StarTribune.com

October 2006


QB situation, Popeye and injuries

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

One day after pulling Brad Johnson in the fourth quarter of the Vikings’ 31-7 loss to New England, coach Brad Childress said Tuesday that he planned to start the veteran on Sunday at San Francisco.

Childress said he does not consider himself a “short hook” guy when it comes to his quarterbacks, but clearly the three interceptions Johnson threw Monday were more than Childress could stomach.

“After coaching quarterbacks over the course of time, I’m not a short-hook guy but by the same token it’s kind of like Popeye, ‘That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more,’” Childress said. “And that was it.”

Childress, who really did quote Popeye to perfection, revealed the Vikings are banged up coming out of the New England loss.

– Defensive tackle Kevin Williams suffered a high ankle sprain on the second play of the game. “To his credit he fought through,” Childress said. “He’s treating it right now and we’ll just have to see how it goes through the week here. Short week.”

– Middle linebacker Napoleon Harris has a dislocated wrist and a cast has been placed on the injury. “We’ll see how he comes through the week and if he’s able to play here at the end of the week,” Childress said. “We’ll just have to check his comfort level as we go through the week.”

– Center Matt Birk hyperextended his knee.

– Nose tackle Pat Williams has “moderate swellling,” in his knee.

The two biggest concerns likely are Kevin Williams and Harris. If Harris can’t play Sunday at San Francisco, Childress said strong-side linebacker Ben Leber could move to the middle or Dontarrious Thomas could slide into the spot. “We could end up tag teaming that thing but I think that will probably evolve as we go through the week here,” Childress said.

Also, receiver Marcus Robinson (back) continues to rehab his injury but it’s unclear if he will be available Sunday at San Francisco.

The rankings

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Brad Childress will address the media at 1:15 p.m. this afternoon. We’ll have a report for you shortly thereafter. In the meantime, here are some stats involving the Vikings.

In total offense they fell from 12th to 17th, including 18th in rushing and 14th in passing. Through Week 7, the Vikings had been tied for 10th in rushing and 15th in passing. The defense dropped from 7th to 12th. It is second against the run but went from 18th to 26th against the pass.

Running back Chester Taylor, who was second in the NFL in rushing through Week 7, is now tied for seventh with 612 yards on 147 carries. Denver’s Tatum Bell also has 612 yards.

What happened?

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

There was never any question the Vikings’ run defense was ahead of the pass defense. But what New England coach Bill Belichick did Monday night was provide teams with a blue print for how to draw up a game plan against the Vikings.

Essentially, Belichick proved it was OK to abandon the run against the Vikings. New England only ran the ball 15 times. The rest of the time the Patriots operated through the air. Tom Brady completed 29 of 43 passes for 372 yards and four touchdowns. In all, Brady completed passes to 10 different receivers in the Patriots’ 31-7 victory.

The key, of course, is that Brady is a special player and the Vikings don’t figure to face a guy like him again this season. “Brady is hands down the best in the league,” Vikings safety Darren Sharper said.

Still, Sharper had some concerns about what had just happened to the defense in front of a national television audience. “We were a lot off,” he said. “You let a guy throw for [nearly] 400 yards. I know it’s Tom Brady but still. We didn’t make enough plays and he just dissected us as a defense. We’re going to be back. We know we have a good team. You don’t face Tom Brady every week. Hopefully we see these guys at the end in the big dance, if we can get there, but we have a lot of things to improve on.”

Cornerback Antoine Winfield also praised Brady. “I’ve played against him a few times and I’ve never seen him do what he did to us tonight,” Winfield said. “We just have to go back to the drawing board and get ready for San Fran next week.”

While Winfield and Sharper talked, safety Dwight Smith continued to refuse to speak with the media after losses. Asked why he only talks after victories, Smith said he’s too emotional and might say something he would later regret.

You have to give the guy credit for having a reason for remaining silent.

– Will Hunter is on the Vikings’ roster mainly because of his ability to contribute on special teams. Thus, Hunter provided good perspective on the third-quarter sequence that saw Mewelde Moore return a punt 71 yards for a touchdown and then was followed by Laurence Maroney’s 77-yard kickoff return that set up a Patriots touchdown.

“We have to make a play, simple as that,” Hunter said. “We have to go out there and have some pride in what we do. We had a big return and we changed momentum we felt like. … Me personally, I take the blame for that [Maroney] return as a special teams guy. I think we put the dagger in ourselves on that play. We’re better than that.”

Hunter credited the Patriots with having a good strategy on the Maroney return. “It was a good call on their part,” Hunter said. “It’s like they set up a wall and a wedge. It was something we haven’t seen before but that shouldn’t stop you from being a football player and making a football play. They just had the right call at the right time.”

Asked about Moore’s return, Hunter said: “He found at least two holes that I can think of just from seeing it from my perspective. He found a couple.”

Moore, by the way, continues to see playing time on offense in third-down passing situations. This leaves him in a blocking or receiving role. Moore caught four passes of 91 yards on Monday and also carried twice for 9 yards. Both of those carries came in the final quarter with the game out of reach.

Inactives

Monday, October 30th, 2006

The Vikings made a roster move before tonight’s game against New England, promoting receiver Jason Carter and waiving linebacker Marquis Cooper.

The move was made because as expected Marcus Robinson (back) will be among the inactives for the game. That will give the Vikings five receivers. To clear space on the 45-man active roster, defensive tackle Ross Kolodziej is inactive. Defensive end Jayme Mitchell is up after sitting out at Seattle. Spencer Johnson is the only listed backup defensive tackle.

Also inactive are safety Rashad Baker; running back Ciatrick Fason; offensive linemen Ryan Cook and Anthony Herrera and tight end Jeff Dugan. Tarvaris Jackson is the third quarterback for the Vikings.

New England’s inactives are free safety Eugene Wilson; tight ends Daniel Graham and Garrett Mills; linebacker Pierre Woods; guard Stephen Neal; guard/center Russ Hochstein; and defensive linemen Le Kevin Smith and Marquise Hill.

Artrell Hawkins will start in place of Wilson. Billy Yates will start in place of Neal at right guard. David Thomas will start for Graham at tight end.

From the Metrodome

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Since we know Bill Belichick is a regular on this blog, the Vikings are hiding everything until the last minute. Anyway, and this is big, we’re about 5 minutes from finding out about a potential roster move involving the receivers. As reported for several days by local media and presented as breaking news by ESPN today, Marcus Robinson will not play tonight because of a back injury.

Tonight’s result?

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Yes, Seattle was without running back Shaun Alexander and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was knocked out early in the third quarter, but the Vikings’ victory at Seattle still surprised many people. It also made it a bit more difficult to predict what will happen tonight at the Metrodome.

The Vikings were 1-point underdogs to the Patriots as of this morning but a Minnesota victory certainly wouldn’t come as a surprise. One thing Brad Childress’ team has shown is that it has the ability to keep games close. This is due in large part to the fact Mike Tomin’s defense has played so well.

After tonight, the Vikings will enter a stretch of four games in which they should be favored in each. It begins on Sunday at 2-5 San Francisco. The next three games are Nov. 12 vs. Green Bay (3-4); Nov. 19 at Miami (1-6); and Nov. 26 vs. Arizona (1-7).

The Vikings come out of that stretch with a Dec. 3 meeting against Chicago at Soldier Field.

The Patriots, by the way, will be without starting right guard Stephen Neal and backup guard/center Russ Hochstein. The Boston Globe also reports safety Eugene Wilson and tight end Daniel Graham are out. Also the Globe reported that defensive lineman Richard Seymour (left elbow) traveled with the team to Minnesota.

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