Behind Enemy Lines: Questioning the Vikings

How has the presence of Brett Favre affected the Vikings offense and how defenses approach Favre and company? Doug Farrar of NorthwestFootball.net and Tim Yotter of VikingUpdate.com discuss that and more as the Seahawks and Vikings prepare for Sunday.

Doug Farrar: Word is, the Vikings have a new quarterback, and that a few people in the media are slightly interested in his every move. Beyond the obvious, what does Brett Favre bring to the team? Was the supposed "locker-room schism" story overblown, and what exactly has he meant to the offense?

Tim Yotter: Not only was the "schism" story overblown, it was flat-out wrong. There hasn't been a schism and there wasn't a schism when ESPN reported it from an anonymous source. Pretty much the only people who were upset with the move were Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels, who had a chance to put Favre out of head coach Brad Childress' mind with their play early in the preseason and didn't. Neither could stay completely healthy or consistently play well enough to keep Favre off of Childress' radar.

So what does Favre bring to the team? First, his teammates have really gotten to like his loose and calm demeanor on and off the field. He isn't going to hang out with the 22-year-olds on the team and go clubbing, but when he's in practice or the locker room, they get along well. On the field, his decision-making has been incredible. He enters the 10th game of the season with only three interceptions. The previous season low in his career was 13 since he became a starter in 1992. But as much as his throws have helped, his presnap decisions have been just as good. His experience is really shining through.

DF: How has Favre's addition and a new focus on the passing game affected what defenses do to Adrian Peterson? Is Purple Jesus still getting a steady diet of eight in the box, of is that loosening up a bit?

TY: It is just starting to loosen up a bit and I suspect it will slightly more. However, teams can't completely get away from that. Favre insists that the offense still starts with Peterson and is happy to hand it off all day to "All Day" as long as it's working. Sidney Rice said earlier this week that he thinks defenses are starting to respect the passing game a little bit more. Favre said on Wednesday that defenses are changing the way they get to seven and eight in the box, but they are still getting there most of the time. They are trying to shift coverages more at the snap of the ball by bringing a cornerback on run support and handing off receivers to the safeties and adjustments like that. As Rice continues to put his skills on tape (he is the NFC's leading receiver now), that should help open things up for Peterson and Percy Harvin.

DF: We know all about Steve Hutchinson in Seattle, but what about the other parts of the offensive line? Are the Vikings still running a lot of power zone, and how is rookie Phil Loadholt looking? How has the loss of Matt Birk affected the team?

TY: The offensive line was probably the single greatest question mark after the Vikings got Favre, but somewhat surprisingly they have been a pretty decent group. There weren't a lot of worries with Hutchinson, besides a back injury that flared up earlier in the season, and McKinnie on the left side. But with second-year pro John Sullivan stepping in at center and rookie Phil Loadholt at right tackle, there were some obvious question marks. Sullivan has put in a lot of study time over the last 18 months and that has really paid off. Favre raved about Sullivan's intelligence on Wednesday, and Sullivan told me it's just a matter of him getting everyone on the same page. In the first half of the season the Vikings faced a lot of 3-4 fronts, but they should be mostly done with those for the rest of the regular season. They continue to be mostly a zone blocking team. During the first couple of games, Favre was taking a lot of hits. Since then, that hasn't been the case. Some of that may have been on the offensive line, but some of it was also Favre learning to trust his receivers and holding onto the ball a little longer back then.

DF: Minnesota's defensive line is as scary as ever, and Jared Allen is playing out of his mind, but tell us about the underrated players that deserve more attention.

TY: On the opposite side of Allen is Ray Edwards, who has been coming on strong the last few games. As a base end, he isn't quite as quick as Allen off the snap, but he holds up well against the run and has been taking advantage of pressures. Against the Lions, he completely overpowered Gosder Cherilus a handful of times in the first half alone. He got two sacks out of the deal and missed a couple more, but the pressure was impressive. On the inside, Jimmy Kennedy has been playing really well on a rotational basis, substituting for both Pat Williams and Kevin Williams. He has been in the Vikings' system for almost a year and is starting to look very comfortable. Last month he told me that when he came to Minnesota late last year Kevin Williams had to tell him what to do all the time. Now he knows what he's doing and that is reflected in his play. He's playing faster and with more authority. The other regular rotational guy is Brian Robison, who subs in for Ray Edwards on occasion and then offers quickness inside on passing downs. With Kennedy and Robison, the Vikings have a pretty deep defensive line beyond the three Pro Bowlers in Allen and the Williamses.

DF: It doesn't seem that the Vikings have run option or Wildcat plays as much as anticipated. How has Brad Childress' coaching and play-calling worked out with the offensive change in scenery? How on board is the team's fan base with the extension he's going to sign?

TY: The extension may or may not be coming soon. It's possible that the ownership decides to wait and see how things play out in the playoffs. I don't get the feeling that the fan base is completely on board with Childress yet – they still have some issues with ticket sales, but not as bad as the previous years – but Childress does seem to be more personable now with the players and media than he has been in the past. Maybe that's because everyone has gotten a feel for how he operates and he is more comfortable opening up a bit more. Whatever the case, the relationship seems to be improving.

As for the play-calling, it's hard to question much of that now with the NFL's top-rated passer in Favre, the NFC's top running back in Peterson and the NFC's top receiver in Rice. Plus, Harvin has played well both as a receiver and a kick returner. Childress and the personnel department have done a great job adding talent and making good choices in the draft, from first-rounders like Peterson and Harvin to second-rounders like Rice and Loadholt to later picks like Sullivan.

The Vikings haven't been in a lot of tight games at the end, but there is also some questioning of Childress' decisions at the end. Last week he handed it off to fullback/tight end Jeff Dugan on fourth-and-1 and didn't get it. In previous weeks, people have complained about decisions late in the game. But they are still 8-1, and play-calling wasn't the issue in their loss to Pittsburgh. That was simply a matter of two fourth-quarter turnovers that were returned for touchdowns.

The Wildcat hasn't been in play much. Ironically, I just talked to Harvin about that on Wednesday. He doesn't seem the least bit concerned about not running it because they are winning and producing without it. As you wrote for the Viking Update Magazine earlier in the year, with Favre the Wildcat isn't really necessary. It's a nice change-of-pace for a team struggling offensively, but you'd be hard-pressed to put the Vikings in that category since they are the league's No. 2 scoring offense.


Doug Farrar is the publisher of NorthwestFootball.net. Tim Yotter is the publisher of VikingUpdate.com.

Viking Update Top Stories