As they step off the plane today, the entire Minnesota Vikings organization will be searching for answers about what has happened in recent weeks to this promising football team. Having answered some of the questions in the media already, the common thread seems to be: no one knows.
There's the theory of the schism hiccup of Brett Favre and Brad Childress not getting along. There are miscellaneous injuries to key players being out like Pat Williams and EJ Henderson. And, the theory that Brett Favre, now 40 doesn't have the ability he once had. There's also the theory that Brad Childress cannot let go from micro-managing the offense.
The most obvious is; the team is not clicking on all cylinders like they had been earlier this season when they were 10-1. So, when did the breakdown occur?
The first was when defensive captain, linebacker EJ Henderson suffered a season ending leg injury against the Arizona Cardinals. Losing the defensive linebacker may seem like a common occurrence in the NFL. But, Henderson was also the defensive captain, the leader of the defense who rallied the troops and was, up until his injury, the team's leading tackler. The loss of Henderson handicapped the purple defense. The sidelining injury of Pat Williams, pro-bowl defensive tackle, and the fact that corner back Antoine Winfield is not playing up to speed, since being back from a six game sidelining injury, makes the defense very different than the one that played in September and October. Now you have a different and less cohesive and less effective defense for the Minnesota team than the one that was playing two months ago.
The second and most blatant void is on the offensive line. Steve Hutchinson, right guard and key offensive lineman, is playing through an injured shoulder. On the left side of the line, it has been suggested that tackle Bryant McKinnie shows "tell" on the pass plays to the opposing defense in the manner which he lines up for the play.
The once NFL great, and now analyst, Tony Boselli mentioned it (the "tell") on Westwood One's radio broadcast of the Vikings - Cardinals game, which the Vikings lost. (Quote courtesy of Vikings Now):
"Boselli points out (the left tackle) Bryant McKinnie of the Vikings during his broadcast; he said that the Cardinals know when they're (the Vikings are) going to pass because of his leg. He would have one of his legs back a little bit further. ... He said they know what's going to happen because they're looking at his feet and they can tell when it's a run and when it's a pass."
This could explain the reason why the Vikes offense is being shut down. The other team knows what they're going to do before it happens. Cornerback Cedric Griffin said: " We haven't lost our mojo. The past couple of teams just had our number."
Third is the Adrian Peterson dilemma. Number 28 is a superb runner. However, with the offensive line in tough shape, and the opposing team knowing how to read the run in advance, it would be mindless to play the odds of a hole opening up for him to run through. A.P. is not a tailback or a fullback, he's a running back. Perhaps Minnesota should adjust to an “I” formation play scheme and have Chester Taylor open up the holes for Peterson.
Fortunately, A.P. can catch the ball on short routes. Unfortunately, Peterson is plagued with the problem of not holding on to the ball. He is taking some responsibility for the Chicago loss in the media today. However, his quote side notes that the ball was punched twice from behind and he thought he was down when it came out. Adrian might have been better off talking about the facemask during that play which looked like a chiropractic move made to his head as he was coming down and the ball was knocked loose. Where were the referees on that game changing play?
With the challenges on both the offensive and defensive squads, dissecting the absence of special teams play and the multitude of missed tackles made by the Vikings would be moot. When a team begins to fall apart, missed tackles and bad blocks are symptoms of the problem. This team needs to unite, get clear heads, have full hearts, and they will not lose.
It's up to Coach Childress to lead his team in that direction. If the Vikings are to turn things around, Childress will have to trust Favre to do what his quarterback was brought in to do, and knows how to do. Chilly can then focus on getting this team on track for the playoffs.