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Vikes survive 14 penalty outing - Is this what they call the "duh" offense? (10/22/2003)
By John Edstrom

John Edstrom
Well fans, after nearly stroking out during the fourth quarter of the Broncos game, I don't know whether to be pleased or disgusted with the Vikes. One more brainless play and they could easily have duplicated the Gophers' absurd and horrible collapse against Michigan.

It is a rare team that can incur 14 penalties for 108 yards and still come away a winner, and the Purple had a full season to internalize this cardinal rule of football last year. The unsportsmanlike conduct call against Kelly Campbell in the fourth quarter was particularly stupid, and I'll never understand what can cause a wide receiver to jump offsides.

On the other hand, it seems like the Vikes are getting more than their share of bad officiating this season. Just in the latter part of the second half the interference call against Denard Walker down in the end zone was a very thin one, roughing the kicker was ignored (the defender was not blocked into Eddie Johnson), and the penalty against Campbell that stalled a drive came after an incident initiated by the other player. Had any of these calls gone the other way, the Vikes could have sealed the game.

But mostly they could have saved their fans a lot of anguish by running the ball in the fourth quarter, which they seem strangely unable to do. It's fine to play rope-a-dope defense when you are way ahead if your offense can hold the ball for a while when they get it back, maybe score a field goal. But no lead is safe if they go three and out and give it right back to an opponent which is gaining confidence against your prevent defense just as your players are losing theirs. Put that kind of pressure on a defense like the Vikes week after week and they will lose one of these games where they had a supposedly insurmountable lead in the second half.

The big Minnesota offensive line is supposed to wear opponents down in the second half, but just the opposite seemed to happen against Denver's smallish defense. With the Vikes ability to score quickly from anywhere on the field, they will be a very tough team to beat if they can learn to consistently run the ball when they get ahead.

Next week the Vikes get the Giants which, at 2-4, are not the tough match up they looked to be when the schedule was made. The same is true of Green Bay, and Oakland coming up, while the Chargers have already richly fulfilled their promise of mediocrity, if that can be said. Should the Vikes continue to play decent defense and learn to close better, they could well be 11-0 by the time they have to travel south to St. Louis. I expect that they will have a playoff spot wrapped up by then, probably home field advantage. This is a solid team, not liable to collapse like some of the smoke and mirror jobs of previous years. However, I wouldn't bet on them not to stumble at least once during that stretch, or they wouldn't be the Vikings.



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