So, the season opener has come and gone. The Vikings, unfortunately, sit at 0-1 after opening night. . .not optimal, to be sure, but in no way is everything doom and gloom in Minnesota right now. At least, it shouldn't be, anyway. After all, the Vikings held the best offense they're going to see all season to two touchdowns, despite not having anywhere near optimal personnel on the defensive side of the ball. Their offense also looked out of sync, which is something else that will change as the season progresses.
Starting with the positive, we'll look at the defense. The Vikings went into this game with only three healthy cornerbacks, as well as a guy making his first NFL start at safety in Husain Abdullah. . .and he was rotating into a cornerback position against multiple-receiver sets. This is not going to be the case all year, to be sure. Chris Cook, who was outstanding in camp and likely would have started had he been available, could be back as early as our match-up with the Miami Dolphins, and it appears that Cedric Griffin could be back at almost any time, given the fact that his status was listed as "questionable" prior to the season opener.
Yet, despite those personnel shortcomings in the secondary, they actually played some relatively solid football after getting torched on the game's opening drive. And, please, don't give me anything about how many opportunities the other team "missed." Missed opportunities don't mean anything. . .if they did, the Vikings would have hung a 50 spot in last year's NFC Championship Game, and Thursday night's game would have been played in Minneapolis. The fact of the matter is that the scoreboard says that the Vikings held their opponent to 14 points. For a defense that entered the game as short-handed as the Vikings did, they held their ground much better than many folks expected them to. When Cook and Griffin are back and the Vikings can move Asher Allen to the dime role instead of pushing him out there as a starter, the Minnesota secondary is going to be just as solid as the Minnesota front seven. . .and that's going to spell huge trouble for opposing offenses.
Speaking of offense, allow me to rave for a moment about the abilities of one Visanthe Shiancoe. When the Vikings gave this guy a huge contract before the 2007 season, everyone kind of wondered what the heck was going on. He was a guy that rarely got on the field for the New York Giants, and caught very few passes before coming to Minnesota. And for the first year and a bit of his contract with the Vikings, he was a disaster. . .struggling to get open, and dropping way too many passes when he did. But after the game against the Indianapolis Colts in 2008, a light came on in his head, and he's been one of the best tight ends in football ever since. His TD catch on Thursday was his 19th in the last 33 regular season games. . .and, just as a reminder, the only two NFL players that have more over that time are Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss. He was the only reliable target Brett Favre had on Thursday night, and made two outstanding catches to get Minnesota their lone touchdown.
Which brings us to the rusty, out of sync offense. Rest assured, ladies and gentlemen, the Minnesota offense is not going to be this awful all season. No way. There's too much talent on this offense for that to happen. Yes, the majority of this has to do with Brett Favre not being at training camp, and not having a couple of cupcakes to get himself asserted against first before moving on to the tougher challenges. It showed in the fact that he was off on his timing with the receivers that were out there, and was somewhat apparent on the interception he threw. . .although, on that throw, the only way that Shiancoe getting assaulted could have been more obvious is if Jodie Foster and a pinball machine would have been involved. That portion of things is entirely on Favre, to be certain. . .but the blame doesn't fall completely on him, either.
For example. . .what the heck happened to the running game in the second half? I mean, other than us abandoning it completely. In the first half of the game, Adrian Peterson touched the ball a total of 15 times for 74 yards (57 rushing yards on 13 carries, and 17 yards on two receptions). He then carried the ball on the first three plays of the second half for another 20 yards. From the 13:54 mark of the third quarter until the end of the football game, Adrian Peterson touched the football three more times for 10 more yards, and didn't have a single touch in the entire fourth quarter of play.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is un-freaking-acceptable. And it happens with this team way, WAY more often than it should.
In the first two games of last year, when Favre was still getting acclimated to the Vikings' offense, Adrian Peterson had performances of 25 carries for 180 yards against Cleveland, and 15 carries for 92 yards against Detroit. In those two games, Favre went 14/21 and 23/27 passing the ball, respectively. On Thursday night, Peterson was still averaging around five yards per carry, and more often than not was picking up very good yardage when he got his hands on the ball. . .and our passing game clearly wasn't what it's going to be later on in the season, which one would think would have us running the ball more than throwing it. However, inexplicably, that wasn't the case.
The best player on our football team didn't touch the football in the entire final quarter of play. Try to wrap your head around this for a minute. I mean, this isn't like Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson going an entire quarter without a catch. You can take away a wide receiver. . .you can't take away a running back. Just turn around and hand the guy the damn ball, for crying out loud. I'm not as anti-Brad Childress as I used to be, by any stretch. . .but this is one of those things that frustrates the hell out of me about him. He falls in love with the pass, even when it clearly isn't there, at the expense of not giving the best running back in football the pigskin.
For the next two games, this offense needs to run through Adrian Peterson. Not Brett Favre. Maybe by the time the bye week gets here, the passing offense will finally be in shape and we can sling it around a little more, but right now the offense needs to slam Adrian Peterson at opposing people so the defense can get a rest. . .we saw them wear out at the end of Thursday night's game, and that has to be the exception rather than the norm.
Also, like many of you, I found the lack of Greg Camarillo on Thursday night disturbing. The Vikings needed a guy out there that could find the open spots and get his hands on the ball, and that's what Camarillo does. I know he and Favre don't have a lot of time together yet, and hopefully that will change, too. And, please, if we're not going to put the guy out there as a receiver, put him out there to return punts. . .I'm already tired of Bernard Berrian and his Nick Davis-esque adventures back there, seriously. Watching Berrian try to return punts is, to borrow a phrase, like watching Saimiri sciureus attempt to copulate with a football. I know, Berrian returned a punt for a touchdown once. . .in the same game that saw Tarvaris Jackson throw four touchdown passes. Yeah, tell me that lightning doesn't strike the same place twice.
So, there you have it. . .the season opener is in the books, and we can sit back tomorrow, fire up the ol' Sunday Ticket (if you have access to that sort of thing), and watch whatever games we want. I know that I'll be looking at Miami/Buffalo to try to get a feel for next week's opponent, and there are a lot of other intriguing match-ups tomorrow as well.
And then, a week from tomorrow, we'll be ready for football from the Metrodome for the first time this year. . .and, hopefully, our first victory of the year as well.
But that's all for tonight, folks. . .enjoy what's left of your Saturday, and we'll have an open thread up here tomorrow morning for your football discussing pleasure.