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Vikes regroup to go 5-0 Looked like the Return of the Mutts there for a while (10/08/2003)
By John Edstrom

Well fans, after the first half of the Atlanta game, I was pretty much reconciled to the Return of the Mutts. Dumb penalties, missed tackles, zero pass rush, opposing wideouts wide open, and a tendency to give up the long run, were a reminder of last year stronger than a direct whiff of ammonia, and you know what that smells like. When the Falcons scored on the last play before halftime, I assumed that the Vikes had collapsed and the route was on.

But no! The lads in Purple regrouped just as they did in Detroit and buried Atlanta in the second half. Last year's team could not survive a hint of adversity, but it looks like this one is really beginning to believe in itself.

It starts with the ability to run the ball. The Vikes have so many weapons in the passing game that any team having to honor the run against them is in a real tough spot. With the addition of Kelly Campbell's speed and Nate Burleson's polished route-running to go with Randy Moss, (that well-known model citizen), what is a defense to do?

And as Chris Carter pointed out, wait till Michael Bennett gets back. The way the Purple offensive line is moving the other guys around, a back with Bennett's breakaway speed would have several long TD runs by now. He supposedly had his cast removed last week and is ready to start jogging, but I haven't heard any more about that lately. I hope that doesn't mean bad news.

On defense, if there was any doubt, last Sunday proved that the addition of Chris Claiborne was a brilliant move. He played like the first round draft pick he was, giving the Vikes the speed on the outside to chase down the run and defense the short passing game that was a given against us last year. In a good pass defense, the linebackers have to do their share -- it's not all up to the defensive backs. But if it were, the Vikes would still be much improved.

Under the Dennis Green regime, especially after the departure of Tony Dungy, I always suspected that the Vikes problems in the defensive backfield were as much coaching as personnel. They had some perfectly good athletes, like DeWayne Washington, who just didn't seem to know whether to sit or go blind. Now that Richard Solomon has been down the road for the second year, the backs are playing good fundamental pass coverage, and I don't think that's any coincidence. Two good players, the Brians, have developed from within the Vikes organization since Chuck Knox Jr. became DBs coach.

My only caution is that against a top QB, the Vikes will not get away with the anemic pass rush that was fairly prevalent last Sunday. They had two sacks and the safeties, but so much of the time there was no pressure at all. Never forget that the Vikes have not faced a team with a winning record yet except for the Cheeseheads, who seem to have gotten themselves together since the Vikes went to Lambeau.

Two Sundays from now the Vikes will come off the buy week against Denver, which dropped a close one Sunday at Kansas City, the other undefeated team in the AFC West. The Purple has played much better at home this year, as they always do. If they go 6-0, start thinking playoffs, way deep into.

And before I close, I would just like to pay tribute to the magic of Fox's second team of announcers, featuring the incomparable Bill Maas, among whose insights last Sunday was that "the Falcons linebackers cannot stand up to big [David] Dix!"  


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