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Lovesong for the Linebackers

Was it luck or skill that helped the Minnesota Vikings carry the day in their 27 to 13 victory against the Detroit Lions? I’m not sure. Stylish or not, a win is a win. And, with a schedule that gets more challenging as the season progresses, they absolutely needed to win yesterday.

We could talk all day about what needs to improve so the Vikings can win against teams that don’t have losing records. In fact, looking at the sports section of the paper today, it was hard to believe the Vikings had come away with a win, the tenor of the articles was just that somber. They were filled with gloom and doom about the shaky future of the team if the Vikings continue to allow competitors to dominate the first half, run the ball against them, sack Brett Favre, and stuff the run.

All of that is true. Resting the team through the first half so they are fresh for a second half comeback isn’t a sound method for winning football games. However, I’d like to take a minute to talk about what went right during yesterday’s victory over Detroit—the linebackers.

I think my favorite play yesterday was Chad Greenway’s second interception from Detroit’s rookie quarterback Matt Stafford. Greenway, in what seemed like penance for an earlier missed tackle, played memorable, aggressive football. He had two interceptions, a fumble recovery, and three tackles and an assist to his credit, and yet, when interviewed following the game, Greenway was still beating himself up for that one missed tackle. He’s hardworking, he’s humble, and he gets the job done. One can’t ignore the demoralizing impact that those interceptions and turnovers had on the Detroit Lions during the second half, and how it helped turn the tide for the Vikings. If ever there was a guy who had earned himself a Klondike bar, it is Chad Greenway.

E.J. Henderson is back in a big way. With his mane of dreadlocks covering up his name it’s like he’s the undercover linebacker. The quietly menacing middle linebacker from Maryland racked up 27 tackles in just four games last year before his season was cut short with a foot injury. This year he has a sack and 15 tackles in just two games, seven of the tackles against Detroit. Healthy, he’s going to continue to do that voodoo that he does so well, punishing opposing offenses like nobody’s business. If Henderson doesn’t make it to the Pro Bowl, I’ll be very surprised.

With all the razzle-dazzle of Greenway and Henderson in the last two games Ben Leber is often the overlooked outside linebacker. But the guy is a solid and durable player, with 11 tackles and a sack assist already this season. In the previous three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Leber has missed only one game. Durability isn’t glitzy, but to see how strapped a team can be after losing a solid starting linebacker, one need only look to Chicago where they are scrambling to fill the void that Brian Urlacher’s season-ending wrist injury has caused the Bears.

Sure, Adrian Peterson is still the star and Percy Harvin is developing nicely under Brett Favre’s tutelage. Brett Favre, incidentally, is also the only quarterback in the NFC North who has yet to throw an interception—something for those lamenting the lack of deep plays to consider. But, for today, let’s give a little love to the linebackers, one of whom was instrumental in changing the direction of the Vikings game against the Lions and providing the win they needed.

-Skol Girl

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