.

In the season opener in Cleveland, the Browns sacked Favre four times. The 49ers took him down twice. On Monday, he was rarely touched.

"It was pretty clean. (The offensive linemen) did a good job. They blocked some stunts very well and ran some people by the pocket. Guys will pick you apart if they can stand back there and have time," Childress said.

"They blitzed differently than we had seen. I would have to go back and check the exact count on how many they did and didn't, but they were bringing people from different directions at different times."

Former defensive end Aaron Kampman had 37 sacks from 2006 to 2008, but the Packers moved him to linebacker in their new 3-4 defensive scheme. Through four games, he has only one sack.

"Towards the second half we brought a lot of pressure," Kampman said. "Really, in the first half on third down we brought more pressure. What it came down to really is that we didn't execute our defense, particularly in the first half."

NOTES

  • According to the SportsBusiness Daily, the Vikings-Packers game on ESPN's Monday Night Football generated a metered-market rating of 14.2, which could make it the highest-rating program in cable television history. That's up 65 percent from last year's overnight rating for the Week 4 game between the Ravens and the Steelers.

    In the Twin Cities, the game had a 58.3 rating, according to the Star Tribune, which means that more than one million of the 1.7 million households locally were watching the game.

  • With Aaron Rodgers throwing for 384 yards and the Packers gaining 424 total net yards, the Vikings defense has fallen to 11th in the league (ninth in rushing and 12th in passing), according to yardage surrendered. The Minnesota offense is ranked 19th (10th in rushing and 21st in passing). They are fourth in points scored.

  • Favre is up to third in passer rating at 104.7 on the season and third on third-down passer ratings at 109.8. He also has the Vikings ranked third in the percentage of passes thrown that have been intercepted. He has only one interception on the season.

  • Peterson lost the NFL rushing lead. With 412 yards rushing, he is 22 yards behind Tennessee's Chris Johnson.

  • The Vikings are tied for third in punt-return average and second in kickoff-return average.

  • After Jared Allen's 4½ sacks and the team's eight sacks against the Packers, Minnesota's defense is first in sacks per pass play.

  • The Vikings are tied for fourth in the league in takeaway/giveaway ratio at plus-5.

  • The defense is fourth in yardage surrendered on first down, giving up an average 4.08 yards per first-down play.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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