Good News From Goodell On Kevin Williams, Stadium Issues

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 23, 2011 – 12:15 pm

NFL owners held meetings in New Orleans over the last few days and on Tuesday at the meetings NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held a news conference. After the news conference, Twin Cities reporters caught up with Goodell and the commissioner had some good news for Vikings.

First, it appears that DT Kevin Williams, who has dropped his appeal in the StarCaps case, is not in line to be suspended once a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is ratified. At least not right away.

“I think we’ll wait until the litigation is done before we make a decision [on any potential suspensions],” Goodell told two Twin Cities reporters, via Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune and the Access Vikings blog.

Goodell was also asked about the current stadium situation in Minnesota.

“All efforts are to keep the team there,” Goodell said. “I think there’s some urgency to having the stadium addressed both in the short term and the long term. We have a short-term issue with the Dome itself, a long-term issue with getting a solution to that.”

Zulgad also points out that Goodell would be “more than happy” to travel to Minnesota to help find a resolution and also that the NFL Commissioner has been in touch with Ted Mondale, who is chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

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Kevin Williams Named To NFC Pro Bowl Squad

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 7, 2011 – 11:39 am

Vikings DT Kevin Williams was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team on Friday, replacing injured Detroit Lions DT Ndamukong Suh. It marks the 5th straight season that Williams was recognized as a Pro Bowler and the 6th time overall in his 8-year career.

Kevin Williams

Williams started all 16 games for the Vikings during the 2010 season and finished with 49 tackles, 9 tackles-for-loss, 7 passes defended, 1.0 sack and 1 forced fumble. He has totaled 49.5 sacks in his career, the most among DTs in the NFL since he entered the NFL in 2003.

“I look at it as a great honor by your peers and your coaches around the league to be selected to the Pro Bowl,” Williams said. “I really enjoy it and I really appreciate the honor.”

Williams joins RB Adrian Peterson as the 2nd Viking on the NFC Pro Bowl squad.

“It’s great to be with Adrian,” Williams said. “I see him every day and he’s going to give you the same thing. Those guys better watch out. It’s a nice time to converse with all your peers and just catch up with all the guys after a tough season.”

RB Adrian Peterson (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
DT Kevin Williams (2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)

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Vikings Players React To Leslie Frazier Hiring

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 3, 2011 – 3:28 pm

I’m sure we’ll be in touch with several Vikings players over the next several hours to get their comments about the Vikings choice to hire Leslie Frazier as head coach. So instead of writing separate entries for each player quote, we’ll compile a long list here and continually update it, with the newest quotes at the top.

DT Kevin Williams: “We’re excited that Leslie is going to get the chance to be the head coach for the future. He’s put in his time and worked his way up and showed what he could do already this year. He’s a guy who can relate to how the players feel and what they’re going through and that’s important. He’s been where we are and he’s earned our trust.”

DE Jared Allen: “I’m very happy for Leslie to have this opportunity. He’s a great coach and a great person. He provides an excellent work environment, he’s determined to win, and as a former player, he relates to the guys in that locker room. That’s all you can ask for.”

WR Percy Harvin: “Coach Frazier is the perfect fit for this team. This season and the last six weeks were tough on everyone but Coach Frazier did a great job in keeping us together. Now that we know he is leading this team it’s on the players to get his back and go out and win him some ball games. I know the 2010 season just ended but I’m already looking forward to the 2011 Vikings.”

LB Chad Greenway: “It’s great news that Leslie got the job. Guys respond to him and he’s got great respect in the locker room. Coach Frazier deserves this opportunity and I know he’s going to make the most of it.”

LG Steve Hutchinson: “At the end of the season as interim coach he was well-respected by the team. Everyone in the locker room is confident in Leslie and you saw a renewed sense of urgency under him. Leslie has a track record as a player and at a championship level. He’s won a Super Bowl as a coach as well. He knows what it takes to make those strides to get this team there.”

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Despite Wintry Weather, TCF Bank Stadium Field Passed Test

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 21, 2010 – 10:53 am

There was much discussion regarding the condition of the playing surface at TCF Bank Stadium in the days leading up to the Vikings-Bears game on Monday night. The stadium, which hosts home University of Minnesota Golden Gopher games, had been winterized following the conclusion of the Gophers season.

But with the collapse of the Metrodome roof a couple weeks ago, Monday night’s game was moved to TCF Bank Stadium and weather conditions, including multiple heavy snowfalls, were not helping the cause. Crews from the University of Minnesota, the Vikings and the NFL worked diligently around the clock to ready the field and judging by comments from coaches and players after the game, everything turned out well.

“I want to first of all thank the University of Minnesota, along with the NFL and the Vikings organization for getting things in place for us to be able to play in front of our home fans,” Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier said after the game. “I thought the conditions were fine. None of the players complained. It didn’t create any problems for them with footing. It seemed like both teams performed without any problems with the field.”

Here’s what a few other Vikings players had to say about the field and game conditions…

Kevin Williams: “It was a great atmosphere. It started out great when our offense went out and scored and we just got some bad breaks after that. We kind of got the crowd out when we got behind. But it was a great crowd and a great atmosphere.”

Jared Allen: “The atmosphere was cool. The fans came out and I think they enjoyed it. But I thought the crowd was good and energetic and it was loud. We’re just sorry we disappointed.”

Toby Gerhart: “I think it was actually pretty good. I can’t remember slipping. I don’t think too many people slipped and like I said earlier, credit to the facilities people that got that field ready to go and it turned out really well.”

Chad Greenway: “To be honest with you, I had a lot of fun out there. Obviously, the score is not indicative of what we wanted it to be or any place we wanted to be at the end of the game. Just the conditions and the crowd, that first quarter was so fun. Then things just turned on us. But it was a fun atmosphere and conditions were Minnesotan.

“We do appreciate everything the fans have done to support us. These last couple weeks have been rough for them. We were supposed to have two home games at the Metrodome and we didn’t get that. We were sure happy the way they came out tonight.”

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Analyzing The Vikings Defense

Posted by cjsiewert on December 15, 2010 – 4:33 pm

Aside from the fact that the Vikings suffered a deflating 21-3 loss to the NY Giants last Monday night, the defense played well as it has been since Leslie Frazier took over as interim head coach.

It may not look like any phase of the Vikings team played well by simply looking at the score, but when we take a deeper look into the game, it’s clear that the defense held its own throughout the contest.

Yes, the defense allowed a season-high 213 rushing yards, but if you take away both Giants RBs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw’s longest runs – 73 and 48, respectively – that number is reduced to 92 yards and 1 less TD since Bradshaw’s 48-yard run in the 3rd quarter was good for a score.

The secondary also played quite well, picking off Giants QB Eli Manning twice in the 1st half. The first INT came on the Giants 3rd play from scrimmage where Vikings CB Frank Walker jumped in front of Giants WR Hakeem Nicks on a seem route down the right hash, picking off Manning’s pass and returning it 10 yards to the NY 34. The turnover resulted in a 31-yard FG by Vikings K Ryan Longwell.

Manning’s second INT came on the Giants 2nd play of the 2nd quarter. Vikings CB Asher Allen established position in front of Giants WR Mario Manningham – who was running a short slant route at midfield – marking Manning’s 11th INT against the Vikings in 5 games. The INT gave the Vikings the ball at their own 41, but they were unable to convert the turnover into points.

To go with the pair of INTs, the Vikings defense allowed Manning to complete a pedestrian 22 of 37 passes (59.5%) for 187 yards and 1 TD. The 59.5 completion percentage was Manning’s 3rd worst of the season. That low completion percentage is a reflection of the Vikings front 4 putting pressure on the Giants QB for much of the game.

Vikings DT Kevin Williams posted a season-high 6 tackles (3 for loss) while DE Jared Allen increased his consecutive games with a sack streak to 5 and now has 9.5 on the season, furthermore establishing his worthiness of a 4th consecutive Pro Bowl nod.

Other positive numbers for the Vikings defense include 6 tackles for a loss for -19 yards while allowing a 23% (3 of 13) 3rd-down efficiency for the Giants.

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Vikings Bounce Buffalo 38-14

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 5, 2010 – 4:03 pm

The Vikings were missing 3 starters and several other key players on Sunday but it didn’t prevent them from taking care of business and notching a convincing 38-14 victory against the Buffalo Bills at Mall of America Field. The win moves the Vikings to 5-7 and gives Leslie Frazier his first win at home as Vikings Interim Head Coach; Frazier is now 2-0 at the helm.

The game began with starters Ray Edwards (ankle), Percy Harvin (illness) and Steve Hutchinson (thumb) on the sideline and then just 3 plays into the action QB Brett Favre was lost for the day with a shoulder injury. On top of that, backup QB Tarvaris Jackson entered the game and threw a pick 6 on his 2nd series, which gave the Bills an early 7-0 lead.

But it was a “next man up” mentality for the Vikings as they showed resiliency in battling back and ultimately blowing Buffalo out of the game early with a barrage of offensive TDs and defensive turnovers. Jackson responded to the INT by leading the Vikings to a TD on the ensuing drive, with the scoring play coming on a 31-yard bomb to WR Sidney Rice down the right sideline, knotting the score at 7.

The defense played another outstanding game coming off last week’s impressive performance against Washington, allowing just 1 offensive TD and 239 net yards. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was pressured constantly, with DE Jared Allen the most frequent pest. Allen had 1.0 sack and a forced fumble, but was in on numerous other defensive plays and QB pressures. S Husain Abdullah led the Vikings in tackles with 7, DT Kevin Williams had a pair of tackles for loss and CB Antoine Winfield grabbed an INT.

Following Jackson’s 1st-quarter INT, the Vikings scored 38 unanswered points and Jackson had help along the way. Rice finished the game with 105 yards and 2 TDs on 5 receptions and RB Adrian Peterson repeatedly punished the Buffalo defense, rushing for 107 yards and 3 TDs on just 16 carries. A couple more INTs by Jackson will take the shine off his performance, but it should be noted that he came in and played well for the offense, completing 15 of 22 passes for 187 yards and 2 TDs to go along with the 3 INTs.

We’ll have more coverage of the Vikings win over Buffalo tonight and into tomorrow here on, so be sure to stay tuned.

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Player Reaction To Coaching Change

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 22, 2010 – 3:42 pm

Several Vikings players have provided their thoughts on the Vikings coaching change. Here’s what they had to say…

DE Jared Allen
“Today is really a mix of emotions. I’m going to miss Coach Childress. Brad brought me here back in 2008, and I’m thankful for that. I wish him nothing but the best. At the same time, Leslie is a stand-up guy who has our respect. He helped turn this defense into a top ten unit year in and year out. Now this will be a chance for him to lead the organization. Leslie’s great at managing players and coaches, and I know the guys will play hard over the next six weeks.”

LB Heath Farwell
“Coach Frazier is very capable of stepping into this role. He’s an even-keel type of guy who has the respect of the locker room. This is a great opportunity for him to showcase his skills as a head coach, and I support him 100%. I feel bad for Coach Childress. Unfortunately he’s the guy that took the fall for us as players who haven’t been playing as well as we should. I have a lot of support for Brad and I wish him and his family the best moving forward.”

QB Brett Favre
“Leslie is a respected, knowledgeable coach and a quality person. I’ve enjoyed being around him the past couple years and I know he’s going to take this opportunity and make the most of it. What you see is what you get with Leslie. He has a background of winning Super Bowls as a player and coach and he knows what it takes to win in the NFL. He can relate to players having been in their shoes himself and will prepare the team well. Brad Childress is a good guy, a man with strong faith and a great family; I wish him the best in the future. I think we all, starting with me, could have done more to make this a successful season.”

LB Chad Greenway
“I’m saddened and humbled by the firing of Coach Childress. He gave me the opportunity to play for this organization and was responsible for bringing me into the NFL. He shouldn’t have to take the fall for our performance on the field, but now we have to move on. I have a lot respect for Coach Frazier. Leslie is a guy we’re very comfortable with. He’s never too up and down, and he does a good job with game-planning and preparing for opponents. He deserves the opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL.”

G Steve Hutchinson
“It’s a tough day because I respect the work that Brad Childress put into this team. Nobody in this locker room would have thought we would be in this position at the start of the season but we have to try to make the most of it now. Brad wanted to win more than anybody, and for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened. I have confidence that Leslie will do a great job moving forward. He’s a standup guy and has a great demeanor.  I know Leslie will be a positive presence for the guys on the team and we’re going to be behind him.”

K Ryan Longwell
“I’m excited for Coach Frazier to have an opportunity to be a head coach. At the same time, it’s disheartening to see Coach Childress go. Ultimately this game comes down to players playing, and we weren’t getting the job done.”

RB Adrian Peterson
“Leslie is a good man and will do a great job as the interim coach. He’s got great football smarts and players can relate to him and vice versa. He has a certain vibe and energy that everyone can feel when they’re around him. When he speaks, guys perk up and tune in. I feel for Coach Childress today. I’ve got the utmost respect for him and I will always owe him. One of my goals when I was drafted here was to win a championship with Coach Childress. He took a chance on me and I’ve always wanted to accomplish our ultimate goals together; I’m sad it didn’t work out that way.”

DT Kevin Williams
“We’re excited to go into the rest of the season with Leslie. We’re ready to roll from here and get back on the field. I wish Brad the best in the future. He and his family were always great to me and my family. As players, we’ve got to move forward from here with a new focus.”

DT Pat Williams
“I’m sad to see Coach Childress leave. I respect him as a coach and a person, but we have to keep fighting as a team for the remainder of the season. Leslie has my full support. He’s a good person and a good coach. He deserves to be a head coach in this league. Whether it’s here or somewhere else after this season, he deserves the opportunity.”

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Vikings Defense – Quiet Dominance

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 8, 2010 – 11:11 am

It will likely go a bit unnoticed this week, but the Vikings defense was dominant in Sunday’s win over the Arizona Cardinals. It will go unnoticed because Arizona finished with 24 points and because the Vikings had such a sensational offensive performance in the 4th quarter and overtime.

But it won’t go unnoticed here. The bottom line is the defense allowed just 10 points (Arizona scored TDs on a kickoff return and a fumbled kickoff by the Vikings), held Arizona to 95 yards in the 2nd half and recorded 6 sacks. And if not for their effort, the offense wouldn’t have been in position to spark a dramatic comeback victory.

The peak of the Vikings defensive performance came at the game’s most crucial moments. The Vikings offense was just stymied at the goal line and Arizona took over on their own 1. The Vikings held Arizona to a quick 3-and-out, which allowed the Vikings offense to drive down the field quickly on the ensuing possession and score a TD to make the score 24-17 in favor of the visiting Cardinals.

Then the Vikings defense held Arizona to another 3-and-out on the next drive, which set up Brett Favre and Co. for the eventual game-tying drive when TE Visanthe Shiancoe came down with a dramatic TD. The Vikings defense held Arizona on a last-second possession to force overtime.

One more time the defense came up big. Another 3-and-out series for Arizona, this one in overtime. The Vikings drove down the field and Ryan Longwell kicked a game-winning 35-yard FG.

In those 4 possessions, the Vikings sacked Cardinals QB Derek Anderson 4 times and held Arizona’s offense to -8 yards in 12 plays.

“We knew it was on us and we wanted to get the ball back for number four and the boys,” LB E.J. Henderson said after the game, “and we knew that they could put up some money and we got it back to them and they scored.”

Another factor that should not go unnoticed is the raucous Mall of America Field crowd, which came alive late in the game and was at its loudest in a long time. The noise clearly impacted Arizona’s offense and provided the Vikings with an advantage.

“They really feed off that crowd,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said of his team. “That’s really an advantage that we’ve come to expect here at the Metrodome, raising the roof off that place. They feed off the positive energy. That’s huge.”

Here are a few more notes on the Vikings defensive performance:
– Arizona had 6 drives that went 3-and-out
– Vikings held Arizona to 20 yards or less on 8 of 11 drives
– Arizona had negative yardage on 2 drives
– Cardinals had multiple 1st downs on just 2 of 11 drives

Very impressive work by Leslie Frazier’s group. Here’s what a few of the key defenders had to say following the game…

“We were making him (Derek Anderson) move all game; he just made some plays. He didn’t just sit in the pocket, he was good with the ball and moving around. We just finally corralled him there at the end, and it was good to do that. That’s how we needed to be playing all year.” — DT Kevin Williams

“I think we had him (Anderson) on his heels a little bit. The crowd had a great impact for us, and the D-line had a little bit quicker step, it seemed like. I think his eyes went quickly from down the field to the rush and everyone around him. That’s what we need in those situations. That’s why it’s fun to play at home.” — LB Ben Leber

“I definitely feel like it was a turning point. It was a crucial four or five minutes and we showed the type of team that we are and the type of heart we have and the camaraderie of the team. As you can see this locker room is like a playoff win so it’s definitely big for us and hopefully it will get us rolling.” — Henderson

“All the guys calmed down. We said, ‘It’s our season. If we lose this game, that’s it, really.’ If we lost, that would have basically been it for us. So, everybody just calmed down and everybody started playing better.” — DT Pat Williams

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Turning Focus To Arizona

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 3, 2010 – 6:46 am

After another close, disappointing loss and then a couple of tumultuous days, it’s finally time to shift our focus to the Vikings next opponent. And that’s the Arizona Cardinals, who will visit Mall of America Field this Sunday and bring with them a 3-4 record that includes 2 straight losses and a 1-3 mark on the road.

The Vikings haven’t looked any better through the first 7 games, though, and they must be about their business to defend home field against a team they’ve become quite familiar with; the Vikings and Cardinals have faced each other in each of the last 3 seasons now and also in 4 of the past 5 seasons.

Under head coach Brad Childress, the Vikings are 3-1 against Arizona and they have a good chance to improve that mark to 4-1 if the defenses can return to form in the friendly confines of home and if RB Adrian Peterson continues his assault on opposing defenses. The Vikings defense ranks 7th in the NFL in offensive points allowed and they are yielding just 12.6 offensive points per game at home. Peterson, meanwhile, is the NFL’s rushing leader with 776 yards on the ground and the Cardinals have the NFL’s 29th ranked run defense. Now there’s a recipe for success if you’re the Vikings.

The Vikings pass rush has failed to be a factor in 2010 but Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Co. have a chance to get back on track this Sunday. The Cardinals have not seen quality play from their QBs this season, with rookie Max Hall supplanting veteran Derek Anderson as the starter but Anderson having to relieve Hall of his duties 3 times already. On top of that, Arizona has surrendered 22 sacks already this season, which is tied for the 5th most in the NFL.

There are a few other important areas of the game where the Vikings have a favorable matchup. Arizona has the 2nd most giveaways on the season, they are converting just 31.4% of their 3rd downs (3rd worst in NFL), they have allowed the 2nd most points per game in the NFL, they have the 27th total defense in the NFL, they are -9 in turnover ratio and they are yielding 25.7 yards per kickoff return.

With all of that being said, we’re foolish to assume this will be an easy victory for the Vikings. Winning in the NFL is never easy and the Vikings have dropped a game at home already this year after going 9-0 at Mall of America Field last season. While Arizona is -9 in turnover ratio, the Vikings aren’t much better at -7. Arizona also features a nice dual rushing attack with Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower. Both RBs are good as runners and receivers out of the backfield. Oh yeah, and Arizona also has this guy named Larry Fitzgerald, Jr., who is arguably the best WR in the NFL and is certainly in the top 3 or 4. He has elite size, speed and ball skills and will be a challenge for the Vikings secondary.

Another thing to like about Arizona is their head coach, Ken Whisenhunt. He came to Arizona in 2007 after serving as the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and he’s done a terrific job in turning the franchise’s fortunes around. A laughing stock not many years ago, Arizona has turned into a winner, as Whisenhunt became the first coach in team history with a .500 record or better in each of his first 3 seasons (8-8 in 2007; 9-7 in 2008; 10-6in 2009). In addition, the Cardinals are 1 of just 2 NFL teams (Vikings) to improve its win total each of the last 3 seasons.

So, it’s a good matchup between the Vikings and Cardinals on Sunday and it’s also a matchup of 2 division-winning teams from a season ago who have struggled out of the gates in 2010. I won’t go as far as to say it’s a “must-win” for both teams, but it’s as close to a must-win scenario as you can get in a Week 9 contest.

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A Look Inside New England’s Trenches

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 28, 2010 – 10:04 am

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress and Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick have developed reputations for being schematic experts on their respective sides of the ball – Childress has tutored explosive offenses with both the Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles while Belichick’s staple is tenacious and versatile defensive strategies.

In analyzing each coach’s ability to find success within their expertise it’s easy to focus on higher-profile names. Childress has utilized Brett Favre, Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson in Minnesota while Belichick has coached players such as Rodney Harrison, Ty Law and Asante Samuel. But in reality, each coach would tell you that much of their success is due to players getting the job done in the trenches, along the offensive and defensive lines.

With that in mind and in light of the Vikings upcoming matchup with the Patriots, let’s take a look at New England’s offensive and defensive line to see what the Vikings have in store this Sunday when they travel to Gillette Stadium.

Patriots Offensive Line: In last week’s win the Patriots starting offensive line consisted of LT Matt Light, LG Dan Connolly, C Dan Koppen, RG Stephen Neal and RT Sebastian Vollmer, the same group that has started all 6 of New England’s contests so far in 2010. So continuity is certainly no issue for New England. The Patriots rank 14th in yards per rushing attempt (4.1) and rushing yards per game (111.2) and they have 5 rushing TDs on the year, which is tied for 12th most. Also, in 3rd-and-4 or less situations (they’ve had 21 such situations), the Patriots have converted 1st downs via the rush 8 out of 9 times. This means that in likely run scenarios the Patriots have been able to consistently find success.

In terms of passing offense, the Patriots have the NFL’s 3rd best passer rating (96.0), which is obviously more of a reflection on QB Tom Brady’s performance than the offensive line. But the line does deserve credit, because Brady has been sacked just 12 times in 198 attempts.

I’m not familiar enough with New England’s offensive line to suggest where the Vikings may be able to exploit mismatches. But I’m willing to suggest 2 areas where it might be most beneficial for the Vikings to find success. The first area is obviously at LT, where DE Jared Allen will be going against Light. It’s been well-chronicled that Allen’s sack totals are down to this point, but he has been pressuring opposing QBs and he also has an INT this year. In this game, though, the Vikings will stand a better chance of defending New England’s passing attack if Allen can not only pressure Brady but also put him on his back. Even the best NFL QBs, which Brady might be, don’t play as well when they’re consistently being hit.

The second area where the Vikings would benefit from production this week is DT Kevin Williams. If Williams is able to win his matchup this week and be a disruptive force, it will help stifle New England’s rushing attack and it will also force Brady to move around in the pocket instead of stepping into his throws.

Patriots Defensive Line: New England is labeled as a 3-4 defensive team, with Gerard Warren anchoring the defensive line at NT and then Vince Wilfork at LE and a combination of Brandon Deaderick and Mike Wright at RE. But as Childress mentioned on Wednesday while meeting with reporters, the Patriots also have the ability and willingness to switch to a 4-man front when they deem necessary.

“It’s a multiple defense,” Childress said. “He (Belichick) has the ability to play two defensive linemen and the rest linebackers in there. You’re going to get unscouted looks. Primarily they’re lining up with a 3-4 look. They have the ability to play a four-down package by putting their outside linebackers on the ground. You have to prepare for a number of different looks.”

Childress cited his experience in Philadelphia coaching against Belichick and the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, where the Eagles anticipated a 3-4 alignment and faced a lot of even fronts instead.

“It’s a great question and it’s one that we kind of lived first-hand when we played them in the Super Bowl,” Childress recalled. “You prepare for 3-4 and they play even with two guys standing in the A gaps. They’re doing some of that now.”

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