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The Advent of the Shutdown Quarterback

Some NFL teams have what are called "shutdown cornerbacks."  A defensive back that you can put on the other team's best wide receiver and, for the most part, expect him to stop that receiver from exploiting your defense to a certain extent.  There have been a few of those in Minnesota over the history of the team. . .but now, the Vikings are revolutionizing the game in a way never thought possible.

Yes, folks. . .for the first time in NFL history, a team is taking the field with a shutdown quarterback.  Unfortunately, the team that's trying this bold experiment is the team that all of us (or at least most of us, I assume) cheer for every Sunday afternoon.

A fairly stunning stat from this article on the Star-Tribune's website by Kevin Seifert.

Based on an unofficial review of their nine games, the Vikings have had 27 plays this season in which they have completed a third-down pass but still not gained a first down. In other words, nearly half of quarterback Brad Johnson's 59 third-down completions have fallen short of the conversion mark.

Those numbers are partially attributable to penalties that have put the Vikings in third-and-long situations. The figures also indicate a tendency that places a premium on players making yards after the catch.

Third-down back Mewelde Moore has caught 15 of the 27 too-short passes, including three in Sunday's 23-17 loss to Green Bay. Moore caught a 2-yard pass on third-and-16 in the second quarter, a 9-yard pass on third-and-18 in the third quarter and a 12-yard pass on third-and-14 in the fourth quarter.

Pathetic.  Seriously, that's just pathetic and sad.  This team needs to convert third downs on a regular basis to be successful, and they're just not doing it.  Sure, a small bit of it is due to penalties . .you won't get any argument from me on that front.  However, as a team, the Vikings are only converting their third down opportunities at a 33.8% clip, only 24th best in the NFL.

So, roughly two out of every three times the Vikings line up for a third down play, it's immediately followed up by a fourth down play.  For a team that has absolutely no margin for error, this is unacceptable.  This team can't possibly expect to win this way, and they won't if this trend continues.  It's hard to have long, clock-chewing drives if you're constantly forced to punt.

This team needs to start looking downfield more.  Even if the receivers DON'T catch it, at least make the other team respect the fact that it's there.  This horizontal offense BS simply isn't working.  Of course, our shutdown quarterback might not be able to get it that far more than once or twice a game, which hurts us, too.

If the Vikings go to Miami this Sunday and look completely miserable, then something is going to have to be done about the quarterback situation.  It doesn't matter if it's Bollinger or Jackson. . .hell, bring Jeff George's rickety old ass in here and let him run the show for a while.  Send him a playbook now so he can get caught up.  But if this team is going to have any chance of salvaging this season, the offense needs to start picking it up.