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Vikes let one get away Sloppy play, bad breaks catch up (10/29/2003)
By John Edstrom

Well fans, this was the game in which sloppy play, bad breaks, and the Vikes flaws on both offense and defense caught up with them. Once again the Purple committed way too many penalties, particularly the Lance Johnstone offside in the fourth quarter when it looked like the Vikes could hold the Giants to a field goal and a two point lead. A good team should not make more than five penalties in a typical game, and not the avoidable ones in critical situations, such as Johnstone's. The Vikings commit way too many through a lack of concentration, basic discipline. Over the course of the season that will cost a game or two, particularly the close ones. Vince Lombardi's teams were famous for never beating themselves that way.

And in tight games, sometimes the breaks are bound to go against you. The Vikes weren't given a fumble they recovered on a punt, and failed to recover a blocked punt on the five yard line. That will happen, and it will beat the team that squanders its opportunities. Getting within range of a field goal on Moe Williams' run in the fourth and then letting Michael Strahan make three plays in a row to back them up to the 33 yard is a not the sign of a consistent winner. (And why not try the field goal there? Elling made one from a fraction farther out earlier.)

The Vikes need solid improvement in a number of areas in order to start pulling away in these games that they instead make nail-biters out of. Their offensive line has to play more consistently, particularly McKinnie and Rosenthal. I can't count how many times this team has failed to close out games by getting to the 35 yard line with big plays, and then not being able to grind out enough more for the field goal because they can't open a crack for a running back, or protect Culpepper long enough to make a throw.

And their defensive backs have to avoid lapsing back into last year's defensive style, which featured the missed tackle after loose pass coverage. There is now enough pass rush so that they don't have to cover for an eternity. Announcer Chris Collinsworth made a big deal out of Giants QB Kerry Collins not stepping up into the pocket to make strong throws, and he should have done so more often. However, the Vikes interior defensive line is now consistently collapsing the pocket, which put pressure on Collins by shutting down his throwing lanes and threatening the sudden violent and painful sack. Facing pressure up the middle will affect any QB's timing and accuracy. This is why the Vikes took a tackle, not a defensive end with their first pick this year. Their pass rush has much room for improvement, but it is good enough now so that the DBs can afford to play much more aggressive, tight coverage. Last Sunday this group was once again conceding the short stuff and crossing patterns, and the Vikes will never dominate any opponent that way. I hate to see them do that when they have a big lead. It is a sure way to lose a close game.

Oh well, next week comes the Cheeseheads, a fundamentally different team and better catchup for the Purple than the Giants. Green Bay's defense will not stop the run nor rush the passer as well as New York, so there will be less pressure on the defense. And Brett Favre, though still dangerous, does not consistently play at the high level he used to. If he's on, however, he is perfectly capable of scoring enough points, especially against the timid, butter-fingered defense the Vikes showed us last Sunday, to send them reeling to 6-2, and a serious reassessment of Purple fortunes.  


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