The Minnesota Vikings were the victors in their week one bout with the Cleveland Browns, capping off the game with an outstanding 64-yard touchdown run by Adrian "All Day" Peterson (his third touchdown of the day).
In spite of the 34-20 on the scoreboard; however, I was all but impressed by the Vikings' performance.
Disappointed, in fact.
Beyond Adrian Peterson's 198 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns coupled with rookie standout Percy Harvin's promising playmaking ability, little appeared different from last year's Division winning Vikings team.
Don't get me wrong, a 10-6 record is formidable, sure. But the Minnesota Vikings aren't aiming towards the Division title. The Super Bowl, as many analysts and critics muse, is a very real possibility given the talent spread around this Vikings team.
The Vikings' gaze is set upon the Vince Lombardi Trophy, as a team reminiscent of last year's Wild Card runner-ups just won't cut it anymore...especially given the tough division they've been dealt. It's not quite the NFC West.
Now in all fairness, I don't mean to dog on the Vikings, and I certainly don't mean to downplay their achievements on Sunday afternoon. A 34-20 win is definitely not something to take lightly. With that being said, there were several blaring shortcomings during Sunday's game, and unfortunately, they were the same shortcomings that held the Vikings from achieving their goals last year. For instance:
I'll give the Vikings' return game some credit. The addition of Percy Harvin has given the kick return a new, sleeker, meaner look. It's only a matter of time before that guy finds the end zone on a kickoff. Also notable was the addition of punt returner Darius Reynaud, who averaged an impressive 27 yards-per-return with a long of 36.
However, the team that gave of six touchdowns on special teams last season—a league worst—failed to show any signs of improvement, giving up a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown by Josh Cribbs. In games such as their away game at Soldier Field last year, special teams touchdowns can be the difference between a win and a loss, as the Vikings gave up two special teams touchdowns and lost by seven points in that game.
The Passing Game
Again, to the Vikings' credit, Brett Favre didn't look like Gus Frerotte tossing three INT's to one TD or anything, but the Vikings brought in Favre to strike fear into the opponents' backfield, keeping them from stacking eight or nine guys in the box against Adrian Peterson (who still manages to have outstanding games, I might add).
That didn't happen, at all.
Favre compiled 110 passing yards to five different players, while Peterson muscled through dehydration, cramps, and an arm spewing blood, to record 180 yards rushing, 18 receiving, and three touchdowns. This was all through the course of 25 rushes and one reception. Hardly, what I would call a passing game.
Granted, Favre isn't necessarily supposed to be the Vikings' gunslinger/quasi-franchise quarterback, but I can't help but think back to the 1998 season when the Vikings brought in another star quarterback who was also well past his prime to lead the second most productive offense in the history of the NFL (only surpassed by the 2007 New England Patriots).
Randall Cunningham could throw the ball, and so can Brett Favre. I wouldn't expect Favre to be as productive as Cunningham, necessarily. Let's face it. Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, and Percy Harvin aren't Cris Carter, Randy Moss, and Jake Reed, but they aren't incompetent oafs either.
Air the ball out, Brett!
Or maybe Childess: Let Brett air it out. Let Percy Harvin air it out. Hell, let someone throw the football!
Speaking of others throwing the football, this leads me to my final grievance about the Viking's week one performance...
Where Is This Fabled Vikings' Wildcat Offense?
I was dismayed that the Vikings didn't let the cat out of the bag this week. Every third down, my heart fluttered a little bit as the Vikings broke from the huddle, and each time, it was crushed when Favre lined up behind center and Harvin lined up in the slot.
I can only speculate that the Vikings aren't going to reveal anything about their rendition of the Wildcat, until they absolutely need to. If that's the case, then I wouldn't doubt if they withhold the Wildcat until their week four Monday Night Football brawl against their arch-rival, the Green Bay Packers.
It wouldn't surprise me if Childress wants to keep their toughest opponents guessing, giving them as little to work with on film as possible.
Or things could actually be as they seem...a flashy paint job on an old vehicle. The same Minnesota Vikings we all know and love.
The team that always manages to fall just short.