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What Is What, So Far

We have a small window of opportunity to look back at the first three weeks of the season before World War Four commences.  The first two weeks made me a bit nervous after slow starts.  Week three against the Niners flat out gave me an ulcer.  Let’s take a look at some interesting points.

The Standings

The Vikings are 3-0 and on top of the NFC North.  The Saints and the Giants are the only other NFC teams to sport an undefeated record.  The Jets, Ravens, Colts, and Broncos are all undefeated in the AFC.

In the North, the Packers and Bears are 2-1.  The Lions got their first victory in 72 years on Sunday and have jumped to a 1-2 record. 

This means that the outcome of next Monday’s game will decide whether or not the Vikings maintain their lead in the North.  A loss would mean that the Packers take over.

Favre’s Lackluster Performance Disappears

Kevin Seifert over at ESPN put up an interesting stat line about Brett Favre’s performance against the Niners.

First, take a look at what Favre did during the first 58 minutes and 31 seconds.  In that time, Favre was 18 of 36 for 221 yards.  He had a touchdown and a pick.  His quarterback rating was a miserable 67.0.  While Berrian and Shiancoe contributed to these poor numbers by playing questionable football, Favre missed a lot of passes… and some of them were missed big. 

Then came the final drive that will make everyone forget about any part of that game that wasn’t in the last minute and 29 seconds.  In that time, clutch time, Favre was 6 of 10 for 80 yards and a touchdown.  His quarterback rating on that drive was an impressive 118.8.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind (yes, even mine) that this is what Favre brings to the table.  Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels would not have done as good of a job managing that final drive.  They would not have attempted that pass.  They especially would not have completed that pass. 

Contrary to what many believe, I do hope that the Favre magic continues down the road.  Starting with World War Four, the Vikings schedule is going to get tougher.  These games against the Packers, Bears, Steelers, Giants, and Ravens are where Favre will need to really prove himself.

Offensive Production Is Refreshing

The Vikings currently have the most potent offense in the NFC North.  They have forced 88 points.  The Packers are second in that category with 81 points scored. 

First and foremost, the Vikings have improved on third downs.  They currently have completed 42.2% of their third downs, which is a jump from last year.  The combination of having a veteran signal caller combined with fewer penalties and improving pass protection has made for manageable third downs. 

Favre has been sacked an average of 3 times per game.  This is not perfect, but in the first two games he had clearly been instructed to take sacks before trying to sling a ball and risk turning it over.  Adrian Peterson leads the league in rushing with 357 yards, a 6.1 yard average per carry, which helps to set up manageable third downs.  As if Peterson’s production doesn’t highlight our running backs enough, Chester Taylor leads the team in catches (primarily on third down plays) with 15 grabs. 

Rookie standout Percy Harvin has also become one of Favre’s favorite targets on passing downs.  He is second on the team with 12 catches and leads the team with 128 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.

Per his usual routine, Favre has done a good job of spreading out the ball.  He has completed passes to eight different Vikings.  This helps to keep defenses honest.

The Defense Is More Balanced

The Vikings are used to having a front heavy, run-stuffing defense.  While some may think the WilliamsWall is showing some cracks, they are still one of the more feared run defenses around.  Combine that with our new found ability to stop the pass (except for Vernon Davis of all people) and the Vikings defense is looking like a truly sound unit.

They are led by E.J. Henderson who leads the team in every tackle stat.  He has 28 total tackles, 22 solo, and 6 assists.  The guy has been a monster on the field, even this week after missing most of the practices.

Jared Allen has been quieter than we are used to seeing, but he still has 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.  He also has been stopping the run even better than he did last year.  Plus, he’s killed an elk with a spear. 

Chad Greenway probably got an earful from the coaches regarding his poor tackling against the Lions, as whatever was wrong was fixed by the time we played the Niners.  Greenway, with suddenly outstanding Cedric Griffin, leads the team with 2 interceptions each.  Antoine Winfield, of course, has been a phenomenal tackler and is really setting the pace for this defense. 

Ray Edwards has been able to put pressure consistently on the quarterback, and has also made it a regular occurrence to wrap up the running back in the backfield.   To boot, safeties Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson have been hitting hard, maintaining good coverage, and playing generally solid football (except when Vernon Davis is on the field I guess).

Needless to say, the Vikings defense is almost firing on all cylinders.  The only thing they seem to lack is some sort of unseen inspiration.  You know what I’m talking about?  That thing that always makes you feel like the Ravens or Steelers defense is about to come up big.  Whatever that is, we need it by Monday, as our defense will need to be as fired up as possible.

Special Teams Is Double-Edged Sword

The Vikings special teams seems to be the same as last year in one sense.  They’ve given up two special teams touchdown in three games.  In another sense, they are looking impressive.

Longwell has kicked well.  Farwell, Brinkley, and Onatolu have done an admirable job covering.  Percy Harvin is an exciting return man who has already taken one kick the distance.  Darius Reynaud (here’s hoping that his injury is minor) has a fantastic 17.3 yard punt return average. 

The Vikings seem to be on the verge of great things on special teams.  Getting a few loose ends tied up will go a long ways towards a successful season.  Hopefully the field goal block was a complete fluke.  The Cribbs touchdown return is a bigger concern, and the Vikings will find out just how much they’ve improved when they start punting to their old nemesis Will Blackmon.


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One Response to “What Is What, So Far”

  1. Aaron says:

    Good analysis to this point in the season, and I agree with the Favre take. Everyone wants to laud him for that final play, and it was a great throw that no one else on the team could have made, but Lewis is also a beast for having actually caught it. Also, that one toss erases his otherwise mediocre season thus far. Are we being too picky? No, we’re being realistic and seeing what Packer fans saw for years; a guy that could tear the other teams’ fans’ hearts out, or your own.

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