StarTribune.com

September 2008


Previous success

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

The Vikings might be 1-3 this season but history appears to be on their side entering Monday night’s game at New Orleans. The Vikings are 19-7 all-time against the Saints — yes, several of those Saints teams were awful — and are 7-5 in New Orleans. The Vikings have outscored the Saints 713-435 in the 26-game series and have averaged 27.4 points per game. Minnesota has won 11 of the past 14 games between these two teams.

One of the most memorable meetings came in December 2002 at the Superdome. That is the game in which the Vikings rallied to pull within one point of the Saints with 5 seconds left when quarterback Daunte Culpepper connected with Randy Moss for a touchdown. The Vikings were looking to break a 17-game road losing streak and coach Mike Tice had the opportunity to tie the score and send it into overtime. But Tice, in his first full season as the Vikings coach, had other ideas. He called for a 2-point conversion attempt.

Culpepper made his coach look very smart when he dived into the end zone to give the Vikings a 32-31 victory.

“Honestly,” Tice said afterwards, “we were a 3-10 team. What did you have to lose? Let’s go for the win. Why not?” The Vikings beat Miami and Detroit in their final two games that season and finished with a 6-10 record.

 

The week that is

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

With the Vikings not playing again until Monday night the team won’t be back on the practice field until Thursday. It will be interesting to see if the coaching staff decides to shake things up a bit. Brad Childress already made the biggest switch possible before Week 3 when he replaced Tarvaris Jackson with Gus Frerotte at quarterback. 

A key question this week will be the health of middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. Childress told the media on Monday that Henderson dislocated a couple of toes during the Vikings’ loss Sunday at Tennessee. Childress called it an “unusual” injury and said the team needed to get more information from the doctors.

If Henderson can’t play on Monday, the Vikings could start David Herron at middle linebacker or even consider moving Ben Leber inside. With Vinny Ciurciu having sat out Sunday because of a knee injury, the Vikings might need to add depth at linebacker. One option would be to promote Rufus Alexander from the practice squad.

 

Frerotte’s hand OK

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Quarterback Gus Frerotte suffered a cut on his left hand in the fourth quarter that required two stitches. Vikings coach Brad Childress said the amount of blood made it look worse than it was and that his quarterback is OK.

“I’m told it was a pretty good bleeder or it squirted,” Childress said. “It looked way worse than it was. He’s fine. He had to call his wife and make sure she knew he didn’t have to have his hand cut off.”

Frerotte was upset after Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch delivered a helmet hit to his groin area earlier in the fourth quarter. Frerotte called it a dirty play. He had Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugerman call his wife, Ann, to let her know he was OK.

“His wife wasn’t worried about his hand, she was worried about his you-know-whats,” Childress said. “He’s got three children already and doesn’t really need any more.”

Henderson has dislocated toes

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Vikings coach Brad Childress said middle linebacker E.J. Henderson has several dislocated toes on his left foot and is wearing a protective boot today. Henderson had an MRI on Monday morning.

“We don’t have any idea of his ongoing status until we’re able to research that a little more with the doctors,” Childress said.

Childress described Henderson’s injury as “unusual.” It happened when he went to make a tackle on a third-down run and planted on his foot.

“He kind of posted on it and bent on it and was kind of bracing on it,” Childress said. “Whatever happened, happened in there. He didn’t have anybody fall on him or anything like that. Kind of an unusual kind of injury.”

– Left tackle Bryant McKinnie was back at Winter Park on Monday morning but he wasn’t available to the media. Childress said the team, per NFL rules, asked the league for a roster exemption for one week. He described it as a formality. The team won’t have to make an immediate roster move to clear room for McKinnie.

“I had a good talk with him this morning,” Childress said. “He looks to be in great shape and good spirits.”

Asked if McKinnie comes back as a starter, Childress repeated what he said after the game.

“You want to evaluate that,” he said. “You want to look at his conditioning, his stamina and those kind of things. He looks like he’s done a lot of work since he’s been down [in Miami] in the heat.”

 

Peterson within 2 yards of rushing lead

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Adrian Peterson hasn’t rushed for 100 yards in the past two games but he still remains second in the NFL in rushing yardage with 420. That puts him only 2 yards behind Atlanta’s Michael Turner. Peterson finished Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans with 80 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. Peterson now has 83 rushing attempts in four games, meaning he’s averaging 5.1 yards per attempt.

Despite a sloppy performance in their 30-17 defeat at Tennessee, the Vikings actually improved their standing in terms of overall offense and defense. Minnesota went from 17th to 14th in total offense, falling from fifth to sixth in rushing but improving from 24th to 19th in passing. The defense is ranked sixth entering tonight’s game between the Ravens and Steelers. That is up one spot. The rushing defense slipped from third to fourth but against the pass the Vikings went from 20th to 17th.

One area where the Vikings fell was in the all important take-away, give-away category. After their Week 3 victory over Carolina, the Vikings were tied for 10th among teams with a plus-1 in this area. They had two interceptions and two fumble recoveries and had given up two interceptions and one fumble. But after losing four turnovers against the Titans, the Vikings are now tied for 21st at minus-2 in take-away, give-away.

 

Post-game thoughts

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Obviously that was a frustrating performance by the Vikings in a 30-17 loss to Tennessee.

The offense had way too many self-inflicted mistakes to overcome.

– They committed four turnovers that led to 21 Titans points. There were dropped passes and seven offensive penalties. Down by 6 late in the game, Bernard Berrian didn’t hear the play call in the huddle and lined up on the wrong side, forcing Gus Frerotte to call the team’s final timeout.

The offense had five penalties in the third quarter alone. That left the Vikings in unfavorable down-and-distance all game.

Consider: The Vikings were 7-of-15 on third down conversions. They had third-and-1 once and third-and-4 twice. The other 13 third-down situations were longer, from third-and-5 to third-and-13. The average distance faced in those 16 situations was third-and-7.

– The Vikings were upset about referee Pete Morelli’s refusal to overturn a call that led to a Titans touchdown in the second quarter. Tennessee was leading 13-7 and faced a fourth-and-2 from the Vikings 3 yard line when Titans coach Jeff Fisher decided to go for it.

Quarterback Kerry Collins hit receiver Justin Gage with a short pass to the right. Gage was met quickly by cornerback Antoine Winfield and then linebacker Chad Greenway.

Gage lunged for the first-down marker and appeared to lose the ball just before the whistle creating the potential for a turnover. But the play was ruled dead and the ball was spotted inside the 1-yard line for a first down.

Childress did not immediately throw his red challenge flag. The Titans quickly tried to run another play so Childress called a timeout, talked to the officials and then finally dropped the flag for a challenge.

Replays seemed to indicate that Gage was clearly short of the first-down marker. However, Morelli did not overturn the ruling and the Titans’ LenDale White scored from 1-yard out on the next play.

Minnesota also lost two timeouts, one for the challenge not being overturned and the other because Childress had called it to buy time.

“Damn disappointing is the only way I can say it,” Childress said of the decision by Morelli. “You can’t fumble the ball on fourth down, was one of my contentions, and have someone else recover it.

“[The official] ruled [forward] progress. His progress was stopped. From what I was seeing the progress didn’t make the line. I got something about we don’t have that many cameras at the game. Clearly that wasn’t a first down and you are not going to convince me that was a first down.”

Childress’ players also believe they stopped Gage short of the marker.

“That was frustrating but what can you say?” Greenway said. “You just have to keep playing ball.”

– Gus Frerotte suffered a cut on his left hand and needed two stitches after banging his hand on a facemask. Frerotte was upset with Titans DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, who was called for roughing the passer after hitting Frerotte below the belt on a third-down pass from the 6.

“It was a direct shot,” Frerotte said. “That just isn’t called for in this game. To take and just spear somebody like that. That’s pretty ridiculous. I mean the guy plays hard and he goes all out, but he wants to do those kind of things.

“I’ve been playing this game a long time and that’s no different than a guy coming off the side and hitting you in the knee without anybody touching him. Those kinds of things just can’t happen.”

Vanden Bosch defended his hit, saying it was within the rules.

“I knock quarterbacks down plenty of times a year,” he said. “I know how to hit the quarterback. You have a small window of when you can hit the quarterback. I did not hit him below the knees. I hit him in the thigh and that is where the rule book tells me to hit the quarterback. I am not a dirty player, but if that is his opinion I guess he is entitled to it.’’

– Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie is eligible to return to the team tomorrow but it’s not clear whether he will have access to him or not.

We’ll check back when we get to Winter Park tomorrow.

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