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3-0 too good to be true? Try 4-0 (09/24/2003)
By John Edstrom

John Edstrom
     
Well fans, this feels pretty good so far. Anyone willing to bet that the Vikes would start 3-0 could have parlayed about a thousand bucks into a nice little retirement nest egg. I ask myself if this is for real, after reviewing the tape of the Lions game, and am unwilling to go out on a limb.

For certain, there has been major improvement. Last year's team, when faced with the adversity the Vikes suffered in the first quarter against the Lions, would have gone down like dominoes. This year's model hung in there and got the thing turned around, despite the loss of Culpepper, yes, the loss. A year ago it could not honestly have been said to be such, at least not in the first two thirds of the season.

The Lions are not likely to wind up high on the lists of offensive achievement this year, but never mind. What a relief to watch a Minnesota defense that can sometimes defend third and twenty and that the other guys have to at least make a pretense of running against.

The most obvious upgrade is, (who would have thought it), in the defensive backfield. The two Brians are suddenly playing like the guys that Tony Dungy always seemed to be able to find late in the draft, or through free agency. Doesn't Brian Russell remind you of Robert Griffith?

And when was it that the Purple last had a pair of corners as competent as Denard Walker and Brian Williams? -- probably not since the days of Carl Lee and Reggie Rutland, or perhaps Audrey McMillian. I don't think that Ken Irvin is going to get a chance to start. With Russell and Corey Chavous playing the safeties, the defensive backfield could go from the team's worst liability to one of its strengths. But before we all get light-headed, it would pay to watch them play a few more games against better competition. Remember, both the Lions and the Bears are universally expected to be stinkers this year, and after last Sunday's trip down to Arizona, who knows about the Cheeseheads?

With a little more pass rush, this pass defense could be really good. Sunday, the Purple showed something, but not a lot. Kevin Williams bears watching. If he and Hovan can get just a little more push up the middle, the Vikes defensive ends will start to get more sacks. If they could somehow acquire a really good pass rushing DE, they would be scary.

Next week San Francisco comes into the Hump with a 1-2 record and the attitude of desperation that can always play a big factor. That shouldn't be enough if the Vikes play a solid game, and if their defensive improvement is for real. I don't predict that they will be 4-0 next Sunday night for fear of applying the jinx but, especially if Culpepper is healthy, you won't find odds against it. You should have bet your money before the season.  

 

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