After Sunday’s thrilling come from behind win against the 49ers, it will be difficult to match the feeling of euphoria this week. However, the match-up on paper says that this is ” The Big One!! ”
Last week, the team spent much of the week leading up to the 49ers game working on pass protection, which is one element of the passing game that must improve. Teams are blitzing the Vikings early and often with two goals in mind: stuffing Adrian Peterson on run blitzes and potentially knocking out Brett Favre. The first goal has failed, and though Favre hasn’t been knocked out yet, he has been hit 13 times and sacked seven times in two games.
C John Sullivan might seem to be an easy target because he’s a first-year starter, but other than a bull-rush sack allowed to Browns NT Shaun Rogers, one of the best in the business — in the opener, Sullivan has been respectable.
ORT Phil Loadholt, however, has hit a few rough patches. He was badly beaten by Lions DE Jason Hunter, who went underneath Loadholt for a clean front-side sack on Favre in week two. Not surprisingly, Loadholt also has had trouble with his discipline. Getting flagged for holding (it was declined because Favre was sacked) and a false start. It’s clear that teams are going to go at Loadholt — despite his size, he tends to play high and can start his pass set too far back in his stance. His long, slow, and lumbering first set-up steps in pass protection remain a work in progress and an area that comes as no surprise when you concider his size.
But protection isn’t the only reason why the Vikings have failed to develop a downfield passing game. Opponents know that Favre, with only a month of work prior to the season, has yet to develop a proper rapport with his receivers, namely with top deep threat Bernard Berrian, who missed Favre’s first few weeks with a hamstring injury and just now is getting back into top form.
You could see the Vikings tried to get Berrian involved more, so he could get into the flow of games, and Berrian has said that chemistry could take another few weeks to build.
But at some point, Favre must press the issue a bit. He took a few shots late in the Week Two win at Detroit downfield for TE Visanthe Shiancoe and WR Sidney Rice, two big targets, and when one or the other is singled up on a shorter defender and an extra safety is in the box, Favre knows he must throw it up and let them fight for the ball in a situation where his receivers have a distinct advantage.
Right now, Favre is completing a ridiculous 77.1 percent of his passes but for only 5.6 yards an attempt, which ranks 29th among starting quarterbacks. By comparison, the run game is gaining 5.5 yards per attempt. The only way the Vikings will back defenders off is if they complete passes downfield. Of course, it’s hard to make those plays if teams constantly blitz and the protection is not top-notch. Hence the dilemma.