Glass Half-Full and Half-Empty: Five Positives and Negatives To Take From Week 1
There was so much hype to the Week 1 rematch against the team that may have stolen the Lombardi Trophy from the Minnesota Vikings. It was slated to be one of the biggest games of the 2010 NFL season.
It really didn't live up to the hype. More so for Vikings fans, as the New Orleans Saints won by a score of 14-9.
Looking back, there were a few positives that may have been buried by the negatives and a few negatives that overshadowed the positives on the Vikings' side of the equation.
Here are five positives and five negatives to take from the Week 1 loss against the New Orleans Saints.
Positive: Visanthe Shiancoe Is the Real Deal
When the Vikings signed Visanthe Shiancoe a couple years ago, he seemed to be a bust. He had poor hands and failed to make the plays that an NFL tight-end should make.
The bust label continued until mid-way through last season. Shiancoe emerged as one of the best pass catching tight-ends in the NFL, on his way to being tied for second in the NFL in receiving touchdowns, with 11.
A lot of people said it was solely on Favre throwing him the ball, some said it was a fluke of a season, some said he is the real deal.
After tonight's game, I'm ready to reinforce that Shiancoe really is one of the best tight-ends in the league.
He was our only receiving threat. He made plays that we would need from a wide receiver (or lack thereof).
Shiancoe was outstanding tonight.
If tonight is any indication, Shiancoe is bound to be a huge part of this offense for years to come. With or without Brett Favre behind the helm.
Negative: Linebackers' Coverage
Once again, the Vikings' linebacker corps proves to be down-right dreadful in the pass coverage game.
Now, I can understand a linebacker getting burned down field when going head-to-head against a wide receiver who should be running faster than the 'backer. After all, Chad Greenway was a part of the burned coverage on the dropped Robert Meachem touchdown.
Can't blame him or another linebacker on that.
However, what I'm getting fed up with is constantly seeing the enemy receivers being 100% wide open before the first down marker.
This happened quite a bit last year as well.
A receiver would settle around five or six yards before the first-down marker, catch the ball, and he'd have an easy lane to the first down. There is not a defense player (aka linebacker) within four yards of that receiver.
Brees and the Saints burned the Vikings many times with that short pass over the middle that accounted for a lot of yards after the catch tonight. It was too easy.
How many times did our receivers have an easy catch shallow in the middle and left open enough to get a substantial amount of yards after the catch.
Let's start sticking a linebacker there to contest some of those throws any of us could make for a first down, or else it's going to be a long season.
Positive: Adrian Peterson Looks Back To Form
Let's face it, Adrian Peterson had an off year last season.
Yes, I know. Adrian still had over 1,300 yards and had 18 rushing touchdowns. However, Adrian simply didn't look like the same back. He didn't have that second gear to flat out run past a defender, and he looked indecisive looking for a hole to run through.
And that's not mentioning the fumbles.
Now, I know you can blame a lot on Adrian's "off year" last season on a poor offensive line but in the end, Adrian just didn't look the same as he did in his rookie and sophomore seasons.
Tonight, Adrian Peterson looked (pardon my language) pissed off.
He was hitting the right holes with gusto, he didn't go down easy, and fought for the extra yards successfully, and he didn't even come close to giving up the ball. He was in beast mode, as some would say.
AD may be back to form.
If this AD is any sign to come, he's going to be looking behind his back at Chris Johnson as he blows by him and reclaims his crown as the NFL's best running back.
Negative: Brett Favre's Rust
During training camp, we heard the same old spiel, saying that since Brett Favre is a 20-year veteran, he doesn't need to show up for training camp, as he's seen it all and deserves a rest.
Well, maybe not this year.
Last year, Favre came to the Vikings at almost the same time he did this season. Basically, the exact same schedule and almost the same amount of plays between the preseason games he took apart in, as well.
He seemed fine enough in Week 1. Not so much this year. The difference between this year and last year is the Vikings' schedule.
Last season, the Vikings essentially had six preseason games. The standard four preseason games and basically two more against the lowly Browns and Lions. Favre had time to get to form and shake off the rust against two very poor teams.
This year, he doesn't have that luxury.
He started the season against the defending Super Bowl champions. Quite frankly, Favre looked rusty, tired, and well, old. Any amount of rust is not good against a team like the Saints.
It's obvious now that a few extra weeks of conditioning and rhythm building with his receivers wouldn't have been so bad.
Positive: Patchwork Secondary Holds Up
Even though it really didn't seem like it, the Vikings' "patchwork" secondary seemed to hold their own against one of the NFL's most vaunted passing attacks.
It seemed during the first drive the Saints had, they were going to destroy the secondary, who were missing Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook due to injury. Brees and company marched down the field in no time, completing pass after pass until one went for six to open up the scoring
After that? Not so much.
After the first drive, the secondary seemed to get their heads on right and improved as they started to cover the Saints' receivers, forcing Brees to check down to players in the flats, where they went for minimal gain after the catch.
Although there were still plays that the Saints should have capitalized on for serious consequences, the secondary played well enough to earn the purple a victory, pending the offense could take advantage of numerous short drives from New Orleans.
Negative: Adrian No More
Like I said earlier, Adrian Peterson looked to be back in the form he showed in his first two seasons in the NFL.
Peterson had a huge first half for the Vikings.
He ran the ball 13 times for a total of 57 yards. Good for 4.4 yards for carry. He seemed like he was about to break off a huge run at any moment and truly looked like he was angry about losing to the Saints last January.
Enter the second half.
In the entire second half, Peterson ran the ball just six times. Six.
Those six carries were good for 30 yards. Five yards per carry.
The Saints ran the ball only three times in the first half and the Vikings ran the ball 13 times. In the second half, the Saints ran the ball 17 times compared to the Vikings' six.
I really do not understand why the two teams decided to flip-flop schemes after halftime. Maybe the Vikings decided passing the ball was more fun?
It would be one thing if you were down 14 or more and needed to score in a hurry, but being down by less than one touchdown is not panic enough to have to rely on passing the ball for the vast majority of the rest of the game and making Adrian Peterson a non-factor.
Adrian Peterson should have been the main focus of the Vikings' offense from the opening drive to the final whistle.
Positive: Greg Camarillo Has the Hands
I'm just going to come out and say it: I'm a huge Greg Camarillo fan. I liked him as a Dolphin, I love him as a Viking.
However, I'm a bit lost in his role in Thursday's game. Where the heck was Camarillo for most of the game?
In the entire game, Camarillo made two appearances. One was a fantastic leaping catch, good for 29 yards and a Vikings' first down, and the other was a diving attempt for a ball that was just out of his reach.
Even though he's very new to Minnesota and perhaps the Vikings' playbook, one thing for certain is that he packed his hands and route running and brought them to Minnesota, as he showed it off in very limited duty on Thursday.
Now, why he wasn't used more is a bit perplexing.
In his two cameos, he showed that he was probably the only Minnesota receiver to show any kind of separation from the defenders. Heck, even if he is new to the Vikings' playbook, the guy is smart enough to be able to run the basic routes and run them very well.
Why Camarillo wasn't a bigger part of Thursday's game still makes me scratch my head.
Taking into the fact that he was only involved in the two plays, Camarillo proved to be a bright spot in the Minnesota passing game and may be a factor in weeks to come.
Negative: They Didn't Start the Fire!
On one play, a Saints receiver made a catch for an easy first down, in which he lost his helmet. Vikings' linebacker Chad Greenway picked up the receiver's helmet, handed it to him, and patted him on the butt.
A sign of encouragement.
It happened again when Saints' receiver Rovert Meachem burned the Vikings' defense along with Greenway and dropped a sure touchdown pass. Greenway once again patted him on the back as they were heading back to the huddle, even though he almost burned him for six.
Sportsmanship is great, but where is the attitude that says "You squeaked by us last year and took a chance for the Lombardi trophy right out of our hands, I hate every Saints player with a passion for the next three hours. Screw you! I want revenge!"
Yet Greenway is patting these guys on the back and butt?
Save the sportsmanship for the post-game handshakes.
Where the heck was the fire under the Vikings' butts? Where was the drive to punish everybody on the Saints roster for blatantly trying to hurt your quarterback? Where was the drive to get sweet revenge in the form of controlled violence against the team that killed any hope for a championship?
The only display I saw of this was a scuffle between Percy Harvin and a Saints player. That was some fire.
After that? Nothing.
Positive: Defense Holds Up
I touched on this a bit regarding the secondary, as I feel they deserve some recognition, but the entire defense held up quite well as a whole.
Even though there were some big plays against in both halves, the Vikings defense allowed one of the NFL's most vaunted offense to score only 14 points.
Now, I will admit that the 14 points should have been a little higher, if not for two Garrett Hartley missed field goals and/or a dropped Robert Meachem touchdown pass. All in all, the Vikings defense kept the team in a position to win all game.
Bring up all of the negative plays you want, and the disappearance of Jared Allen, but in the Vikings defense, for how depleted they were in the secondary, they played well enough to win the game.
If the defense continues to play like they did Thursday, until they get Cook and Griffin back and the offense gets backs on track, it's going to be another good season for the Vikings.
Negative: Calling All Receivers! Hello? Anyone?
Perhaps the biggest question mark going into Thursday's game was the Vikings' wide receiver corps. After all, Minnesota's leading receiver from 2009, Sidney Rice, is going to be out at least half of 2010 after undergoing surgery to repair an injured hip.
The Vikings needed someone to step up.
Active receivers Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Greg Lewis, and Greg Camarillo didn't do anything to make up for the playmaking ability that the injured Rice brought. They couldn't get free from a Saints' defender to make any type of play.
When they did get free, Brett Favre either made a bad throw or in at least one case, flat out dropped a catchable ball. Minnesota receivers tallied only four catches for just 56 yards. No receiver had more than one catch.
Maybe it was the lack of a relationship with Favre or maybe it was just unbelievably stellar defense by the Saints, but if the Vikings want to have a strong first half, a receiver or two is going to have to step up into the role vacated by Rice.
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