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The Viking Offense: We Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

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Yes, I'm channeling a little Bachman-Turner Overdrive here, but Kevin Seifert brings up a pretty good point in his NFC North blog at about the lack of "explosion" from guys not named Adrian Peterson in the Vikings' offense, and one guy in particular.

The Vikings are 2-0 with a quarterback who quite clearly doesn’t have a firm grasp of the nuances of their offense. Favre is tossing to his checkdown receivers and making other high-efficiency throws at a historic rate relative to his career, essentially using the Vikings’ soft early schedule to catch up on a nonexistent offseason.

. . .

"I feel like the full playbook is not being implemented," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "But that’s to be expected. He’s trying to get down this offense and get everybody on the same page. The downfield pass is the last thing to come. We have to protect the quarterback a little better. Right now, we’re doing a lot of play-action, a lot of short passing and stuff like that."

To this point, Brett Favre has thrown 48 regular season passes as a Viking, and 70 total passes in his four appearances as the Vikings' quarterback if you include the pre-season.  He currently has fewer yards through the air (265) and is averaging fewer yards per attempt (5.5 ypa) than Adrian Peterson (272 yards rushing and 6.8 ypc).  But now that Favre has, essentially, played his pre-season when you consider his two actual pre-season games and his two efforts against Cleveland and Detroit to start the regular season, one would think that the offense might now start opening up a little bit, especially with the Vikings finally getting to head to the Metrodome for their next two contests.

It's a bit arrogant to say. . .or even imply. . .that a team has looked at a couple of regular season opponents as "tune-up" games before they really get into the swing of things, but the more I think about it, the more it becomes pretty clear that that's how Brad Childress looked at the games against the Browns and the Lions.  The Vikings have come out sluggish in both of their contests thus far in 2009, having gone into the locker room against Cleveland trailing 13-10 and trailing Detroit 10-7.  Against the Browns, they came out in the second half and scored 24 unanswered points before allowing a garbage-time touchdown in a 34-20 victory.  Against the Lions, they scored the last seven points of the first half and the first 20 points of the second half en route to winning 27-13.  That gives them a margin of 44-10 in the second half of the first two contests. . .and, frankly, that's what good football teams do.  They come out of the locker room at halftime, make the necessary adjustments, and destroy the team on the other side of the line from them.

And, yes, I just used the phrase "make the necessary adjustments" to describe a team coached by Brad Childress.  Believe me, I'm as surprised as you are.

As of now, Brett Favre is on pace to throw a mere 384 passes at his current rate of 24 attempts/game.  That would be, by far, the lowest total of his NFL career. . .his current low-water mark in that category is 471 attempts, a figure he put up in 1992 and in 2003.  He had QB ratings of 85.3 and 90.4 in those seasons, respectively.  Adrian Peterson is also on pace thus far to only rack up 320 carries.  Then again, if he were to somehow keep up at his current pace. . .not likely, but work with me here. . .he'd rush for 2,176 yards and 32 touchdowns this season, both of which I think we could handle.

Is the Vikings' offense full of flash at this point?  Outside of Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, it is not.  But right now we have a quarterback that's clearly still learning this offense, yet still went out on Sunday and completed an astonishing 85% of his passes (and is at a 77% clip on the season thus far).  They have the best player in football lining up in the backfield, and a serious Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate lining up wherever the Vikings want to put him.  They still have the steady inside presence of Visanthe Shiancoe, they still have the deep speed of Bernard Berrian, and they still have the outstanding athletic ability of Sidney Rice.

Is the Vikings offense going to continue along the path it is now?  It's hard to imagine that it will.  It's going to get a heck of a lot better before things are all said and done.