First, let’s state the obvious. The Vikings won the game, and they’ve started the season 2-0. Both victories have come on the road, a difficult task to accomplish in the NFL. I’d rather be 2-0 with two ugly wins than 0-2 and staring in the abyss of a lost season like the Vikes were this time last season.
To feed the ‘NFL is in a conspiracy against the Vikings’ wing of Viking fandom, only one other team has started with two games on the road, and that would be the St Louis Rams. To no one’s surprise, they are 0-2. Winning on the road is tough, winning on the road two weeks in a row is tougher still, and winning on the road by two touchdowns in each game while playing bad football in the first half of both of those games is just short of remarkable. So to all you Chicken Littles that can’t take pleasure in a road win in the division, lighten up. It’s a win and the Vikings are undefeated. I’ll take it.
Since 1990, teams that start 2-0 have a 65% chance of making the playoffs. If you go 1-1, your chances drop to 40%. 0-2? 14% make the post season (one of those teams being your 2008 Minnesota Vikings).
So what does this all mean? It means the Vikes should be grateful to be coming home with two hard fought road victories, but they need to get some things figured out, because they won’t be playing Cleveland and Detroit every week. Let’s get on with the post mortem, shall we?
Run Offense: B-. Just like last week, Adrian Peterson was stopped cold in the first half and ran wild in the second. But he put the ball on the turf during a promising opening drive, sending the Vikings offense into a first half tailspin that they didn’t pull out of until a minute remained in the first half. That said, the line and AP got on the same page in the second half, and took control of the game. The Vikings need more consistency, obviously, but I like that they were able to take control of the game when Detroit gift wrapped it for them early in the third quarter. And here’s a bit of advice to teams playing the Vikings: don’t piss off Adrian Peterson. There’s running angry, there’s running pissed off, and then there’s running Hannibal Lecter. When you run Hannibal Lecter, you peel off someone’s face and eat their liver. That’s what Adrian Peterson was doing in the second half.
Pass Offense: B. Again, unimpressive numbers yardage wise, but 23-27 with 2 TD’s and no interceptions was very impressive. In two games, Favre has 265 yards passing, which is about three possessions for Drew Brees. But you know something, so what? The TD pass to TE Visanthe Shiancoe at the end of the first half was a huge momentum swing, and the TD pass to Percy Harvin in the fourth quarter was the dagger. I don’t know what to make of the amount of sacks the Vikings are giving up, though. Favre was dumped three times again on Sunday, but one of those definitely looked like a coverage sack where Favre chose to eat the ball as opposed to forcing it. Either way, when you have a 40 year old quarterback and a lot of money/high draft picks invested in your offensive line, they have to keep him cleaner.
Run Defense: C+. Once is an anomaly, twice is a trend, three times is a pattern. Kevin Smith absolutely gashed the Vikings run defense in the first half, allowing rookie Matthew Stafford to get comfortable and play with favorable down and distance situations nearly the entire first 30 minutes. I’m not the defensive coordinator (and we may all thank the Lord for that), but it seemed like the Vikings linebackers were missing gap assignments the entire first half. Just like last week, the Vikings made good adjustments at halftime, forced a turnover that lead to a touchdown, and then took control of the game, but Frank Gore is just a wee bit better than Kevin Smith, and an uninspired opening half could be disastrous with a quality opponent like the 49ers. They must come out stronger and play with more consistency early on, or they will dig a hole that they will have a tough time crawling out of.
Pass Defense: B. Yes, Calvin Johnson scored a touchdown, but he only had 5 catches for 51 yards. When you're talking about one of the most talented wide receivers in the game, I'll take it The Vikings were on their heels early, but as the game wore on, and it was put on Stafford’s shoulders, the defense was able to make some plays and keep Detroit from making the big play. Chad Greenway made two very nice interceptions, and Madieu Williams was putting the wood to people in the first half. They did have a busted coverage in the fourth quarter that allowed Bryant Johnson to break free deep, but Stafford overthrew him. They did a good job of pressuring Stafford and making him uneasy in the second half, and Jared Allen and Ray Edwards had two nice sacks to set the tempo early in the third quarter.
Special Teams: B+. The Vikings did a fine job on both kick and punt coverage, Ryan Longwell was money kicking FG’s, but had only okay distance on kickoffs, and Chris Kluwe did a good job punting the ball. Kluwe averaged 42.5 yards on 4 punts and gave the punt coverage team enough hangtime that the Lions only managed 1 return for 7 yards, compared to three fair catches. Best all around effort on special teams in over a year.
Coaching: B. A 14 point win on the road is nothing to scoff at, even if it is Detroit. The slow starts are a concern, and if you combine them with the conservative play calling and the possibility of a two score deficit if they start slow against a quality opponent, you have the makings of a disaster on your hands. Run defense has to get better and the play calling needs to improve (throw down the field once in a while!), but I like the halftime adjustments and the sense of urgency that the team played with in the second half. That sense of urgency needs to appear a lot earlier in the game, but it’s better than not showing up at all, like it has with too much frequency in the Brad Childress era.