The Offensive Line Was The Problem

It was odd that most of the stories on the game on Monday barely mentioned the horrible play of the Vikings offensive line during their 24-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On Tuesday, the stories were all about the offensive line after coach Mike Tice deemed their play "atrocious."

Monday, it was all about Daunte Culpepper’s horrible game and how the running backs couldn’t get anything going and yet it took another day to figure out the blame for the loss rested squarely on the shoulders of McKinney, Liwienski, Withrow, Johnson, and Rosenthal? Excuse me, but from my vantage point on the fifty yard line, it was obvious that Corey Withrow and Marcus Johnson particuarly were having their asses handed to them.

And while you can dismiss Johnson’s bad day to the fact that he was a rookie lining up against Booger McFarland but Withrow was getting his butt kicked by none other than our man, Chris Hovan. Ski, of Best Bucs Blog, wondered why I hate Hovan. I don’t hate him and I hope he does well for the Bucs. But: Hovan’s greatest production during the past two years was in the form of complaints and excuses for his poor play. On Sunday, he looked like the All Pro player of 2001/2002 who was quick off the line and disruptive in the backfield. Time will tell, but my guess is that Hovan hasn’t returned to form so much as Withrow played horribly.

Marcus Johnson was just getting bull rushed or tossed aside by McFarland, and Johnson had 21 pounds on the Bucs tackle.

I knew we’d miss Matt Birk, but I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was on Sunday. Let’s hope that Melvin Fowler can pick up the offense very quickly, cause if Withrow can’t adjust (and there’s reason to think he can; he wasn’t this horrible when he started last year), we’re screwed.

Fans sitting next to me were complaining about Daunte Culpepper‘s play; and they were complaining that Mewelde Moore wasn’t playing. It’s true that Daunte had a poor day and made some bad decisions. It’s also true that he and the recievers weren’t on the same page. But most of the reason for the offensive ineptitude was due to the fact that the offensive line could not, for the life of them, pass or run block. 

If you can’t block, don’t expect to be successful on offense. It’s not Michael Bennett’s fault if there are no holes. I will say this about Bennett though: It drives me nuts that he never seems to bounce any runs outside when it’s clear there’s only congestion up the middle. He’ll just run straight into an offensive lineman’s back when he could have gotten three, five, maybe more yards by taking it outside. It’s a skill Ciatrick Fason is adept at.

Despite the fact that the offense had the worst day since I can’t remember, the team had a chance to win this game nearly to the end. Were it not for an imagined pass interference call on Jermain Wiggins and a real block to the back call against Nate Burleson, the Vikings would have won.

The defense did a hell of a job containing a strong, hard-running back who looks like he’ll have a superb NFL career in Carnell "Cadillac" Williams. The only weaknesses in the defense were cornerback Brian Williams getting picked on all day and Griese taking advantage of second-year middle linebacker Rod Davis on the very first play he subbed for Sam Cowart.

For years, I haven’t had the joy of watching a Viking defense consistently string out outside running plays for minimal or minus yards; or getting consistent pressure on the quarterback; or a defensive backfield capable of tight man coverage and opportunistic ball hawking.

Lastly, it looks like we’ve finally solved our punting problems with the preformance rookie kicker Chris Kluwe turned in on Sunday, averaging 54.3 yards on on four kicks with great hangtime. Now if they can just teach him how to kick off.