VikingBuzz BLOG

This week's installment of news, notes, commentary and analysis with four regular-season games in the books.

Upon further review

There is no question about the difference Brett Favre makes for the Vikings. Even Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels have to be fans at this point, especially after his performance the past two weeks against San Francisco and Green Bay.

When Favre has time, like he did Monday night, he can pick apart the weaknesses in a defense as well as anyone. According to the stat book, not only was he not sacked but the Packers were credited with just one quarterback hurry all evening - a truly outstanding job by the offensive line, but also the tight ends and running backs at times.

Head coach Brad Childress singled out a blitz pickup block by Chester Taylor during his press conference with the media yesterday. In fact, the initial impression from the Packers camp (namely veteran cornerback Charles Woodson) was that Green Bay should have brought more pressure. But when the Packers did rush more than four, which they did on five occasions, Favre was 5-for-5 for 61 yards, including two of the Vikings' eight "explosive" pass plays of 16 yards or more, including the touchdown pass to Sidney Rice.

Favre may not bring the threat to run that Jackson would, but recognizing and taking advantage of blitz situations like that are what really set Favre apart for the Vikings.

Adrian Peterson was held in check with 55 yards on 25 carries, an average of only 2.2 yards per attempt with a long run of just 12 yards. In fact, the Packers tackled him for no gain or a loss nine times on Monday night. But to their credit they did this without regularly playing an eighth man in the box. They were just very, very disciplined in playing within the confines of the defense. On Peterson's 12-yard run, linebacker Nick Barnett overpursued and created a slight lane. Otherwise, the Packers simply maintained excellent gap discipline.

The biggest downside for the Vikings was the play of their safeties, Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams. Both missed key open-field tackle opportunities that led to significant gains. In fact, Johnson was benched in favor of Husain Abdullah late in the game. Both Johnson and Williams can and need to play better than they have the past two weeks, as opposing tight ends have made far too many big plays in the passing game against the Vikings.

Tight end Jermichael Finley's 62-yard catch-and-run touchdown featured multiple mistakes in the secondary. It appears cornerback Antoine Winfield, who was otherwise absolutely brilliant, got caught settling underneath and got too far behind Finley. But Johnson's missed tackle at the 33-yard-line was fatal when coupled with Cedric Griffin trying to knock the ball out at about the 7, instead of tackling Finley, which enabled him to score.

The dominance of Jared Allen was obvious to all, but there were some other key efforts during the game by the Vikings' defensive line.

Brian Robison had a strong game, bringing nice pressure off the edge and when he moved inside. Jimmy Kennedy beat left guard Jason Spitz off the ball for his sack early in the game. On the Packers' failed two-point conversion in the fourth quarter, Fred Evans blew up right guard Josh Sitton to rush Aaron Rodgers into an unsuccessful backhanded shovel pass into traffic.

In all, the Vikings sacked Rodgers eight times, hit him 10 times and pressured him 19 times.

The Viking linebackers made several nice plays. E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway and Ben Leber all made critical tackles on the goal-line stand. Leber in particular continues to be one of the most underrated players on the team.

Another unsung hero is reserve tight end Jeff Dugan, who did a nice job blocking and made a big catch downfield. He also did a terrific job establishing space for Sidney Rice on both onside kicks with his blocking.

Kudos to punter Chris Kluwe, who had a terrific game, whether the statistics show it or not.

One interesting alignment in goal-line offense had right tackle Phil Loadholt lined up as a tight end on the left side next to left tackle Bryant McKinnie, with tight end Jim Kleinsasser lined up at right tackle next to Anthony Herrerra. Running behind Loadholt, McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson seems rather daunting, but perhaps also predictable, when they show that look.

Blitzes

Former Packers safety LeRoy Butler was among those in Green Bay who have been critical of the defensive game plan by Dom Capers: "You take Brett Favre over the years and even in the games he's played at the Metrodome and everyone blitzes Brett and forces him into mistakes. I think he could have at least combined everything. On first and second down, play your run defense and on third down you have to blitz him. You have to pressure Brett. That's his downfall, when you're able to come after him, especially on third down. At one point, they were 8 of 14 on third down and the Packers never tested him. There never was a Plan B. It just looked like they were too passive on third down. It was like a seven-on-seven drill. There was no pass rush and there was no aggressive style. Not to mention Dom Capers is 0-7 against Brett Favre. Maybe he doesn't know the formula against Brett Favre. I know one thing, he needs to figure it out by Nov. 1.

"The only thing he did was with the linebackers crossing in the middle. The timing just got so bad and it just got all distorted and all guys were doing was running into each other. To become an effective blitzing team, you have to do it a lot to become good at it. If you're going to rush three and drop eight, the quarterback is eventually going to get the ball to his receivers. I was disappointed with the game plan. I thought it would be way more aggressive."

Tidbit from Pro Football Weekly last week: Our Niners insiders couldn't help but notice the off game OLT Joe Staley had in the Week Three loss to the Vikings matched up against DRE Jared Allen. "I was surprised because Staley has been so good for a while now. Allen just killed him; he was just too quick. It might have been more a matter of Allen being really good."

Cleveland Browns rookie running back James Davis went on injured reserve this past weekend, the result of a shoulder injury suffered on a tackle by Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield in Week One.

Wide receiver Nick Moore, who was recently released from the Vikings practice squad, has a workout scheduled with the Miami Dolphins next week.

Center Kory Lichtensteiger, who was recently released by the Vikings, had a workout with the Cleveland Browns recently.

With the success Darren Sharper has had with the New Orleans Saints this season, it's hard not to second-guess the Vikings' decision to let the proven veteran walk. Sharper has five interceptions, including two long returns for a touchdown in the first four games this season. Of course, the Saints scheme is allowing Sharper to freelance more than the Vikings did.

Coach Brad Childress, during his regular appearance Tuesday on Sirius NFL Radio, said Favre turned to him on the sideline before the start of Monday's game. "He was telling me about the guy who was singing the national anthem," Childress said. "He was the lead singer of somebody. I don't think it was KISS. It was somebody. Creed, that's it. I'm not as tuned in. First of all, if I was tuned in, I was tuned out then. But I have never been tuned in. I had some other things on my mind."

The fresh start by ex-Vikings cornerback Marcus McCauley did not last very long with the Detroit Lions, who released him last week when they brought back veteran defensive tackle Chuck Darby.

Ex-Vikings running back Arkee Whitlock, who has gotten plenty of playing time with the Edmonton Eskimos (CFL) this season has rushed for 760 yards on 139 carries (5.5 avg.) with seven touchdowns. He's also caught 37 passes for 319 yards and one TD. On the downside, he's fumbled five times. Whitlock has gained 353 yards on 55 carries (6.4 avg.) with long runs of 55 and 60 yards in his last four games.

Kevin Brown has been providing personnel analysis and writing about the Vikings for more than 20 years with Viking Update. Follow VU on Twitter and discuss this and other topics on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Vikings Update web site or magazine, click here.

 


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