- From Either Side
- Bernard Berrian
- Chicago Strippers
- Gettin’ All Up In Cutler’s Grill
- Special Teams Coverage
- Top Five
- Earning Their Money?
- Happy Birthday
WHAT I’LL BE WATCHING
Some of the things I’ll be keeping an eye on while watching the game today.
Quarterback Brett Favre has put together his best two games of the year against the Patriots and last week against the Cardinals. Let’s see if that continues against the Bears today.
The best development during the past two games has been the chemistry he’s had with his receivers. That’s a phrase that’s thrown around all the time in football commentary but never really explained. For the average observer, it’s more of a feel you get that there’s “chemistry” between a quarterback and his receivers than having an explicit explanation for why it’s there or not.
The more you practice with your receivers, the more chemistry you’re likely to build, so it’s no surprise that Favre’s late addition to the Vikings roster this preseason would have an effect on that chemistry. That it took half a season to build; that’s pretty surprising.
What the playing relationship between quarterback and receiver boils down to is trust. That trust is built on familiarity. Favre needs to be familiar with how his receivers run their routes. His his out route a sharp cut? Does he come back to the ball? Can he track the ball over his shoulder? Does he like to catch it on his right or left side?
The more familiar you are with a receiver’s idiosyncrasies, the more you’ll trust him to make a play in a given situation.
Timing is a big part of chemistry as well and that simply requires experience on the field together, be it in practice of during a game. A quarterback needs to be able to anticipate where his receiver will be on a given route.
An excellent illustration of timing is Bernard Berrian‘s slant route. That slant route had not, by and large, been working between the two; Favre was leading Berrian a bit too far. Not last week.
Finally, another component of chemistry between a receiver and his quarterback is the ability to both read the defense the same way and be on the same page in that situation.
It’s not enough, for instance, for both the quarterback and the receiver to read that the safety is cheating inside on a post route, they both need to know to take advantage of the resulting space on the sideline side of the field by breaking the route to the outside.
Last week was the first week where it appeared that Favre had chemistry with all of his receivers, not just Percy Harvin.
FROM EITHER SIDE
On Friday I discussed the match up between Bryant McKinnie and Julius Peppers but that’s not the only match up we need concern ourselves with.
One of the reasons Peppers is an elite pass rusher is he’s just as good rushing from the right side as he is when rushing from the left.
So if McKinnie heads into this game with an attitude and proves he can shut down Peppers early (of which, I admit, I am skeptical), then Peppers can easily say, screw this, I’m gettin’ me some Loadholt action.
So if he flips to go against Phil Loadholt on the right side, we’ve got that to contend with.
If we assume that McKinnie and Loadholt will need some help against Peppers–a reasonable assumption–then where do they get it?
Favre will have to make pre-snap adjustments. Depending upon the formation, that might mean assigning a tight end to help on a double team. I’m cool with that if the tight end’s name is Jimmy Kleinsasser or Jeff Dugan.
But if we’re depending upon Adrian Peterson or, God forbid, Nafahu Tahi, then we’re likely to have some problems.
With Sidney Rice not making his season debut today, the Vikings will need strong games from their receivers, especially if they go pass heavy in order to attack the Bears’ defensive weakness.
Bernard Berrian had been an afterthought this year when you thought about his role in this offense and had been offensive when you thought about his salary.
But last week we saw the playmaker Berrian had been for us before. While he’s probably not likely to be the consistent deep threat he once was, last week’s game demonstrated he can still bring it. Look at his career highlight reel and you’ll see a receiver who can make some difficult catches and who makes a lot of yards after the catch. [WATCH.]
Last week also demonstrated that when he’s got his timing down with Brett Favre, he can be deadly, especially on those slant routes. When Favre hits Berrian in stride, he’s got the speed to split the defenders and take it to the house.
No, not that kind of stripper.
Adrian Peterson has commented on how the Chicago defenders would rather try and strip the ball from your hands than tackle you. Given Peterson’s history, he expects to see a lot of that.
Halfway through the season, Peterson’s coughed up the ball once (though it was credited to Brett Favre).
It’s fantastic that Peterson has finally taken his problem seriously and stepped up to get it resolved. The Bears might be his biggest test in that regard, though.
If Adrian stays focused on keeping the ball high and tight throughout the game, though, he might have a huge day because while Bears defenders are preoccupied with stealing the ball, Peterson can ran through their tackles for additional yards.
GETTIN’ ALL UP IN CUTLER’S GRILL
Will the Vikings front four make Bears quarterback Jay Cutler skittish from the start?
Because if you get all up in his grill, Cutler’s inclined to a skittish disposition and when he’s like that, he’s almost guaranteed to make poor decisions.
The Vikings D will need to bring the pressure either with the front four or with the blitz. Especially during third and long situations. It looks like offensive coordinator Mike Martz is throwing in more quick throwing plays to obviate the need for protection, so it will be important to jam the receivers and/or limit the yards on those plays and force the Bears into second- and third-and-long plays.
The Bears line does not seem to be able to protect Cutler when he takes a seven-step drop.
In addition to getting pressure, the Vikes might need to assign a QB spy because Cutler can definitely take off and run with the ball.
More importantly, though, the linebackers and Dbacks had better take advantage of the interception opportunities because they’ll likely get some. Some receivers gloves with “tacification” might help: Nike Magnigrip are my favorite.
SPECIAL TEAMS COVERAGE
The kickoff return the Vikings gave up to the Cardinals was embarrassing for simple fact that no one touched returner LaRod Stephens-Howling.
Today we got Devin Hester to worry about, who has take two punt returns to the house so far this season.
On a day when it is supposed to be fairly nice you wouldn’t think weather would be much of an issue. It probably won’t be but that’s easier to say if you’re an outdoors team like the Bears.
The Vikings are not that.
The forecast has the temp at 44 degrees at kickoff and partly cloudy.
The thing about Soldier Field, though, is that the weather can change dramatically on the field even though it may not be reflected in the mercury.
Forty-four degrees can feel either downright toasty or frigid, depending upon cloud cover or where the sun is in the sky. When the sun is directly overhead with no clouds in the sky, it’s warm in the stadium. When the clouds obscure the sun, it feels significantly colder.
Halfway through the game, when the sun has moved to the other side of the sky and the clouds are dimming whatever sunshine there is and the wind is coming off the lake, it may say 44 degrees on the thermometer but the actual conditions feel icy.
That matters a great deal when you’re trying to catch the ball. That’s when handwarmers come in handy.
New England Patriots’ receiver Wes Welker has averaged four catches for forty-four yards since Randy Moss was traded to the Vikings. That’s the Moss Cushion at work…or, rather, not at work.
That’s where Brett Favre ranks last week’s come-from-behind victory among his 45 career come-from-behind victories.
The verdict was yes, despite his two interceptions, of which “The second INT was a Favreian blunder near the endzone, the kind of hair-pulling throw he makes with some regularity.”
That’s an easy line…unfortunately, it’s wrong.
You have to wonder if the guy even watched the game or if he was reading a box score after the fact. Had he watched the game, he might have noticed what we all saw: Bryant McKinnie getting beat on an inside move resulting Favre getting hit as he was releasing the ball resulting in an interception that, if the NFL assigned credit where credit is due, would have appeared under an INT column on McKinnie’s stat sheet.
The first interception last week was on Favre but not the second.
The more appropriate question is whether or not the Pro Football Weekly writer was earning his keep.
If you’re not into Twitter, you can chat about the game at the Minnesota Vikings Chat Facebook page.
Happy Birthday to quarterback Joe Webb (24).