Well fans, now that their ‘06 season is down to its last few tight swirls, the Vikes show us flashes of brilliance. At least they keep us guessing. Who would have believed that Artose Pinner could rush for 125 yards, most of it in the first half? Who could imagine that the passing attack would resuscitate itself, or that Troy Williamson would come back into the lineup and make tough catches as if nothing had happened or, perhaps, he had recovered from some bizarre injury. His further progress will bear close watching. Let's see what happens when Troy gets loose for the long, game-breaking over-the-shoulder catch.
What is actually happening is that the Vikes offensive line is finally beginning to play up to its preseason billing. Against the Lions it gave up only one sack and not many hurries, although still uncertain in blitz pickup. The Brad Johnson INT resulting in the 14 point swing that kept the game interesting until the end came when a blitzer blew through the right side untouched. Despite that, in the two games that the combo right tackle of Ryan Cook and Mike Rosenthal has replaced Marcus Johnson, both pass and run blocking have improved considerably on the right. Perhaps Cook will justify the reach the Vikes made for him in the second round, and it is fairly obvious that Mike Rosenthal is an improvement also. Last year he was a bust in pass blocking, but everything gets easier for the offensive lineman when his team is a threat to run the ball.
On defense, the Purple is still a tough act to watch. It is true that they stop the run well, but not so obvious that that is why their opponents immediately resort almost exclusively to the forward pass. In fact, the Vikes do not get enough pressure on the passer, and do not cover the short/medium passing attack very well. Opponents regularly gain great chunks of yardage against them with that one-dimensional offense. Fortunately, it is an offense prone to turnovers, so the Purple has given up many yards, but few points.
Cedric Griffin starting in place of Fred Smoot has been an improvement, if only because Griffin is the better tackler, and his coverage skills are bound to improve. And linebacking is a strength this year rather than glaring weakness, with the arrival of Ben Leber and the improved play of E.J. Henderson and Napo Harris. Hopefully the rumored imminent departure of the latter two is groundless.
It will be interesting to see if the Vikes can run the table and stay in the playoff hunt. If they actually are improving, as it might appear these last three weeks, they could do so. The smart money, however, will bet that their inconsistencies and tendency to turn the ball over and commit foolish penalties will end their season no better than 8-8.