Sunday, September 27, 2009

I think I prefer the slow start and strong finish formula ....

Well, we’ve been on the other end of it a number of times, so it was certainly a thrill watching Brett Favre lead the Vikings to a last second victory. But as exhilarating as the 27-24 win over the San Francisco 49ers was on Sunday, let’s be clear-eyed here. What does this game say about the kind of team the Vikings are and the kind of team they will be?

First, the good news.

Clearly this is a win that should be great for a team’s confidence. To have the ball with just 1:29 left in the game, on your own 20-yard line, no timeouts remaining and needing a touchdown to win the game and then winning it in the manner the Vikings did, well, that’s not something we’ve seen the Vikings do very much in the recent past. (Actually I can’t remember the Vikings ever winning a game like this.) This was the kind of drive the Vikings got Favre for. It’s also the kind of drive you could never envision Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson pulling off.

So the belief in Favre in the Vikings locker room must be very high right now. I’d expect that they now feel that with Favre as their quarterback, they have a guy who can come through in any pressure situation, no matter how dire, and lead them to victory. That’s a powerful feeling.

The game also answered two critical questions I had about Favre for several weeks now:

1. Could the Vikings win a game when Favre had to throw the ball a lot? (The answer – today at least – was yes.)

2. Does Favre have the arm strength anymore to complete passes beyond 10 yards? (The 32-yard winning touchdown throw to Greg Lewis was a bullet and I saw Favre throw several other long passes in this game with plenty of velocity, if not accuracy.)

Still, I’m not sure how good a team the Vikings beat on Sunday. There are some troubling aspects to this game that I won’t be able to shake off the rest of the week.

To be fair, the 49ers certainly are spunky and tough. They don’t appear to be a team that goes away easily. And they had some things go their way in this game, which, perhaps, kept them in it when they shouldn’t have been. (Exhibit A: the 49ers score a touchdown two plays after an E.J. Henderson interception in the Vikes end zone is called back on a San Francisco delay of game penalty.) But I’m concerned the Vikings needed a miracle touchdown throw to beat an average team whose best offensive weapon by two country miles – Frank Gore – barely played. So are the Vikings really good or just really good at beating average teams?

Some other concerns:

– The Vikings defence made Shaun Hill and Vernon Davis look like Montana and Rice. Davis repeatedly got behind Viking linebackers in coverage and split the safeties down the middle of the field. This is not a new problem. With the Packers coming into the Metrodome next week, I’m sure Aaron Rodgers will pick up on this.

– If Lewis doesn’t make that great catch with two seconds left, the Vikings offence would have scored zero points in the second half. I know San Francisco’s defence has played pretty well this season, but geez, that isn’t the stuff champions are made of.

– Finally, while the final drive might obscure the fact for some, Favre badly misfired on several throws in this game that didn't look that difficult and really didn’t look very good at all for much of it. This isn’t the kind of quarterback play the Vikings will require to beat the elite teams.

But hey, the Vikings are 3-0. The early schedule looked favourable and the Vikings have taken advantage of it. But it gets harder from here on in – starting with the Packers next Monday night.

It will be one of the most hyped and anticipated games in a while and it should be a lot of fun to watch. But for the Vikings to win it, they’ll have to play much better than they did today.

3 comments:

Peter said...

After the thrill of the dramatic finish wore off, I was bothered by this game too. How did the 49ers almost win after converting ZERO of their eleven 3rd downs? What happens without the miracle finish or the Harvin return? (of course, the EJ's nullified INT and the blocked field goal sort of evened out the fluke plays for each team)

Berrian looked bad. Chester Taylor led the team in receptions (7 - next highest was 4). Pass protection was not great. And like you aptly noticed, Vernon Davis found a soft spot in the defense and exploited it.

On the bright side, the run defense looked stout again. Harvin's the real deal. And, surprisingly, Chilly made a good move dropping Wade for Lewis.

I don't know about the schedule getting tough just yet. If the Packers let Minnesota sack Rodgers a handful of times, that game becomes very winnable pretty fast. Then the Rams in week 5. The first tough stretch starts there (although Pittsburgh looks vulnerable at the moment). I'd love a 5-0 start but have the feeling I'd still be nervous/unsure about the team at that point.

DC said...

Peter:

As always, the Packers game will be very tough. It's a game I expect the Vikings to win, but Rodgers was pummeled all day by the Bengals two weeks ago and the Pack still managed to put up 20-plus points. And I get the feeling the Vikes D hasn't really put it together yet. When guys like a 50-year-old Jamal lewis, Shaun Hill and Vernon Davis are giving you problems, well ....

The Vikings offence is going to have to do its part in the Monday Nighter. Fortunately, we have Adrian Peterson and he usually plays pretty well against the Packers. Having Harvin helps, too.

Peter said...

I'm already excited for the game. It's going to be a long week and a very long Sunday. I almost don't like watching football knowing there will be no Vikings that day. Monday at work will be painfully long.

I don't feel too bad about Davis' big day. He's a talented guy and I hear he's much more of a team player than when he was drafted. He should find plenty of success, if that's the case. Will Jermichael Finley have a 2 TD day? I kind of doubt it.

In the end, I trust Minnesota's pass defense more than I would Green Bay's run defense, and that's a recipe for Viking success.