The Vikings did not leave any doubt about who the better team was at the Metrodome this past Sunday. With dominating efforts on both sides of the football the Vikings played arguably their best overall performance of the season. If you are someone who is arguing this wasn't their best performance you probably are more than just a little slow. Not only did the Vikings score 34 points against a very tough Dallas defense, they held the even tougher Cowboy offense to only 3 points.
I think one of the more surprising things to come from the game is how the Vikings scored all their touchdowns on passes. Going into the game the running attack looked like the best advantage the Vikings would have since the Cowboys have such a good secondary. Apparently the secondary could not contain Sidney Rice because he ran all over them like a pee wee football team.
As I said in last weeks article, the game was going to be determined in the trenches. The defensive line proved that to be true. They sacked Tony Romo six times for a total of 42 lost yards. The Vikings only gave up three sacks and most of all allowed Favre time to throw the football to his big time Wide Receivers. The offensive line played great throughout the game. The screen game worked well, they blocked for a total of 107 rushing yards, and they obviously gave Favre plenty of time to air the ball out down field to his tall baseball mitt handed Wide Receiver. Sidney had three touchdown catches, all of them remarkable. He had one touchdown of 45 yards and another of 47.
The Cowboys create pressure with their front four while the Saints tend to use blitzing. The Vikings offensive line easily handled the formidable Dallas rush. Now can they handle the creative pressure that Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams brews to confuse offensive protection schemes? The Vikings will need to run around the blitzing and take advantage of the Saints very weak rush defense. New Orleans gave up an average of 122.0 yards on the ground and 235 yards through the air. That yardage should work very nicely for the Vikings because of their red zone success. If the offensive line works as well as they did against Dallas, it will be long day for Saints defenders.
This is the game where I look to The Diesel to step up huge and carry the Vikings into the Super Bowl. Show us you want it Adrian, especially if you want to be considered the greatest football player of all time. Most all-time greats have huge playoff moments, and this could be #28's day. As I stated above the Saints have a delicate rush defense that Adrian can break and one that is most susceptible to destruction up the middle. AP has not rushed for over 100 yards in eight games now; look for him to break that streak in the NFC Championship.
Good defenses this season have slowed the Saints unreal offensive power. The Vikings have more than a satisfactory defense and their performance against the Cowboys was legendary. The Saints have great pass catchers and Drew Brees as their greatest weapons. The Vikings have an adequate secondary playing its heart out. Cedric Griffin kept the Cowboys receivers quiet (especially Miles Austin) and lead the team in tackles with nine.
Good tackling will help slow down Reggie Bush on the edges and prevent Saints receivers from getting yards after the catch. Pile that on top of the pressure the Vikings are bringing? Ray Edwards (who is listed as questionable this Sunday) brought three sacks, five tackles, and plenty of haunting images to Tony Romo Divisional Sunday. Before last weekend the experts were saying Tony Romo was playing as good as any Quarterback in the NFL, and he was almost silent. Pressure changes pocket passers, could this be the same for Brees? The Vikings even have some advantages on defense. Not saying that they will stop the Saints, but slowing them down enough for our offense to rise over the top is just enough.
If Minnesota can get some stops they can exploit the Saints defensive weaknesses making it more difficult for them to keep up. Running the football will be key. It will eat clock and keep the ball out of Brees' hands. Even though Darren Sharper is still sterling in his old age neither him nor any Saints Cornerback will be able to seriously hold up Sidney Rice. Hopefully Percy is feeling well enough to play (stupid migraines!). Even the threat of him lining up gives the Vikings more options.
The X Factor could be Reggie Bush. Most of us remember Reggie ripping up our special teams for two scores on a Monday Night Football match up. He will be playing at home and the crowd will be boisterously shouting "Reggie, Reggie!" Our special teams needs to hold him to small returns and no touchdowns. Pro Bowler Heath Farwell better come up big.
Reggie has also shown he has some muscle with his more aggressive running versus the Cardinals. But let's face it, the Cardinals defense is worse than the Timberwolves. The Vikings defense is not (they are good at basketball, wait, football). I don't expect success from Reggie between the tackles (if Kevin and Pat play, both listed as questionable). It will also be difficult to run laterally against the sure tackling of Griffin, Greenway, Leber, Winfield (even if he plays like a shell of himself) and even Benny Sapp
The talent of the Vikings combined with a good game plan should carry them to the NFC Championship game. The Vikings are playing excellent on both sides of the ball, the Saints are more one sided. The Vikings will realize more than ever that #4 was the best decision their franchise ever made after holding up the NFC Trophy. I have expected success in the NFC Championship before and been horribly scarred after. I still have cruel memories of 1999 and 2001. The 1999 NFC Championship was so hard on me it was a life lesson. Never put your heart too deep into sports, especially Vikings football. So if Minnesota comes up short on Sunday my protective shell will prevent the loss from being as painful as years past. However, I expect the Vikings to be playing an AFC team for the title of World Champion. They have all the pieces working too fluently to fail. Unless Ryan Longwell shanks a field goal to end it all...