Having already gotten one of my playoff picks wrong, and thereby proving why I don't handicap games for a living, let's get some actual Vikings-related content up here. Let's take a look back at the season that was for the 2006 Minnesota Vikings.
This season was one of the more disappointing ones we've had to endure in recent Vikings' history. Everyone just assumed that getting rid of Mike Tice was going to make the Vikes a better team, and that they were in a position to really make some noise in the NFC.
Well, the offense made plenty of noise. . .unfortunately, most of it resembled the sound of flatulence. Only six teams (Carolina, Houston, Miami, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and Oakland) scored fewer points than the Vikings did. However, to truly see how bad the Minnesota offense was, we need to take into account the fact that of the 32 touchdowns the Vikings scored in 2006, 6 came on various types of returns that the offense had nothing to do with.
-Mewelde Moore's punt return against New England
-E.J. Henderson's interception return against Detroit
-Antoine Winfield's interception return against Chicago
-Fred Smoot's interception return against Green Bay
-Ben Leber's fumble recovery against Detroit
-Kevin Williams' fumble recovery against Seattle
Billy McMullen was also credited with a "fumble recovery" for a TD in the first game against the Green Bay, but we'll be charitable and count that as an offensive TD. The Vikings also got an "offensive touchdown" on a fake field goal against Carolina on a pass thrown by kicker Ryan Longwell. . .we'll be EXTRA charitable and let the offense have credit for that one, too.
Take away the return touchdowns of various types listed above, and the Vikings' scoring average goes from a really bad 17.6 points/game to an outright pathetic 15.3 points/game. Considering that only two teams Chicago and Tennessee) had more "non-offensive" touchdowns than the Vikings did, it stands to reason that such a difference could drop the Vikings from their "lofty" perch of 26th in the league in scoring.
(Yes, I realize I'm wearing out my " key thus far. I get that way when I feel overly sarcastic. Keyboards can be replaced.)
The main culprits behind this, in no particular order, are the Brads. . .Johnson and Childress. Childress' play-calling was SO predictable. Run on first down, run on second down, throw the ball 3 yards short of the sticks on third down, punt. . .lather, rinse, repeat. The Vikes would look great on almost every opening drive, the opposing defense would adjust, and Childress wouldn't.
And boy howdy, where would we have been without our great, outstanding "game manager" of a quarterback, Brad Johnson? If you read our SBN post-season awards, you'll notice that #14 was my choice for the worst player in football this year, and I honestly don't think it was even close. He was nearly as proficient in scoring points for the other team than he was in scoring them for Minnesota. Shoot, against teams not located in Arizona or Detroit, he was outright putrid this season.
Now he's saying he'd like to go to another team as a starter. Yeah, good luck with that, Brad. Nobody was going to sign you to be a starter two years ago, the Vikings didn't sign you to be a starter, and there's no team in the league that's going to sign you to be a starter now. Be sure to not let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
The other, slightly less alarming part of the team that was bad (less alarming in my opinion, anyway) was the pass defense. They tied with the Cincinnati Bengals for the most passing yards allowed in the league (238.6 yards/game). There were also only 7 teams that had fewer sacks than the 30 mustered by the Vikings. However, I think this is more easily fixed than the offense, so that's why it's not quite as disappointing.
So, let's get to the good stuff.
Not everyone on the offense was disappointing this year. Chester Taylor proved himself to be a pretty good back, becoming the first Vikings' RB since Michael Bennett in 2002 to go over 1,000 rushing yards. He wound up with 1,216 yards and 6 touchdowns, including a Vikings' team record score of 95 yards in the game in Seattle. He's shown that he's more than capable of carrying the load for a full season. He was pretty much the only member of the Vikings' offense worthy of any real positive praise in the 2006 season.
The other real bright spot on this team was the defense. . .not just the near-historically good run defense, but the pass defense wasn't as bad as the yardage numbers (see above) would indicate.
Yes, the Vikings gave up more passing yards than any team in the league. . .however, only three teams allowed fewer passing touchdowns than Minnesota's 15. Those three teams were New England (10), Jacksonville (12), and Denver (13). Also, only four teams managed to corral more interceptions than Minnesota's 21. Those teams were Baltimore (28), Chicago (24), Green Bay (23), and New England (22).
This team is basically a pass rusher away from being an outstanding all-around defense. They need someone that can get to the quarterback on a regular basis. Getting Erasmus James back next season will help, and Ray Edwards has shown some flashes. . .but they really need to find a Dwight Freeney type of pass rusher. I know those types of players don't exactly grow on trees or anything, but even someone that's just a notch below that would be helpful.
Also, the Vikings allowed 32 touchdowns as a team this season. The Vikings' defense allowed 24 touchdowns. No team allowed more return touchdowns than the 8 allowed by Minnesota.
-2 @ Miami (1 INT return, 1 fumble return)
-2 @ Chicago (1 INT return, 1 punt return)
-2 vs. Arizona (1 kickoff return, 1 fumble return)
-1 vs. St. Louis (1 INT return)
-1 @ Detroit (1 INT return)
Take those away, and the Vikings' defense goes from allowing 20.1 points a game (good enough for 14th in the NFL) down to 16.9 points per game (good enough for 4th). That's a significant jump. Only two defenses gave up fewer touchdowns than Minnesota's 24. . .New England and Baltimore each gave up only 21 defensive touchdowns.
So, this team will be fine, if the offense can stop giving the other team points. There's no reason to think that the Vikings will be as bad in 2007 as they were in 2006.
But then again, I'm biased.
That's all for tonight, folks. . .all these numbers and stuff make my head hurt. Continue having a good weekend, folks.