Okay. This is a few days overdue, but it took me that long to go back and watch the game again. My impression during and after the game this weekend is that the Vikings 1st string offensive line looked very good. That seemed to be particularly so on the running plays. My impression after watching the game again last night and rewinding and playing each play two or three times is that the O-line really rocked the house on the runs. Peterson and Booker both had big holes to run through. On one play that seemed a bit a bit slow to develop, the O-line created a virtual TUNNEL for Peterson to run through. Peterson got 7 yards on the play, but it was most notable for how amazing the blocking was. Hutch and Kleinsasser stood their guys up with Hutch being several yards down the field. Johnson pulled and sealed off the other side with help from the rest of the gang.
All in all, the running game was a thing of beauty to watch. Here are my quick impressions of each play:
Play 1: Peterson cuts the wrong way in the hole and is tackled for a short gain.
2: Nice pass to Kleinsasser for a nice gain.
3: Big hole for Peterson to run through. Peterson makes a nifty move once through the hole and picks up 11.
4: 2 and 3 for a 2 yard gain.
5: The running play swings left and the Cowboys are pushed several yards off of the line of scrimmage!
6: Play action pass for a TD to Berrian. (Just a side note on this play: Berrian didn't beat his corner as some have said. His corner played off him and released him to the safety (Sensenbaugh) who was slow to get over in coverage and got beat (that happens in pre-season play). Berrian made the most of the opportunity including adding some drama as he let the ball slip to his thigh before regaining control).
1. Peterson gains 9 yards on a run to the left. The line of scrimmage was a bit of a mess on this play and Peterson showed good speed and athleticism to get the yards.
2. Big hole which Peterson exploits for a 5 yard gain.
3. Then three passes including a Berrian 15 yard catch across the middle, an incomplete to Berrian (tough to catch), and then Booker out of the backfield for a catch. All of this was followed by the infamous blocked field goal.
1. Peterson makes a bad decision to jump outside once he hits the hole.
2. A big gap translates into a big gain of over 10 yards for Peterson
Even Booker got into the action at this point. There was a huge hole for him to run through which he made the most of by racking up 10 yards on the run.
After a nice grab by the battling Jenkins for 15 yards, McNabb threw a bad ball that ended up being easily intercepted. I did notice on this play that Berrian kind of half-assed his attempt to touch down the defender with the ball. At the point Berrian "pushed him" the defender was already in the process of standing. Had the defender not lost his balance, Berrian's laziness would have cost the Vikings some pretty big yards IMO.
Next possession (2nd half McNabb):
Noteable plays (only noteable because they are in my notes):
1. Berrian drops a tough catch but IMO our battling WRs Jenkins, Arceneaux and Aromashodu probably would have come down with it. This reminded me of one of disappointments with Berrian. For a guy who no longer seems to be able to get seperation on deep routes (unless released by the CB apparently), he never seems to win the battles for the ball like Rice did and Jenkins, Arceneaux and Aromashodu do.
2. Harvin makes a catch for a first down.
3. Booker take a hand off, the middle of the line is all jammed up, but he gets 2 yards on the play anyway.
4. There's a bad drop by Harvin on 3rd down which ends the drive.
After this series of downs, it became the Joe Webb show. However this post is about our O-line and the fact that I owe them an apology.
I was pretty down on these guys. I thought Johnson was going to be regularly overpowered. I figured Hutch's play last year was as much a function of his age and his injury. Sullivan was virtually dead to me at the end of last year due to his missed blocking assignments, being overpowered and horrible shot gun snaps. I was sort of okay with Herrera. He struck me as average but not as bad as some seem to feel about him. That said, he's getting up there in years and ACL injuries aren't good for anyone at any age, so I had significant doubts about him coming into this season. And lastly Loadholt. He looks slow on pass protection and has a habit of jumping too early and holding his guys. While I'm still not totally onboard with Sullivan and Loadholt, they played just fine (though Loadholt still had some difficulties). However, the other guys were magnificent on the running plays, and their pass protection wasn't bad either.
And there's another guy I need to apologize to as well. He's a quasi-lineman who I felt had left his best days behind him. I'm talking about Kleinsasser. Last year I felt he had noticeable trouble with some of his blocking assignments in a way that he never had before. He was also frequently flagged for penalties. This preseason he's been very, very good. I'm thrilled he's on the team.
I'm also thrilled with the way the O-line played this past weekend, and I'm starting to see reasons for hope despite a brutal schedule this year. I'm not calling "playoffs" at this point, but I am saying, "I was wrong." The O-line far exceeded my expectations on Saturday.
So, here it is: "I'm sorry." Keep up the good work.