Offense more explosive as season progresses

The Vikings started the season with short passes for Brett Favre, but the difference in the Detroit games might indicate just how far the offense has come, with a big increase in explosive plays, especially to receiver Sidney Rice.

Watch out. Brett Favre might be getting even better as the season progresses.

If progress can be measured by comparing the first game against one team to a second meeting in the same season, then consider the Vikings progressively more explosive. By the method that Brad Childress measures explosive plays – runs of 12 yards or more and receptions of 16 yards or more – the Vikings had no explosive pass plays against the Lions in their first meeting and seven on Sunday.

Consider Favre's familiarity with the offense and his playmakers one of the reasons for the increase.

"We had two or three (long pass plays) that we had called. A couple of them were movement plays, a couple of them were him being able to move and having faith in Sidney (Rice)," Childress said.

In the Week 2 meeting with Detroit, the Vikings' longest pass play was 13 yards. On Sunday, Favre's 13-yard pass to TE Visanthe Shiancoe was the team's 10th-longest play of the game.

"That is a whole different station in life, the first Detroit game," Childress said. "Back then (Favre) was playing and I think you guys weighed him down with the game managerial deal and that was an issue. He has gone through a lot of analysis and that type of thing. He has managed to take himself out of there and where he can pass the ball 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. That's a long time ago that first Detroit game."

The Vikings also had four explosive runs – of 13, 22, 43 and 27 yards – from Adrian Peterson on Sunday during his 18-carry, 133-yard game. According to Childress, that is the most explosive rushes the Vikings have had since their season opener against the Cleveland Browns.

His performance allowed him to become the fourth-fastest running back in league history to gain 4,000 yards.

"I actually didn't think about it until I got back up to the locker room," Peterson said. "A couple guys were saying something about it but it's a great accomplishment. I owe it all to the offensive line and the receivers because those guys are really the ones that make it happen."

But the passing game provided the most spark. Favre completed four passes of 40 yards or more – one 40-yarder to Percy Harvin and passes of 56, 43 and 43 yards to Sidney Rice.

Why the big plays?

"Execution. Everybody being on the same page and doing what we're coached to do," Rice said. "A lot of these things couldn't happen without certain things – the play action, the linemen doing certain stuff and things like that. It wouldn't happen if everybody wasn't on the same page doing things the right way."

"… Fortunately we were able to get it going in the second half and put more points up on the board."

There is little doubt that Rice and Favre are on the same page. Rice's 201 yards is the second-highest total any receiver has compiled in one game on completions from Favre, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (Don Beebe caught 11 passes from Favre for 220 yards in 1996).

Rice also moved into the lead among NFC receivers with 786 yards. Despite not having great deep speed, Rice is somehow finding ways to create separation from defensive backs on deep routes.

"Speed obviously helps to create separation, but sometimes a guy's worst enemy is his speed, whereas a guy like Sidney will use (his size)," Favre said. "It's really like rebounding to me, jockeying for position. The tallest guy is not always the guy who gets the most rebounds. It's the guy that's the most determined, the guy who gets in good position, knows when to time jumps, plays the ball very well, and just has a knack for doing it."

It reminds some Vikings of the one the franchise's best receivers.

"Some of the catches definitely are Randy Moss-esque," left tackle Bryant McKinnie said of Rice. "Sidney has definitely been a playmaker this year. His game is getting better and better with the more experience that he has. Sidney has a great upside."

While Favre's presence is certainly helping Rice in his breakout year, it goes both ways. Favre has the NFL top passer rating at 107.5 and has the fewest interception (three) among quarterbacks with a rating of 80 or better. And the competition among highly rated quarterbacks hasn't been higher in the past 40 yards. Favre's lead in passer rating comes at time when the NFL is enjoying the most quarterbacks (nine) with a passer rating of 95 or higher through 10 weeks since 1970.

Rice said opposing defenses are beginning to play the pass a little more often, but with Peterson in the backfield they are ready to exploit if defenses begin to overplay the pass.

"When you've got Adrian in the backfield and they don't put eight or nine in the box, you're going to have to give it to him and let him run," Rice said. "When they do and if they do stop him with eight or nine in the box, it's up to us as receivers out there on the outside. We've got to beat the one-on-one coverage and make big plays."

Rice has followed that directive well.

NOTES

  • Moss' skills, now in New England, don't appear to have eroded any. He is leading the league with 891 yards receiving, and his 63-yard touchdown reception Sunday against the Colts was his 27th career TD of 50 yards or longer. That ties Lance Alworth for second place in NFL history in 50-yard TDs, behind only Jerry Rice, who had 36, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

  • As with quarterback ratings mentioned above, the competition among undefeated teams is near record levels. The Saints and Colts are just the third duo to start a season 9-0, joining the 1934 Lions and Bears, and the 1990 Giants and 49ers. Of course, the Vikings (8-1) are chasing the Saints for the top seed in the NFC playoff race.

    "They've got some big games coming up and we're going to really need them to come on back and help us out," tackle Bryant McKinnie said.

  • Chad Greenway on the Vikings defense against the Lions Sunday: "We let them get to 10 (points), but you can win a lot of games in the NFL if you only let them get to 10 with our offense."

  • Brad Childress said the Seahawks look like they are coming together as a team. "They look like they're waking up on both sides of the football. … They can be explosive. They've had some people in and out on the offensive line," he said.

  • The Seahawks may not blitz as much as some other teams, but Childress said they can still apply pressure. "They gave a lot of three-man rush to (Cardinals QB Kurt) Warner, although they have the ability to storm the castle and kind of heat you up in the back end."


    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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