expect an eyewitness account!
Well fans, I had written this game off when Antoine Winfield was unable to take the field, so the loss to the Steelers did not upset my equilibrium too badly. Winfield is the keystone of the Purple defense, anchoring the left side against both run and pass. He turns the end run back to the middle of the field on the rare occasion when he doesn’t take out the lead blocker and then make the tackle by himself. In pass defense, he covers his own area plus half the safety’s responsibility. Without him, the Viking defense slides from excellent to just somewhat better than average.
That said, the performance of Karl Paymah, Benny Sapp, and Asher Allen in his absence was better than adequate, and certainly not the feared disaster. There were some missed tackles and coverages, but as likely as not, stand out plays like Allen’s sack/forced fumble on Roethlisberger, or Paymah’s tackle of Mewelde Moore for a loss. The reports on Winfield are in conflict – either his foot is broken and he will be out another four weeks minimum, or there is no fracture and he might return next week at Lambeau.
Of greater concern is the play at the safety positions. The TD at the end of the first half was the result of those two dropping so deep that the field in front of them was wide open, with plenty of room for a clever wideout to take an easy left past Madieu Williams and then amble into the end zone for the score. What point is there in dropping the safeties so deep as to concede the completion in the middle of the zone, plus another ten or fifteen yards a clever wideout needs to make them look clubfooted? Both of the Vikings safeties are missing too many tackles, while not doing very well in coverage. If Winfield is the lynchpin of the defense, they are its Achilles heel.
Next week against the Cheeseheads over in Lambeau, the Vikes will face their stiffest test yet this season. The good news is that the Cheese is riddled with injuries, much of them afflicting the receiving corps. Their offensive line is still suspect, although improved from week four, when the Vikes sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times. They will need to apply similar pressure Sunday in order to save their suspect secondary the embarrassments of the past two weeks.
I wouldn’t bet that Antoine Winfield will be able to play, so Paymah, Allen and Sapp will have to learn fast. Look for the Pack to run and throw to the right side to try to exploit the new kids. At the safety spots, Williams and Johnson will have to cover a little tighter and tackle a lot better in order to deny Rodgers a 300 yard passing day. If the Pack starts out by gashing the the Vikes on the ground over Winfield’s side, hunker down for a long day.
This correspondent will be present at Ground Zero in Lambeau Field to beer witness to the proceedings and smuggle out a firsthand report in the rubberized, suds-proof brief case. Then, along with my companions/bodyguards, and with no regard for personal safety, I intend to penetrate the beer-soused venues of post-game Green Bay and Appleton, so as to file a learned and firsthand discussion of the Cheesehead culture, its manners and mores, in the Nov. 4 issue of the Post.