Friday, March 6, 2015

Monthly Archives: December 2011

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Mike Wobschall runs the Vikings official blog and, while he is a great guy and has worked with me in the past, tends to be one of the Vikings biggest cheerleaders on a regular basis.  I can’t blame him really, after all, it is the Vikings that ultimately sign his paycheck.

Sometimes, however, there are times when it is just plain refreshing to read some good news even when it might feel a little forced.  In a season when everything seems to be going wrong, it felt like a good time to pass along some encouraging facts pointed out by Wobschall in a recent post.

Wobschall says his inbox was flooded with questions about Christian Ponder’s recent struggles, so he decided to point out some facts about other quarterback performances in their rookie seasons with hopes of making us feel better.

Here they are:

  • Peyton Manning had three-interception games three times in his first four starts, and he had 11 interceptions over his first four games. After his first season, Manning had more interceptions (28) than touchdowns (26). I bet Colts fans are glad the team didn’t give up on him.
  • Eli Manning had more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (six) in games that he started as a rookie and then he had four multiple-interception games, including a four-interception game, during his first full year as the starter for the Giants.
  • Aaron Rodgers had two three-interception games in his first year as the Packers starting quarterback.
  • Matt Ryan had four multiple-interception games in his rookie season.

So, there you have it, consider yourself officially encouraged.

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Monday marked the one year anniversary of the roof collapsing at the Metrodome.  One year after the shocking near-disaster took place, a number of Vikings players recounted their experiences and, courtesy of Viking Update, here they are their stories:

Ryan Longwell:  “The night before, we sat in a meeting and Coach (Leslie) Frazier said there are some leaks in the roof and there was a chance the game could be delayed, but we were told not to worry because the roof was structurally sound.  Those were the last parting words before we went to bed. When I got up and turned on the TV, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It’s not like it happened at midnight. It happened at 5 in the morning. People start showing up for the game about 7 a.m. and working down on the field. Our first bus gets there at 8. We weren’t that far off from potentially being right out where the roof collapsed. Then you started thinking about worst-case scenarios. That’s when it started getting scary.  At the end of the day, nobody died and nobody got hurt, so that’s a blessing.  You can’t help but wonder what could have happened, but I think everybody who was on that team was just thankful that it happened during the night and not when there were people down on that field doing their jobs that could have been hurt or even killed.”

Lorenzo Booker:  “We were told that the game was going to be pushed back because there was a bunch snow on the roof.  It hadn’t collapsed yet, but there was enough snow on the roof that they figured there was the possibility of hazard. They said they game would probably be pushed back to Sunday night or Monday, but it was still supposed to played at the Metrodome. It was a crazy few hours that next morning. We were told the roof had collapsed and that the Giants were stranded in Kansas City, so the game couldn’t be played that day. Everything got in motion over the next six or seven hours and that was when they came up with the idea of playing it in Detroit.”

Chris Kluwe:  “I woke up in the hotel and checked my phone and heard about it on Twitter.  I had considered that it could happen because it is an inflatable roof, but I always figured they would have precautions to prevent that from happening.”

Phil Loadholt:  “I woke up and had a text message from Jimmy Kennedy, he was always kind of the breaking-news guy on the team, telling me to turn on the TV.  I was in shock when I saw it. My first thought was that it could have really hurt somebody and, if it had happened (during a game), all we could have done was hope we were on the other side of the field.”

Erin Henderson:  “My mind was blown.  It was kind of like, ‘Now what?’ I guess we needed more stuff to deal with, as if we didn’t have enough already over the previous three months. You need to have a routine that you do week-in, week-out. We had seen a lot of distractions, but this one was off the page. We’re creatures of habit, so when that happened, we were all pretty lost as to what to do.”

Kenny Onatolu:  “I just thought it was crazy.  When I first saw it, I thought it was a trick like you see in the movies. Once I figured out this is for real, I was imagining what would have happened had we been in there when it happened. It would have been chaos. I just sat on my bed in the hotel watching it over and over, just shaking my head.”

Charlie Johnson (who was with the Colts):  “I didn’t find out about it until the next day after practice.  I knew the stadium was old, but I thought the technology or architecture would be better because it’s in Minnesota and you expect a lot of snow here. You would have thought it would have been a little stronger. When I saw the video on SportsCenter, I couldn’t believe it.”

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Just a few posts earlier I mentioned some recent quotes from cornerback Antoine Winfield and briefly touched on his unique contract de-escalator.

Tom Peliissero of 1500 ESPN is now reporting that Winfield’s lack of playing time in 2011 will trigger the de-escalator for the 2012 season, lowering his base salary from $7 million to $3 million.

This should help the Vikings cap situation in an upcoming offense that will require plenty of money being spent to try and turn the organization around. 

There is a chance, however, that Winfield can reach incentive based benchmarks and earn back the $4 million over the course of the season.  Those incentives are largely based on playing time.  If he earns those incentives, they will be paid to Winfield the following season.

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It is common knowledge in Lutefisk Land that the Vikings offensive line is horribly, awfully terrible.

To illustrate just how bad they were on Sunday in run blocking, I want to pass this little tidbit along courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

Toby Gerhart ran for 90 yards against the Lions depleted defensive line, but 87 of those yards came after contact.  Let that sink in for a minute.

Gerhart deserves credit for his performance behind an atrocious offensive line, gaining yards by breaking tackles eight times in 19 carries.

You can check out PFF’s full breakdown of the game by clicking here.  They talk about great games had by Steve Hutchinson and Kyle Rudolph, in addition to Jamarca Sanford’s miserable performance.

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Last week, Bill Musgrave took some heat from local beat writers for failing to put injured tight end Kyle Rudolph on the field in certain scoring situations.  I even poked some fun at Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan when I disagreed with his stance that Musgrave misused his various tight ends versus the Broncos.

This week, the roles are going to be reversed.

I argued last week that Jim Kleinsasser’s presence as a blocker was far more beneficial to the Vikings offense than the pass catching abilities of Rudolph.  It wasn’t meant as a knock to Rudolph, he is a fine player, but the Vikings couldn’t afford to see their quarterback further injure himself in a meaningless game behind the leakiest of offensive lines.  Furthermore, Kleinsasser’s presence on the field will at least suggest that the play being run could possibly be a run.

Fast forward to this week. 

There are eight seconds left in the fourth quarter.  The ball is at the one yard line.  Kyle Rudolph, much to Souhan’s pleasure, is lined up wide left while Visanthe Shiancoe is on the line next the right tackle.  Two receivers are on the right side.  Webb takes the snap.

Shiancoe bursts off the line, leaving only four blockers (okay, five, if you count Phil Loadholt) against six Lions defenders rushing the quarterback.

In an all too predictable fashion, left tackle Charlie Johnson is quickly overwhelmed by two defenders and both blow by him.  The clock literally reads “:08” when linebacker DeAndre Levy first makes contact with Joe Webb’s facemask, meaning he had a grand total of a second to make a play.

Of course, Webb didn’t make a play, and instead the result was a disastrous fumble and an travelling game of hacky sack.

The game was over.

Like everyone else that couldn’t help but get caught up in the possibility of a dramatic comeback, I was disappointed in the outcome.  Unlike those that were focused on the lack of a facemask penalty, however, I was busy wondering why Jim Kleinsasser wasn’t on the field to provide the blocking needed to at least have a chance of making a play. 

Without him, defenders took one second to get to Webb and there was zero chance of a play being made, regardless of if Rudolph or Betty White were the ones running the route.

Earlier in the game Webb had the time to throw a two yard touchdown pass to Toby Gerhart.  Webb threw the pass after three seconds ticked off the clock and had nobody within six yards of him.  Jim Kleinsasser, coincidentally enough, was holding a very solid block against Cliff Avril.

Even the shiftiest of quarterbacks need more than one second to make things happen and even the toughest of quarterbacks can suffer an injury.  With the Vikings offensive line barely able to stay upright on any given play, Musgrave should continue to use Kleinsasser to at least attempt to prevent future disasters.

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