The Tease Stretch?

The Vikings enter a relatively soft part of the schedule, starting with today’s game against the winless Lions at the Metrodome, then to Chicago to play a 3-2 Bears team that may or may not be good (they beat a weakened Colts team in the opener, beat a disappointing Eagles squad, and dominated Detroit).

After the bye, we’ve got the Houston Texans and the Packers, both at home.

The Packers beat us in a close game in the season opener when Tarvaris Jackson was leading the team. Green Bay has two wins so far, the second of which came at the hands of the Lions.

The Vikings could easily go 4-0 during this stretch and face Tampa Bay with a 6-3 record. The question then will be are we really a 6-3 team?

Defensive Woes

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints

Despite offseason upgrades, the Vikings pass defense remains poor. Jared Allen has brought more pressure on opposing quarterbacks but Ray Edwards has not been able to pay for opponents double-teaming both Allen and Kevin Williams. Our left end must be able to beat one guy.

Opponents have been picking on Cedric Griffin all season and that will not change. So, understanding how offenses are going to attack our defense, isn’t there some way we can get Griffin some help?

Our pricey free agent safety Madieu Williams has been AWOL all season. Rookie Tyrell Johnson has played as well as we could hope to expect for a rookie safety but he’s still been taken advantage of in a way I presume Madieu Williams would not.

Our biggest problem on defense, of course, is the loss for the season of E.J. Henderson at middle linebacker. We can only wait and watch to see how that plays out.

Offensive Hope?

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints

The choice to start Gus Frerrote for the remainder of the season has given the Vikings a chance for a winning season when it was clear we couldn’t win two winnable games with Jackson at the helm.

But Bernard Berrian, our pricey free agent wide receiver, decided to show up just this last week; with him nursing an owie on his big toe, who knows how much we can rely upon him?

And, by the way, isn’t it important for your receivers to run the routes they’ve been assigned? Especially in an offense that requires precise route running?

Berrian may have caught a crucial touchdown last week, but he admitted the pass was not intended for himself and yet he still made a play for the ball. It’s a good thing he caught the ball because if the pass hadn’t been completed, he could rightly be criticized for brining his defender into the play.

Sydney Rice has missed the past few games while nursing a PCL injury and the running game has been bottled up of late.

Despite all that, we’ve been competitive for the most part, so there’s reason for hope.

Predictable Play Calling

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints

The most exasperating aspect of coach Brad Childress‘ tenure has been the absolutely unimaginative offensive game plans. It was unbearable during Childress’ rookie year, when he insisted on three-yard passes on third and nine. Thankfully, it has gotten a lot better than that.

But the play calling remains unimaginative. Faced with defenses that refuse to allow Adrian Peterson beat them, the offense has turned more often to the passing game. Fair enough.

But when you’ve got one of the best players in the league, you’ve got to find a way to utilize him. Why are we not trying harder to get the ball to Peterson in space? Why don’t we send him out on pass routes to get him matched up with a linebacker more often? How ’bout sending him deep a few times? He’s certainly faster than most defensive backs in this league.

And why oh why are we not seeing both Peterson and Chester Taylor in the backfield at the same time more often?!? We’ve got two starting running backs; let’s use ’em. Keep defenses off balance by making them pick their poison. Both backs can catch the ball; let’s use a mix of run plays, play action, screens.

Why were we running Peterson outside nearly the whole game last week when the Saints were missing their starting defensive tackle and the replacement is not an every down player?

Special Teams

Kluwe’s not the problem. He certainly can improve his directional punting but the Vikings missed four tackles on one punt return last week, many more on others, and faired poorly on kick returns when Kluwe was not on the field.

This unit has been weak all year. Maybe adding more veterans to the unit but who knows? Veteran receiver Robert Ferguson took an inexplicable angle on one of Reggie Bush‘s TD punt returns last week that took Ferguson out of the play when he could easily have had a shot at the Saints’ running back.

So, given all this, will the Vikings simply be a tease again after the next four years or will we seriously have the contender we hoped for before the season began?