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Early Problems For Undefeated Vikings

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Early Problems For Undefeated Vikings
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
My business cards read "experienced longshoreman, crusader against sushi, acquitted tax cheat, and avid NFL watcher."
I'm not that savvy when it comes to business, clearly.
But I am knowledgeable about the NFL, and the early season problems of the Minnesota Vikings. Yes, an undefeated team has problems. And yes, a team that starts the season against the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions should be undefeated.
Detroit and Cleveland. Like two extra preseason games.
These extra preseason games will hopefully help the Vikings in the long run, not least of which being that the games counted, for some unfair, possibly government-related reason; If the Vikings win the North division, everyone gets health care for their garden gnomes? To the Internet! They'll solve this...drum roll...conspiracy!
These are the problems so far, and what to watch for going into the Vikings game against the undefeated San Francisco 49ers this weekend.
 
Offensive Line
Rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt has been alright with run blocking, like every Vikings lineman—the first halves of each game left a lot to be desired in the run game; but what was desired came in the second half, so what are you going to do?
The passing game seems to have Loadholt buffaloed, though. The rare time an opposing DEnd hasn't ran by him untouched, Loadholt will grab and hold him. Or the play was blown dead because of a Loadholt false start. He was drafted to be better than Ryan Cook, but he has yet to distinguish himself. He is playing exactly like the pre-draft book on him said: good run blocker, but speed rushers eat him alive in pass protection. And they have; when a Lions' defensive lineman are having their way with you, there's probably a problem.
Then again, the entire offensive line had problems against the Lions. Bryant McKinnie could often be found roaming aimlessly, alone, like a Canadian tank. First-year starter John Sullivan was late picking up blocks and blitzes a couple of times, and was outmatched for most of the game against Shaun Rogers and Cleveland. Through the first two games, the line has given up seven sacks—to Detroit and Cleveland. Brett Favre's willingness to lie down and eat it is responsible for a couple of those, however.
Of course—and once again, praise be to the schedule makers, for they shall inherit the earth—the Vikings are still 2-0, and they still have 14 games left to gel as a unit, for McKinnie and Hutchinson to round into form, and for Loadholt and Sullivan to improve.
Or, for them to keep playing at this serviceable level, and wait for the great teams in the league to take advantage. 

Play Calling
Brad Childress gets a lot of undeserved criticism. His beard is what awesome would look like if awesome took beard form. He is a legitimately funny guy, like that, uh, one time he said that...thing. He's not a bad coach, as evidenced by the team's increase of two wins each season he has coached. 
Play calling and coaching are two separate phylums, though. And his play calling is nicht gut. That's German for "not good".
3rd-and-1; either hand it quick to the upback or give it to Peterson, right? No, not to the Chiller. Fake it to the upback, because that just gives the overloaded defense more time to get into the backfield when you hand it to Peterson, setting him up to get pancaked for a two-yard loss. That's how you get a first do...oh.  Or run a stretch play with Peterson near the goal line, make him run sideways instead of pounding him straight into the end zone.  The "3rd-and-8, call a five-yard route" play he's patented through the years (though that play will actually work this year if the pass is to Percy Harvin, who gets a first down nine out of ten times he touches the ball).
And after a game where only one pass over twenty yards was attempted, Chilly still has the gall to say things like, "We had aggressive play calling throughout the game."
Brad Childress is his own worst enemy. He could sabotage any chances this team has of doing anything if he continues to out-think himself and settling for field goals. Or, maybe he was waiting for the regular season to start before showing the good plays. 
Detroit. Cleveland. They are not good. Still.

The Run Defense
This is surprising. 
The secondary was supposed to be the weak link, but so far this season, it's been the run defense. The same run defense that was number one in the league the past three years. The same run defense that was playing two poor offenses.
Detroit. Cleveland. The uncleaned rest stops of the NFL. Actually, Cleveland's line isn't too bad, they should be able to run a little, but Detroit?
More than likely, the defense will regress to their mean, and then Vikings' fans can go back to worrying about the bend-and-usually-break pass defense. Right now though, after the first two games, there are problems. There have been more broken tackles in the first two games of the season then in the last season-and-a-half, it seems. It's become apparent that we were fools to think E.J. Henderson wouldn't need time to adjust after his injury. Pat Williams has not been disrupting plays like he used to.
Hopefully, these all end up being early-season kinks that get worked out over time. But, there is a good chance the Vikings don't have the best run defense in the league anymore.

Don't Know What This Team Is Yet
Yeah, they won their first two games. Bully for them. They'd better win against arguably two of the four worst teams in football. 
It should be worrisome that the Vikings had these specific problems against inferior opponents. This next game against San Francisco is bigger than you think. The game will show us how the offensive line performs against a good defense; and if it's anything like how they played against Detroit and Cleveland, the Vikings won't beat San Francisco. The game will show the run defense correcting their mistakes, or getting run over by a rejuvenated Frank Gore. And how Childress calls a game against a real opponent, or if a man who pulls his pants down at halftime is the better tactician.
San Francisco is the first game of the season. If the Vikings have improved, if they are the Super Bowl contenders they claim to be, they should be able to overpower the physically inferior opponent.
We don't know how it will turn out. And that's the fun part, so I've heard.

 

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