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Texans Game Recap


Tonight’s game versus the Texans had a regular season feel to it.  There was storyline, home team fans roaring, challenged plays, and scuffles between players.  In the end, the Vikings 17-10 win will be chalked up as nothing more than a meaningless scrimmage, but there are a few things that can be taken out of this game:

Brett Favre Can Play The Role:  As most of you know, I’ve been incredibly critical of Favre over the last few weeks (lifetime), but he showed tonight that he’ll be able to manage a game with this team.  As long as he can be content throwing screens, crossing routes, and handing off the ball to Adrian then he should be okay.  Remember last year when Mangini ran Thomas Jones three times in a row in a goal line situation and was unsuccessful?  Well, the media and fans coughed up relentless criticism of that choice claiming “you should never do that when you have Brett Favre at quarterback!”  Well, perhaps Mangini knew what he was doing but was forced to cave to the pressure and overwork Favre’s ancient arm for the rest of the season.  It looks like the Vikings plan to use Favre as that game manager, and would hand the ball off to their backs if they pleased.  That approach might make Favre more successful this season.  Favre finished 13 of 18 for 142 yards and one touchdown… a respectable outing.

Running The Ball With Attitude:  It started with Adrian Peterson running to the end zone with 75 yards of dust behind him.  It ended with Antone Smith bulldozing to a first down at the two minute warning to assure victory.  Chester Taylor and Albert Young filled in the middle parts with impressive outings.  This team can run the ball like no other, and it looks like the run offense will pick up exactly where they left off last year… on top of the NFL.  The Vikings averaged six yards per carry.

Percy Harvin Has Some Room To Improve:  Harvin was unspectacular tonight.  He started with what looked like a giant “almost” on his first kick return, but got stopped by the last guy.  He proceeded to line up all over the field and even showed off the WildCat.  Nothing was real productive.  Harvin ran twice for six yards, caught three passes for 31 yards, and averaged 26 yards on kick returns.  He missed a should-be touchdown in the end zone, but made up for it on a nice run after catch on one of his receptions.  He flashed some promise, but he also showed he needs to become more consistent.

About Those Third Downs:  The Vikings were at a 39% conversions rate on third downs at the end of last year.  Tonight they went 6 of 14 which equates to 42% against a suspect defense.  Considering the money the spent on Favre in addition to their top two draft picks being on the offensive side of the ball, that improvement is not a large enough one to throw a party over.  The fact is that they need to get better in this area, as Adrian Peterson can only carry this team so far.  Shiancoe has become a consistent target on third downs, but Sidney Rice needs to gain better separation in order to be effective.

Killing Themselves:  Bud Grant would be fuming.  I bet Childress is too.  The Vikings had 13 penalties for 85 yards.  The yardage isn’t too bad because Ray Edwards’ penalty for being a dink was offset and then two others occurred when the Vikings couldn’t back up much further against their own goal line.  Thirteen penalties is enough to lose a regular season game all by itself.  The Vikings need to tighten up, especially Bryant McKinnie.

Pass Protection Looks Troublesome:  I would love nothing more than to be more critical of Brett Favre, but I just can’t do it.  Why?  Because he was facing immense pressure most of the evening.  Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt excel in run blocking, but both have issues protecting their quarterback.  Jim Kleinsasser being sidelined with an injury didn’t help much.  Also, the guys in the middle need to do a much better job of picking up the blitz.  The Chiefs, Colts, and now the Texans have all gotten pretty consistent pressure using the zero blitz.  Coaches need to get this taken care of prior to the regular season.

Special Teams Looks 200% Better:  Sure, they didn’t make an huge game changing plays, but the special teams also didn’t screw everything up like they did last year.  Heath Farwell, Jasper Brinkley, and Kenny Onatolu led the coverage team to a solid outing.  Harvin and Jaymar Johnson showed promise in the return game.  As a whole, a special teams that merely refrains from making giant mistakes will be a giant improvement to this team from 2008.

Starting Defense Needs To Keep Intensity:  The Vikings starting defense played with a high intensity during the first quarter.  The line shut down the run and kept Schaub on his heels.  The linebackers were all over the field, and Leber even made a pick.  The coverage was solid against a very good crew of receivers.  In the first quarter they shut out the Texans and only allowed 33 yards.  Then, during the second quarter the scheme turned to more of a soft zone and the intensity dropped way down.  The Vikings got sliced and diced on a few drives, and even allowed the Texans to simply march down the field and score.  I know the coaches are just looking to pull ahead and then play it safe and prevent the big play, but this defense is capable of so much more than just sitting back and making the tackle after the catch.  Leslie Frazier needs to ratchet up the blitzes, invoke some fire in that line, and let our safeties play aggressive. 

So Far So Good:  Considering that the starters will likely sit out of the final preseason game against Dallas, this means that the Vikings could very well go into the season with all of their starters active on both sides of the ball.  The only players to sit out tonight were Bernard Berrian (hamstring) and Jimmy Kleinsasser (hand).  Berrian is expected to be okay before the start of the regular season while K-Sasser’s status is unknown.  Regardless, the Vikings seem to be ahead of the curve in regards to injuries (frantically knocking on wood) which could go a long, long ways towards a successful season.

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