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Vikes right on schedule? (09/23/2009)
By John Edstrom

...check Sunday when 49ers leave town

Well fans, I hope that this team is not developing a tendency to slow starts. It could be a fatal one against better competition, which the San Francisco 49ers are likely to provide next Sunday in the home opener at the Hump. You could look at their record last year and, at 7-9, dismiss them. However, new coach Mike Singletary has apparently fixed his players in his manic, bug-eyed stare, and illustrated by personal example how to focus on the task at hand. In any case, the Niners finished their last nine games 5-2 in Ď09 and have gotten out of the blocks undefeated this season against Arizona and Seattle, teams expected to beat them.

What should give fans of the Purple further pause is how the Niners won last Sunday, with Frank Gore becoming only the second running back in NFL history to score two TDs in the same game with runs of 79 yards or more. This does not bode well for the Purple, whose fabled run defense was put in serious doubt these last two weeks by mediocre teams. Apparently the Vikes solved their problems by running safeties up into the box during the second half; this will not work against first-rate offenses who will go back to passing them silly as was standard practice the last two seasons.

Remember, a big reason the Vikes were champion run-stoppers recently was simply that opponents didnít bother running against such a porous pass-defense. Supposedly that problem was solved by a better pass rush with the acquisition of Jared Allen and marked improvement in the play of cornerback Cedric Griffin. Letís see what happens when the Vikes face a first-rate QB.

San Francisco doesnít have one at this point, which is fortunate, because the Vikings pass rush hasnít really shown up yet either. Against the Lions, it was Brett Favre who took the beating while Lions rookie QB Matt Stafford got off relatively easy. As in week one, Minnesota was woefully unable to pick up the blitz, while rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt looked worse, rather than improved, in his second start. Favre can not take this kind of punishment and play all season. If pass blocking doesnít improve, we will be back to a competition between Jackson and Rosenfels for the starting QB job sooner rather than later.

On the high side, the Purple has compiled a 2-0 record on the road without giving the faithful too much heartburn. For all that the run defense has been questioned, opponents have scored only 33 points in two games, many of them after turnovers, on special teams, or after the game was decided. That is plenty of defense for a ticket to the playoffs, and it is reasonable to assume that Brett Favre has not yet learned anything like the full capabilities of this offense, with all its deadly weapons. The weaknesses on the offensive line should improve as newcomers Loadholt and Sullivan gain experience and whatís more, neither the Cheese nor Bears, each 1-1, appear early on to be headed for a breakout season.

If the Vikes get by San Francisco without filling up the ERs with cardiac victims, they should be right on their expected (hoped for?) schedule.



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