The Vikings and Saints will bring with them the NFL’s 2 highest scoring offenses from the regular season when they meet on Sunday evening in the NFC Championship Game. A couple of offensive-minded head coaches in Brad Childress and Sean Payton and then also a pair of high-profile and ultra-productive QBs in Brett Favre and Drew Brees are main impetus behind the Vikings and Saints offensive prowess.
While meeting with reporters at Winter Park on Wednesday, though, Childress’ mind was on defense – the Saints defense. Perhaps that’s the offensive side of him coming out – and focusing on the opposing defense – but it was still interesting to note that Childress spent more time talking defense than offense in his opening remarks.
“[I have] a little familiarity with (defensive coordinator) Greg (Williams) and that defense,” Childress said, “most recently with Jacksonville last year and then two years ago he was with the Redskins when they came in with Joe Gibbs, and then the years in the NFC East.”
During the regular season the Saints didn’t rate impressively in overall defense (25th) or scoring defense (20th), but they are a play-making bunch that have given opposing QBs trouble. In fact, the Saints allowed just 15 TD passes this season – 5th best in the NFL – and only 2 teams (Buffalo and Green Bay) intercepted more passes. Also, opposing QBs have a passer rating of just 68.6 against New Orleans, 3rd best in the NFL.
Childress indicated on Wednesday that the Saints defense is versatile in the looks it can show and is also an aggressive bunch. A prime example of that aggression and play-making mentality is S Darren Sharper, a former Viking, who tallied 9 INTs this year and took 3 of those back for scores.
“It’s a multiple defense and one that we’ve got to be ready (for),” Childress said. “They’re an attacking defense and you’ve got to be ready for a myriad of different looks.”
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Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress and QB Brett Favre will meet with reporters at Winter Park today for their usual Wednesday press conferences. Childress’ is scheduled to begin at 11:45 a.m. and Favre’s will follow soon after.
You can watch those live by clicking here.
In addition to Childress and Favre, both DE Jared Allen and RB Adrian Peterson will meet with reporters at the podium, and you can watch those press conferences live on vikings.com as well by going to the same page.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen
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Last weekend while waiting for their team to play the Dallas Cowboys the next day, Vikings fans may have had a case of déjà vu as they watched the New Orleans Saints take care of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC’s other Divisional Round playoff game.
In that contest – a 45-14 New Orleans victory – Saints RB and punt returner Reggie Bush dazzled the audience and sliced through the Cardinals special teams unit with an 83-yard punt return for TD in the 4th quarter. As Vikings fans surely remember, Bush had similar success in Week 5 of the 2008 season, when he torched the Vikings punt coverage unit for a pair of TDs and 176 return yards.
In that game, the Vikings punt team did a nice job of limiting returns for most of 3 full quarters. But then P Chris Kluwe boomed a punt 48 yards down to the Saints 29 and Bush took it from there for a 71-yard score to cut the Vikings lead to 3 late in the 3rd quarter. Bush then took the Vikings next punt 29 yards to midfield, which set up a FG and tied the game at 20. Then on the next Vikings punt, Bush did it again, this time going 64 yards for a score to give his team a 27-20 lead and ignite the home crowd.
The Vikings wound up winning the game thanks to 10 unanswered points in the game’s final 7 minutes, 3 of which came on a clutch Ryan Longwell FG. But that didn’t take away from the Vikings frustration in terms of its punt team. Head coach Brad Childress wasn’t happy after the game because Kluwe was instructed to punt the ball away from Bush.
“Both of those kicks are supposed to be out of bounds,” Childress said at the time. “And when you say to somebody ‘kick the ball out of bounds,’ that’s what you expect to happen. That’s what I expect to happen with a professional football kicker.”
Fast-forward to the 2009 playoffs, and Kluwe is coming off an excellent performance against the Cowboys in which the Vikings allowed 0 punt return yards and even pinned Dallas on its own 2 early in the 3rd quarter. A similar performance this week against the Saints – and Bush – is the goal for the Vikings.
“I think that we will go back and revisit our last trip we had to the [Louisiana Superdome] and probably have a little sit down about that to see if either one of us has evolved in our processes in communicating that,” Childress said tongue-in-cheek on Monday when asked about Kluwe and punting to the Saints.
During the regular season with Bush as the primary return man, New Orleans averaged just 4.6 yards per punt return as a team and had 0 TDs. The Vikings were 12th in the NFL in punt return average allowed at 7.9 yards and they gave up 1 TD, a 67-yarder to Cleveland’s Joshua Cribbs in Week 1.
With so much attention bound to be paid to both of these teams’ QBs and explosive offenses, don’t sleep on the special teams units and their potential to impact the outcome of this game.
Tags: Chris Kluwe
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Our weekly “setting the table” blog entries are designed to construct a context around the Vikings upcoming game by pointing out relevant factors and circumstances in the week’s matchup.
But this week I’m fairly certain you don’t need me to set the table too much – it’s the NFC Championship Game and the conference’s top 2 seeds will battle at the Louisiana Superdome for a right to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIV.
This is a great matchup on so many levels, and we’ll dig deeper into this matchup as the week wears on. Ultimately, though, football fans are in for a treat with this game because the Vikings and Saints were the NFC’s 2 best teams all season and they’ve arrived in the conference championship game after earning 1st round byes and then dominating legitimate challengers in the Divisional Round. Suffice it to say, these 2 teams left no doubt that they are the best the NFC has to offer.
New Orleans marched through the first 13 weeks of the season, going 13-0 before losing their final 3 contests. They finished the regular season as the league’s highest-scoring outfit (31.9 points per game) and ranked #1 in total offense (yards per game). The Vikings, meanwhile, began 6-0 and improved to 10-1 before losing 3 of 4 in December and then finishing with an impressive 12-4 mark. They also have a top 5 overall offense and they are the NFL’s 2nd-highest scoring offense at 29.4 points per game.
So offensively one might give a slight edge to New Orleans, but on the other side of the ball one might favor the Vikings. They dominated an explosive Cowboys offense last week in the Divisional Round, finished 6th in the league in total defense and ranked #2 against the run.
The Saints, meanwhile, don’t rank as impressively in overall defense but they have play-makers who thrive when put in favorable situations. The offense has made a habit of staking the team to large leads and the defense has more than pulled its weight by registering big-time plays. S Darren Sharper, a former Viking and teammate of QB Brett Favre’s in Green Bay, is the face of the Saints play-making style because of his 9 INTs, 3 of which he’s returned for TDs.
There are interesting matchups on special teams as well, with both teams featuring explosive returners and both teams also holding slight edges in other areas of special teams play.
Anyway, that’s enough setting the table for now. We have a lot more to get to, so stay tuned to vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog the rest of the week.
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