Well, that was a toe stub, wasn't it? As you know, the Vikings lost to the Saints 14-9 last night, and I'm starting off the season with a major
hangover buzzkill. I'm sure we all have our own ways to deal with our anger. For me, I impale puppies and kittens in front of handicapped orphans. It's my way of giving back, you know?
As bad as the outcome was, there were a lot of positive signs and takeaways that make me think this team is still going to be one of the few standing in January. And in that vein, I give you 'Reason to Believe', by Bruce Springsteen. It's a deep cut off his 'Nebraska' album (yes, they will always be albums, kids), which I think is his best work.
As the Boss says, '...at the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe.' And Viking fans, we may be disappointed, but we have many Reasons To Believe this morning.
Stock Market Report, after the jump.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Adrian Peterson, RB. Adrian Peterson ran with anger, purpose, and violence last night, but it wasn't enough. One thing the Vikings were able to do, at least on a fairly consistent basis, was to run the ball effectively. Last year, it seemed that every other run was for no gain or a loss, and I didn't see that last night. Well, except when Albert Young carried the ball.
Visanthe Shiancoe, TE. Shiancoe was Favre's favorite target last night, and he came up huge, including the lone Vikings TD. I can't go one enough about Shiancoe's transformation here in Minnesota. He arrived from New York known as Jeremy Shockey's back up, dropped a lot of passes his first season, but has become arguably a Pro Bowl level player. He was the only reliable receiver Favre had on the field last night, and has emerged as a deadly red zone threat, as evidenced last night.
Chad Greenway, EJ Henderson and Ben Leber, LB's. The starting linebackers were all over the place last night, and EJ Henderson was flying around. Holding the Saints to 14 points was an impressive achievement and Leber, Greenway, and Henderson played a big part of that.
The Offensive Line. There were a couple of breakdowns, but overall, I thought the line played well. John Sullivan acquitted himself well, considering he had virtually no playing time in the pre-season. When Bryant McKinnie went out with a finger injury...that required he be carried off on a cart, WTF?...Phil Loadholt moved to the left side and Ryan Cook was inserted on the right side. My immediate thought was...unprintable. Loadholt got schooled on the first play he was in on the left side, but after that, both Loadholt and Cook were fine. Considering the situation they were put into, I had no problems with their play. Favre had time most of the night to make throws, and Peterson had holes to run through. Really, what more can you ask for?
Leslie Frazier, Defensive Coordinator. The Vikings had some breakdowns on defense, yes, and the first drive of the Saints was disconcerting, but overall I thought that was a tremendous gameplan that limited the high powered Saints offense to 14 points at home. The Saints were unable to run the ball for most of the night, and Drew Brees looked confused at times, which is something that rarely happens. The Vikings as a whole need to get better in several areas, defense included, but if Frazier can get the defense to hold teams to 14 points or less every week, they'll be an 11 or 12 win team.
Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin, WR's. They needed to step up last night, and didn't. Harvin and Favre misfired on a couple of throws that could have been big plays, and Berrian dropped a critical third down pass on a drive that ended up being a field goal when the Vikes really could've used a touchdown. The Saints played in zone coverage most of the night, and the receivers were unable to find the seams in the zone or get separation from the defender on a consistent basis. These guys are too talented to perform this way every week, and they'll be back, but last night was a very forgettable performance for both of them.
Brett Favre, QB. Favre had decent stats and a sweet TD pass to Shiancoe, but threw a horrible interception and looked out of sync with his receivers. He overthrew or underthrew several open guys, and seemed to checkdown to the backs and tight ends quite a bit. I don't know if he was unsure of where the receiver was going to go and hesitated to throw the ball, or if the receivers were covered, but Favre looked out of sync with his receivers all night long.
Buy: The Vikings run defense for three quarters.
Sell: The Vikings run defense in the fourth quarter. When they absolutely needed a stop, they couldn't get it, and the Saints ran out the clock. Is there a reason that the VIkings didn't adjust to the inside cutback? Anyone?
Buy: Greg Camarillo's clutch third down catch. Nice play by a guy that was brought in to do just that.
Sell: Greg Camarillo barely seeing the field. Was there a reason he wasn't in there? Favre was inaccurate, and Camarillo has hands like glue. Seems like he should've been a bigger part of the offense last night.
Buy: Percy Harvin being fully healthy. Andrea Kremer reported that when he collapsed on the practice field, his heart stopped. That just sends chills up and down my spine, and I immediately think about Korey Stringer. But it sounds like they found out that he has sleep apnea, which was the trigger for is migraines, and they're treating him for that. Honestly, that was the best new I heard all night.
Sell: Not using a 100% Percy Harvin on more misdirection plays. Last year the Vikes had a lot of formations where Harvin would go in motion, and they would either fake a handoff to him or give him the ball. WIth Favre and Harvin unable to connect through the air, I thought the Vikings might try and get Harvin more involved in the offense that way. They didn't, and my fantasy team suffered for it. Thanks, Chilly.
Buy: The Vikings running game.
Sell: The Albert Young part of the Vikings running game. He looked slow, tentative, and easy to tackle. Other than that, he looked great.
Buy: Punt and Kick Coverage. Overall, I thought the Vikings did a good job against two of the better returners in the NFL, especially Reggie Bush on punt returns. K Ryan Longwell had good distance and hangtime on his kicks, and the cover team did just that.
Sell: Blocked Extra Point. Flat out unacceptable.
Buy: Antoine Winfield. He got burned on one play that I can think of off the top of my head, but he was a big part of the defense playing so well last night. Man, when he goes to tackle someone, they don't get away. Glad to see him back healthy.
Sell: The rest of the cornerbacks suited up last night. Once Chris Cook and Cedric Griffin get back healthy, I firmly believe that the Vikings will have a very talented group of CB's. However, Asher Allen is the weak point. he got burned for the first score, and receivers got behind him all night. If a couple of balls don't get dropped, the Saints could've put up a lot more points.
Buy: Taylor Swift on the pregame. Seriously, I'd pay a lot of money to be able to...nevermind.
Sell: Dave Matthews. Didn't sound so good live, but that could've been distortion because of the TV feed. And maybe he's a really laid back guy, I don't know, but the dude looked absolutely BAKED last night.
So week one is in the books. The Vikes are 0-1, but come home to the Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humprey Metrodome to face the Miami Dolphins in 10 days. The extra time allows Cook and Griffin to get healthy, and hopefully Toby Gerhart as well. I'm not nearly as distressed over this loss. Like I said, there's room for improvement, but there's also some good things that came out of last night's game. This defense is for real, the passing game will get there, and the o-line and Adrian Peterson look to be back in tthe 2008 form. Favre and the receivers will be ready to go for Miami, and I expect Dolphin on a Stick for football dinner next week.