2009 Bringing Better Beginnings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2009 – 5:07 pm

The Vikings are 4-0 and off to their best start since the 2003 season, when they won their first 6 games.

But you don’t need to go back to the ’03 season to appreciate just how well the Vikings have begun the 2009 season. All you need to do is compare some key statistics through the first quarter of the 2009 season to those same stats through the first 4 games of 2008.

The Vikings were 1-3 after a quartet of games last year, and they were -2 in turnover ratio. This year, the Vikings 4 wins have come while the team has managed a +5 turnover margin. Only 3 teams have a better turnover ratio, and 2 of them are also 4-0.

Turnovers end drives, but there are a couple of other notorious drive killers – penalties and sacks. And in what shouldn’t be a surprise, the Vikings are better in both of those areas, too. Through 4 games in 2008, the Vikings had allowed 10 sacks and were penalized 27 times. So far this year, the Vikings have been penalized 8 fewer times and have allowed 1 less sack; in addition, they’ve sacked opposing QBs 16 times this year, compared to just 7 sacks at this time last year.

Finally, it’s important to point out that the Vikings have 8 TD passes through 4 games this year, compared to just 2 TD passes at this time last year. Yes, the Vikings bread and butter is the run game. And it’ll continue to be that way. But the NFL is a passing league and being able to pick yards up and score TDs through the air is vital.

All of these stats provide encouraging signs for the Vikings as they prepare to begin the 2nd quarter of the season. But the road does not get easier from here on out. The Vikings start this quarter of the season on the road, playing a team with a coaching staff that knows the Vikings staff quite well. Also, Steven Jackson scored 4 total TDs against the Vikings and ran for 142 yards against the Purple the last time these 2 teams met (Week 17 of 2006).

Also making life more difficult for the Vikings during the next month will be 3 road games in 4 weeks, including games at Pittsburgh and Green Bay. The Vikings haven’t won at Lambeau during head coach Brad Childress’ tenure and playing at Pittsburgh is about as tough as it gets on the road. And that 1 home game – it’s against Baltimore, a team that made it to the AFC Championship game a year ago and will come into Mall of America Field at the HHH Metrodome with a solid record.

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Favre Wins FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week Award

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2009 – 3:10 pm

The NFL announced today that QB Brett Favre has been named the FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week for games played on October 4-5. Favre completed 24 of 31 passes against the Packers on Monday night for 271 yards and 3 TDs.

Joining Favre as a winner of FedEx’s weekly award was Pittsburgh Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall, who was named FedEx Ground NFL Player of the week. Mendenhall carried the ball 29 times for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Steelers 38-28 win over the San Diego Chargers.

Favre and Mendenhall were selected from among 6 finalists in Air and Ground categories. The other FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week finalists were QBs David Garrard and Peyton Manning and RBs Ronnie Brown and Matt Forte.

Fans voted for more than their favorite players. The weekly FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week Awards are also a win for local communities. Along with the player awards, FedEx is making a $1,000 donation in the winning players’ names to the local Safe Kids coalitions in Minneapolis and Pittsburgh to support pedestrian safety improvements. Safe Kids USA is a national non-profit organization that works to prevent accidental injury among children.

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[UPDATED]Will It Be Boller or Bulger?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2009 – 2:47 pm


In Week 1 there was uncertainty (sort of) of who would start at QB against the Vikings because the head coach didn’t want to make his decision knowledge. As expected, Brady Quinn wound up starting under center instead of Derek Anderson.

This week against the Rams, there is once again some uncertainty over who will start at QB for the Vikings opponent. But instead of it being because of a coach’s decision, this uncertainty is the product of injury.

Regular starter Marc Bulger was knocked out of Week 3′s game against Green Bay because of a right shoulder injury. He didn’t start in Week 4 and this week he’s been limited in practice. Bulger is listed as probable questionable on the injury report, which means there’s a “virtual certainty” 50% that he’ll play.

If Bulger can’t go, or is designated as the #2 QB, his replacement will be Kyle Boller, who got the start last week in Bulger’s absence. Boller spent the first 5 years of his career in Baltimore but joined the Rams this past offseason.

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress didn’t sound too concerned, from a preparation standpoint, over who would wind up with the start between Boller and Bulger.

“I think they are playing in a system,” Childress said Friday after practice. “I don’t think that they will do anything differently with one that than they will do with the other. Both of them had to start at the same spot to learn that system. I don’t think Boller had the background in the system, and I know that Bulger did not. So they both started at the same spot. So I guess the only difference would be the reps that they took throughout (training camp).”

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Final Injury Reports Released

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2009 – 2:26 pm

The Vikings and Rams have released their final Week 5 injury reports.

For the Vikings, starters Ray Edwards (hamstring - full), Brett Favre (foot/ankle/knee – limited), Steve Hutchinson (back – limited) and Cedric Griffin (hand – full) are all probable. LB Erin Henderson (calf – limited) and T Phil Loadholt (ankle – did not) are questionable. WR Darius Reynaud (non-injury – did not) has been ruled out.

For the Rams, starting QB Marc Bulger (right shoulder – limited) is listed as probable, as are WR Donnie Avery (hamstring – limited), WR Keenan Burton (hamstring – limited) and T Jason Smith (knee – limited). Listed as doubtful are S Anthony Smith (achilles – did not) and WR Ruvell Martin (hamstring – did not). S James Butler (knee – did not) has been ruled out.

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Allen Is Here, There And Everywhere

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2009 – 11:38 am

Vikings DE Jared Allen has terrorized NFL QBs for his entire career, and has 64 sacks to his name as proof. Because of his ability to rush the passer, opposing offenses are constantly switching things up to try and slow him down.

Allen gets double teamed. He gets chipped by FBs, RBs and TEs. Teams roll the pocket away from him. Opposing offenses try anything and everything to neutralize him.

But opposing offenses aren’t going to be the only ones switching things up to try and tip the scales in their favor. The Vikings are going to be doing it, too, according to assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

Last week against Green Bay, Allen spent some time moving away from his standard position as the right DE and he slid down the line to play on the left side at times. This was not because he wasn’t productive in his normal spot. Rather, it was to try and confuse the offense and get away from some of the double teams and chip blocks that were coming his way.

“If you study us, you know most teams are going to be trying to chip Jared Allen or bring protection to Jared,” Frazier said. “And we talked about this back in the offseason and I think someone asked me in training camp whether or not we would move him around. That’s exactly what we’re going to do; we’re going to move him around sometimes and make the offense have to adjust to where he is and try to get some of those chips off of him.”

Against the Packers, Frazier explained, the strategy of moving Allen around was effective. He encountered fewer chip blocks throughout the course of the game because the offense wasn’t always sure where Allen would line up.

Ultimately, the goal of moving Allen around is to create more isolated situations for the Vikings leading sack-getter. And if the teams still figure out a way to cover him up with 2 or more players, then Allen’s teammates will have to take advantage of their opportunities.

“We feel like if we can get him enough one-on-ones, we can get the results we want from him,” Frazier said. “But if it becomes a situation where they’re going to find him and try to chip him every down, then that opens up things for Ray (Edwards) and Kevin (Williams) and Brian (Robison) as well.”

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Frazier’s Guys In Disguise

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2009 – 8:13 am

The cat and mouse game that is the NFL. Colts QB Peyton Manning sometimes calls up to 3 plays in the offensive huddle, and then determines which one to execute once he gets to the line of scrimmage and see the defensive formation.

The Miami Dolphins throw defenses a curveball by putting RB Ronnie Brown in the shotgun formation and having him take snaps from the center.

The Buffalo Bills had designs in the offseason to run the no-huddle offense exclusively in an attempt to confuse defenses.

These examples of deception and disguise involve offenses across the league. But Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier explained on Thursday that deception and disguise are every bit as important to defenses, too.

“That is as important as anything you do schematically because of the fact that now the tape is more readily available than it was ten years ago,” Frazier said. “Ten years ago I can remember you didn’t have every team’s game (tape) two days after the game was played. It’s be a few days and then you’d get some beta tape toward the end of the week. Now, people can scout you well in advance of your ballgame and they’ve got people on their staff saying ‘When they get in this particular look, this is what’s coming.’”

As a result, it’s important for both offensive and defensive coaches to A) disguise their strategy on a play-to-play basis, and B) study film of themselves to avoid repeating tendencies too often and thus becoming predictable.

“It really behooves defenses to come up with different looks just because of that (extensive film study teams conduct of each other),” Frazier explained. “It makes it very tough; even things that you think are pretty good…if an offense can identify it, well it’s probably not so good.”

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