Wednesday is the day we flip the calendar from last week to this week. But before we do that this morning, I wanted to empty out the notebook from Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Chargers…
Positives to build on
It’s hard to look at the positives when you lose a game that you lead by 10 points at halftime, and in the process you generated just 10 first downs and 187 net yards. But there were some positives from the game and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier mentioned a few of them in his Monday press conference.
“I had a chance to go back and look at that tape and there were so many positive things that happened in that game,” Frazier said, “and particularly in the first half, just opening up the season the way we did with the kickoff going for a touchdown and guys just battling throughout and trying to make plays on both sides of the ball and our special teams as well.”
Frazier went on to mention other positives, such as: running the football (Vikings averaged 6.1 yards per carry); stopping the run (Chargers averaged just 2.9 yards per carry). Beyond that, it was good to see the Vikings win the turnover battle, hold QB Philip Rivers below his career averages in yards per attempt and passer rating and continue to cover kicks extremely well.
Give a tip of the cap to Antoine Winfield, who intercepted Rivers late in the 1st half to stymie a scoring drive. It was the 24th INT of his career and his 18th as a Viking. Winfield will play in his 100th game as a Viking this Sunday in the team’s home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Other defensive playmakers from Sunday were LB Erin Henderson and DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison. In his first career start, Henderson had 6 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss and a sack. Allen and Robison split a sack and Allen also added an INT deep in Vikings territory to halt another potential Chargers scoring drive. On Winfield’s INT, Robison hit Rivers as he threw it, which caused the ball to hang up in the air so Winfield could snag it.
Frazier encouraged by CB Cedric Griffin
The Vikings defense is better when Cedric Griffin is playing, and he was playing in a regular season game on Sunday for the first time in nearly a year. Frazier seemed encouraged by Griffin’s ability to play the whole game on Sunday.
“I was really impressed with the fact that Cedric Griffin played as well as he did and as long as he did,” Frazier said. “He played every snap on defense, he did a great job.”
Young defensive line rotation
With Kevin Williams missing in action for the first two weeks of the season, a few young defensive linemen saw extra snaps on Sunday. There wasn’t much of a pass rush from the inside, which we typically see when Williams is in the game, but you have to give the youngsters some credit for the way they played against the run. In the end, there is improvement to be made, but it was also a step forward for the young rotation. Also, this experience will only make the entire defensive line better once Williams does return.
Re-naming the “Wildcat”
The Vikings introduced their package of plays for QB Joe Webb. Some have questioned the timing, which is a good example of Monday Morning Quarterbacking if you ask me, but the bottom line is it was good to see the Vikings display some creativity and ambition in getting Webb on the field.
But I think we need to come up with a name for this package of plays. It sounds like Frazier and the offensive staff don’t view this subset of plays in the team’s playbook as the typical Wildcat package, largely because Webb is a dual-threat – he can run or stay in the pocket and throw.
“Well ours is a little different,” Frazier responded when asked about the “Wildcat.” “The way we’re using Joe Webb, it’s different. Most teams that put a guy back there can’t throw the ball as well as Joe. We have a legitimate quarterback running the offense when we do it.”
Unfortunately, the Chargers were able to contain Webb when he was in the ballgame. But watch for the Vikings to grow that package of plays and improve production.
“There is room to expound on what we did [Sunday],” Frazier said. “We are not ready to give up on it. They did a good job [Sunday] of defending it, but we think it has merit.”
I do, too.
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Brian Robison, Cedric Griffin, Erin Henderson, Jared Allen, Joe Webb, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier
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