Cut the guy on the left, get the guy on the right the ball more, mmkay?
The Vikes have one game in the books, and for most of us in Vikings Nation, we see dark clouds on the horizon, and that's reflected in what the Holy Trinity is talking about.
As fans, we tend to overreact too much in either direction with each win or loss--I know I tend to do that. I've tried to look at the positives of the game--Adrian Peterson, special teams, the defense for most of the game--but there were a lot of problem areas that have us worried.
39 yards passing being at the top of most people's list. Two days later, and it's still terrible.
So what is the Trinity talking about on The Day After The Day After?
We'll start with Mark Craig of the Star Tribune, after the jump.
Craig gives us a list of what are his the top three concerns, and I only have a minor disagreement with him. He lists the offensive line, covering backs coming out of the backfield, and halftime adjustments.
I mentioned in the SMR I thought the o-line was decent to good in the first half, but yeah, that second half was something else. Which line is the one we're going to see against Tampa Bay? I don't know, but I do know that if the second half offensive line is closer to the truth than the first half, Minnesota will be lucky to win five games.
I didn't like the underneath stuff the Vikes were giving up to the Charger running backs, particularly late in the second half, but I think they were more concerned about getting beat deep, consequently giving up some of the underneath stuff. Had the Vikings been able to tackle as well as they usually do, I think the damage wouldn't have been nearly so bad in that regard. I thought the Vikes scheme overall was pretty good, but their execution in tackling was poor. And I'm not one to make excuses for the defense, but by the end of the game you could tell they were gassed, so I understand it, at least to some degree. I even saw Antoine Winfield try an arm tackle that turned into a 20+ yard gain on a RB swing pass, which is very unusual. I won't give them a pass on this, but I will give them a week 1 benefit of the doubt. With guys like Fed Pagac and Mike Singletary on the defensive staff, tackling will be a very correctable problem.
Finally, halftime adjustments. Complete agreement here. Football is a funny game, and it was odd to see a team that was doing pretty good in moving the ball do so poorly in the second half. I still don't understand what Bill Musgrave was thinking using the Webbcat when he did; it just seemed to kill any momentum the Vikings had on offense.
Next up, Jeremy Fowler over at the Pioneer Press spreads the blame around, and doesn't pin it all on McNabb's horrid performance. Kind of a telling quote from the story here:
After watching the video, coach Leslie Frazier noticed a few adjustments that could have helped the Vikings - receivers coming back to the football another yard, offensive linemen holding blocks longer, the quarterback getting the ball off sooner.
There's two points of view here. The optimist could look at that quote and think that a couple minor adjustments from some key players, and this offense will be okay. And there's some truth to that.
Troy Williamson Bernard Berrian dropped a potentially HUGE pass in the second half, and McNabb over threw Percy Harvin on what looked like a well developed screen in the third quarter. Both could have been momentum changing plays, if not touchdowns. Berrian's ball was underthrown but still catchable. Had McNabb not been hurried and been able to lead BB on that play, it would've been a score, as Berrian had beat the defender by five yards. The pesimist could say that this is a veteran-laden offense, they've been in this system for over a month, and they still can't get on the same page. It doesn't matter what Charlie Johnson does to adjust; he's just not going to be able to get it done, ditto McNabb and Berrian. I'm taking a cautiously optimistic approcah. I thought the Vikings were doing well, for the most part, in the first half, and just executed poorly in the second half, at least on offense. But we shall see.
Finally, Tom Pelissero at ESPN 1500 grades out each position on a 0-5 scale, and it's not pretty. He gives McNabb 1/2 a point, while the special teams grades out at 4 1/2. I thought he downgraded the defensive backs unnecessarily (2 out of 5), but it's tough to lobby for a higher grade when you see that Philip Rivers had over 300 yards passing. But overall, I was pleased with Cedric Griffin, Antoine Winfield, (who Pelissero says had three missed tackles on Sunday while having only five missed tackles all of last year) and Chris Cook.
Corporate Overlord Bonus: Kevin Seifert over at ESPN's NFC North blog reports that the Vikings ran 15 of 19 times on first down, and I'm surprised that it wasn't more. He also relays this quote from Frazier about that skewed statistic:
That is something you have to guard against. They were stacking the line of scrimmage, and when that happens, you have to take advantage of that down the field. That is something that we are going to a look at. Adrian is such a threat, and such a focal part of our offense, we have to be aware of how people are going to try to defend us. This game will hopefully be one of those games that we look back on and will have helped us.
Well, let's hope that the Vikings can look at the tape and fix it. One thing that impressed me in the pre-season was at how varied the play calling was, and that Bill Musgrave seemed to know what play to call whatever situation the Vikes were in. On Sunday, however, Minnesota was consistently faced with third and 5 or more yards against the Chargers, and this offense seems like it best operates best with manageable down and distance situations. This isn't a deep strike team, and third and longs are something that they can't consistently find success in.
And with this, I close the book on the San Diego game and move forward towards Tampa Bay. The Bucs are a good team, with a good young quarterback, and Tiki Barber's twin brother. With the NFC North looking like the toughest division in football, the Vikings can ill afford to go 0-2 out of the gate.