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  Wednesday January 28th, 2015    

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Booo! It’s back The return of the invisible defense (11/05/2003)
By John Edstrom

John Edstrom
Well fans, the Vikes played the perfect nightmare of a game just in time for Halloween weekend. There is no worse torture for the football fan than to watch a team which can't play defense, and the current version of the Purple defense is resembling last year's rotten old sieve more and more with every game. First, they couldn't stop Denver's Clinton Portis from running all over them. Then the Giants' Kerry Collins shredded them with the short passing game. Sunday, the Vikes could not stand up to any aspect of the Cheesehead offense, but by far the worst of it was giving up 261 yards on the ground, a number unheard of since the glory days of Walter Payton.

This current defensive unit is supposed to be better than last year's, but it seemed like the 2002 version was able to stop the run even while its pathetic defensive backfield was being dissected. Pick your poison these last three games. It is true that Ahman Green will make a lot of tacklers look bad, and he played a fantastic game. How many times did he turn a loss into a gain through individual effort, as when he wriggled away from Chris Claibourne in the second half? He gets this year's greased pig award.

The same is also true of Brett Favre's effort. The Vikes pass rush was nothing to brag about, but every time they flushed Favre he managed to slither away to make a play, even if it was falling backwards off the wrong foot. That said, the Vikes are just not making tackles like they did earlier in the season. Denard Walker missed enough to make the bozo highlight film, particularly on the Javon Walker TD catch. What is the difference? Earlier this year our corners were hitting the receivers right after the catch and driving through the tackle. now they look like ugly girls dancing by themsleves.

And why does this defense crap out in the fourth quarter? The story is that Mike Tice works them very hard on conditioning so that they'll still have legs under them at the end of the game, but even though they were off the field most of the third quarter, the Vikes defense was plainly gassed during the fourth. Are they being worked too hard?

More likely, the situation is that neither their defensive line nor linebackers is playing any better, at this point, than last year. What they've picked up in pass rush, they've lost in run coverage. They can't cover the wide stuff, and are then increasingly vulnerable up the middle. Has Greg Biekert lost that last vital step? And could it be that the "breakout year" everybody promised for Chris Hovan is turning into a plain old bust?

You can't work up much of a drumbeat for a QB change after a team has scored 27 points, but I'm also getting a little suspicious of the Culpepper renaissance. He seems slow to find receivers and unable to recognize coverages. The quick decision eludes him so that under his leadership the offense is liable to fits and starts, like a car with water in its gas line. It is good that he's not throwing interceptions, but he's not doing a whole lot of anything else either.

Next week the Vikes can get well down in San Diego, where the Chargers have been providing the equivalent of chicken soup to their opponents. But beware LaDainian Tomlinson, who could beat the Vikes all by himself if they don't regain their knack for tackling.



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