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Thoughts by: Matthew Deery

Let me start off by saying that Sidney Rice is a beast, period. With the exception of Brett Favre, he is the second biggest reason for the Vikings victory Sunday.That and the missed field goal seen left.

Secondly, Joe Flacco is an absolute stud. He will be a feature quarterback in the NFL for a long time to come. One of the television commentators stated during the broadcast, "There isn't anything that you can dislike about Joe as a quarterback in this league." I agree with that statement 100%, besides when he is facing Minnesota. The unbelievable precision throws he made under duress from our assaulting defense is something any football fan should revel and feel fortunate to be able to see this rising star play. Joe is a player who goes about his business the right way on and off the field with a humble heart. His calm demeanor on the side line and in the game looked that of a veteran, not a second year quarterback.

Wow, and I bet most of us thought the 49ers game was going to be the biggest nail biter of this season. The match up on Sunday was a game that the Vikings had in hand for the duration of three and a half quarters. Then the defense collapsed; but with a missed 44 yard field goal from former Viking Steve Hauschka as time ran off the clock sealed the Raven's fate and moved the Vikings to 6-0.

The first two drives of the game for the Vikings could not have gone any better for a Minnesota fan. The Vikings moved the ball seamlessly down the field with the passing and running game. Completing each drive were touchdown passes to Shiancoe to Berrian. Seeing the Baltimore defense allow our offense to move the ball like that did not seem right.

In addition to the 14-0 deficit the Baltimore offense struggled in every facet of their attack. The Vikings run defense looked of years past by only allowing the Ravens to accumulate 11 first half rushing yards. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh stated before the game he wanted to establish the running game early, but the Vikings saw to deny that plan. The pass defense was stellar despite losing Pro Bowler Antoine Winfield early in the game with a sprained foot. The line created pressure making Flacco out of rhythm and which never allowed the passing game to never pick up steam.

The Ravens manufactured 3 points by halftime with a nice drive complemented with plenty of Vikings penalties.

At halftime I was scratching my head a little. I was not thinking of the complete domination the Vikings put on the Ravens with a 14-3 lead. I was thinking of how this team full of dangerous weapons at every position would not be kept at bay this entire game. I was thinking about the Vikings drives succeeding the first two all had the common theme of the Raven defensive prowess. When I began to see the Raven defense pick it up I knew that their high powered offense would not remain stagnant the entire game.

The third quarter resembled the first half with the Vikings forcing the Ravens to a 3-and-out on their first possession. The Vikings picked up the scoring again by moving the ball with their running attack and setting up a field goal from Ryan Longwell.

Then the Ravens coaches went online to and looked at my last weeks recap of the Vikings/Rams game. In the article I describe the Vikings glaring weaknesses on defense like: allowing short pass plays to turn into huge chunks of yardage, our weak secondary coverage while we blitz (and even more so without Antoine), and our inability to stop teams that use their running backs effectively in their screen game.

So what do the Raven's come out and do? They begin to pick away at our defense with short yardage passes, use Ray Rice perfectly in their screen game, and burn our secondary with huge pass plays as Joe Flacco is bombing the ball down field with all sorts of Viking pressure in his face.
I knew at halftime that the Ravens were not just going to lose by 2 scores like the first half indicated; they are a top 10 offense and a far superior team than that.

Well anyone who watched the game knew that the Vikings defense not only gave up points to the Ravens defense, but it was lightning fashion. The Ravens scored so much so quickly it was only a matter of minutes between Vikings fans counting that sixth victory to forcing down a first loss. After a Vikings score to increase the lead 27-10, the Ravens next 3 possessions lasted 1:33, 0:49, and 0:07 all resulting in touchdowns. That is a total of 21 points in 2 minutes and 29 seconds of game time!
After the Vikings went down from the 33 yard touchdown in which Ray Rice was untouched (Tyrell Johnson missed his spot), they got the ball back with a chance to take the lead with a score. With 3 minutes left in the game Favre hit Sidney Rice in single coverage down the field for a 58 yard strike setting the Vikings up on the Ravens 18. Of course, three consecutive running plays for nothing and another Longwell field goal.

I remember thinking as Sidney caught the ball, "Oh no, the Ravens still will have so much time left if we score here!" The field goal instead of a touchdown did not help my anxiety.
The Ravens easily moved the ball yet again as Flacco looked like a seasoned vet leading his team on the "game winning" drive. Well thankfully the kicker missed, Vikes are 6-0.

I really hate when games are determined by field goal play.

Important things from the game:

#1 Favre gets it done.

#2 E.J. Henderson played the worst game I have ever seen him play. He was stiff armed away from Ray Rice on the Raven running back's first touchdown run, missed another tackle on Rice which would have prevented his screen pass from turning into 63 yards, and was absent in the role as defensive leader. It is going to be a tough week of film for E.J. and his coaches to watch.

#3 AP got back on track against one of the best defenses in the NFL. It was nice to see him push the field with some big runs again, and also gain consistent yardage on the small ones. The Diesel has now reclaimed the lead atop the NFL leader board for yardage by RB's.
#4 Each time the Ravens were punching in the 4th quarter, the Vikings had a counter punch. The unfortunate thing is our counter punches were much weaker because the play calling got conservative in Raven's territory (i.e. field goals). A huge pass to Sidney and a huge run by AP amounted to nothing but 6 points. I honestly would like to see the play calling get aggressive in those situations and see if we can't walk out with 7 points.

When your opponent is down, you step on their throat. We needed touchdowns to offset the Raven's clicking offense, and the three conservative running plays to AP after the Sidney bomb was a huge coaching mistake. With the ball so close, why not take a shot at the end zone? Sure three running plays gets the Ravens to burn all their time outs. But what respectable NFL quarterback can't lead their team to field goal range with no time outs and 2+ minutes left? I would argue Flacco is a soon to be great QB, and with the way the Vikings defense was playing why would the coaches feel complacent settling for a FG? With Favre and Sidney killing the Raven's secondary, why not give them a shot at six? A touchdown is absolutely necessary there, and it obviously showed. I am concerned. 

#5 Our secondary is more frail than Lindsey Lohan's bones without Antoine Winfield to hold it down. Great quarterbacks like Flacco will pick apart a secondary that allows big yardage like ours. I recant my earlier statement that E.J. is the defenses best player; it is clearly Antoine. Today Childress addressed the injuries of Winfield, AP, and Harvin. Antoine's status is uncertain as Childress sugar coated his delivery by saying "all players heal differently."

Well that is inherently bad news because most likely Antoine will not be ready to go next week against the defending champion Steelers and the leagues leading passer for yards Ben Roethlisberger. It is going to be a tough week to watch our pass coverage try and hold the Steelers #2 overall passing game in check.

#6 Ray Lewis is still a dominant force in this league as a middle linebacker. His 7 tackles and sack on Favre in the 4th quarter was proof.

#7 Ryan Longwell is $.

Good teams find ways to win, and that is exactly what the Vikings did on Sunday. It was not pretty by any means, but the hometown purple got it done. Don't under value this victory against the now 3-3 Raven team that will surely finish with a much better record. We beat a really good team on Sunday, a team even better than the Packers. Next Sunday Minnesota faces a team better than the Ravens.

Other notes from the NFL:

Denver is a lot better than I gave them credit for. They play so well in uniforms so ugly. Their defense is stellar, and they are definitely a force to be reckoned with in the AFC.

Tom Brady threw 5 touchdown passes in the 2nd quarter, an NFL record! Who could have predicted that the once prominent Cinderella team of last season the Tennessee Titans could fall so far from grace in just one season. They lost 59-0 to Brady and the Patriots!

What football fan could have possibly predicted that the impressive looking Philadelphia Eagles would lose to the lowly Raiders? Not me.

What football fan could have predicted that the New Orleans Saints would not only beat the New York Giants, but absolutely dismantled them. Seven different Saints scored touchdowns on Sunday, seven!


1 comment:

  1. I am so with you on the annoyingly conservative play-calling during the fourth quarter of the Vikings/Ravens game. Maybe you can tell me why they called a run play on 3rd and 7 when they were so close to the end zone? Because I don't get it. Why not pass, get the first, and, with a fresh set of downs, make another stab at a touchdown? And, I'm not sure whether it was stupidity or arrogance that had the Vikings coaching staff calling conservative plays so early in the game. The players are beginning to think they can become champions (seriously hope they are right), when will the coaching staff do the same and get aggressive?