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Careful, They Bite: 2010 Lions Have Teeth

There are some things in life that are reliable. These are the things that are so steady and predictable they could give Newton’s Laws of Motion a run for the money. For example, when you have something big coming up like a yearbook photo, or a hot date, or a class reunion, you will get a pimple so big and bad that it will alter your side profile. Or, when there’s an election brewing, at least one candidate will say the rich need to be taxed and at least one candidate will say that there need to be tax cuts. Or, the Detroit Lions will fight and scrap, but will inevitably lose when they play on the road—or pretty much anywhere else.

At least, that’s the way it’s been for several years, but there’s a change in the air.

The Lions are no longer the perfect losers they were in 2008. Between the changes in the coaching staff and the roster, the 2009 Lions looked vastly different from the previous year and, more importantly, they started winning. It was only two games (Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns), but it was a start. And, considering that in 2010 they’re already leading the league with 10 sacks, I think it’s fair to say that they won’t be satisfied with only two wins this season.

Actually, if it hadn’t been for that highly contested “process” call that deprived Shaun Hill and Calvin Johnson of a touchdown at the end of their opening game in Chicago, the Lions would already have their first win. The Lions’ second game against the Eagles, though a loss, was too close for anyone to write them off.

Sunday the Minnesota Vikings will face the Lions at Mall of America Field and…well, anything could happen. That isn’t a lack of faith talking, it’s history. On October 12, 2008, when the Lions were cruising toward a perfect losing season and, arguably, the worst they’d ever been, they came into the Metrodome and the Vikings managed to beat them by a score of only 12 to 10.

Even at their crappiest, the Detroit Lions find a way to give the Minnesota Vikings a tough fight. Divisional games seem to go that way. Hence, no player, coach, or fan should consider Sunday’s game a gimme for the Vikings.

While the Lions are without Matthew Stafford, and will be without him for weeks to come, Shaun Hill is a very capable back-up quarterback. Protection on the Lions’ offensive line has improved some and it still has Gosder Cherilus who has some history with Jared Allen—a helmet to Jared’s knee will do that. Their star receiver, Calvin Johnson, is a 6’5” pass-catching beast I wish I had been able to draft for my fantasy team*. Although the Lions’ secondary may not be the best in the league, on the defensive line they have rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh giving us such memorable moments in football as driving Cleveland quarterback Jake Delhomme headfirst into the dirt. Oh, and then there’s Jahvid Best, a talented young running back that the defense will have to stop early and often.

Clearly, the Vikings are a team with plenty of talent and they’re hungry for a win. That said, they were hungry last week against Miami too.

The encouraging news out of the Vikings locker room this week is that rookie cornerback Chris Cook has been participating fully in practice and might, fingers crossed, play on Sunday against the Lions. At 6’2” Cook is 4 inches taller than the next tallest member of the Vikings secondary, an asset against tall receivers like Calvin Johnson.

The less encouraging news from the Vikings is that they failed in their quest to procure Vincent Jackson from the San Diego Chargers. Instead they had to content themselves with 6’4” Hank Baskett. Let’s hope they decide to use him sooner rather than later. I keep waiting to see the Vikings use Greg Camarillo more extensively—two catches in two games? Seriously?

So, will the Vikings beat the Lions on Sunday? I really wish I could say yes firmly and unequivocally, but the fact is the 2010 Lions have teeth. If you are going to underestimate them simply because they haven’t won a game yet this seaon, you do so at your own risk. After all, the Vikings haven’t won a game yet either, and they are dangerous too.

*This piece is also available at both http://www.vikingsmix.com and http://www.dailynorseman.com under my alter ego Skol Girl.

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Posted by on September 25, 2010 in Football, Lifestyle

 

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The Long, Hard Wait for the Vikings Home Opener Against Miami

I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I’m really glad that the Minnesota Vikings season opener against the New Orleans Saints is done and over. The anticipation and hype leading up to that game had me so wired I was hopping around like a squirrel on meth. If it was over and the Vikings had won I would be happier and I probably wouldn’t have spent so much of Thursday night accusing the officials of doing immoral things with sheep, but it’s still a relief that a game with so much overwhelming hype is done.

The game shouldn’t be completely written off because it isn’t as if there weren’t bright spots in the Vikings performance against the Saints despite the loss, because there were. But when you want a win those bright spots aren’t quite bright enough.

But now it is a new week and the Vikings are preparing for a new game. It reminded me of the song “Walk and Don’t Look Back” by Mick Jagger and Peter Tosh because the Vikings need to learn what they can from Thursday’s disappointing loss without dwelling on it. I was even going to post the video to that song, but Mick Jagger acted so weird in it that it almost killed the song for me.

On Thursday night the Vikings offense looked out of sync and, well, kind of crappy but even then there was reason for hope. The Vikings offensive line did a fantastic job of keeping Brett Favre upright and giving him time to find a receiver. He didn’t, but that was hardly their fault. Even Bryant McKinnie put in a solid performance until he left the game with a dislocated finger. Adrian Peterson, despite getting mugged, did not fumble the ball. He was also on track to have what would have been a 100-yard game, but the Vikings, for reasons I don’t understand, abandoned the run in the second half. New acquisition Greg Camarillo’s hands were just as sure as advertised, but the Vikings didn’t put him in the game until the fourth quarter.

The Vikings defense, with the exception of the Saints first offensive series, held one of the league’s most dynamic offenses to a paltry 14 points. Drew Brees was able to exploit the Vikings’ corners during the first series, but after that the Vikings secondary put on the brakes and held firm. The Vikings linebackers were men on a mission, making flying tackles and showing that E.J. Henderson really is up to game speed. And Jayme Mitchell even got a sack on Drew Brees who didn’t look comfortable all night.

So yeah, it was a loss, but there were plenty of positives for the Vikings to build on and that has me impatient for the Vikings match-up on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

The Miami Dolphins are sitting at the bottom of the AFC East, but that doesn’t mean they won’t put up a fight when they face the Vikings at the Dome on Sunday. On Sunday they won their first season opener in five years and they did it on the road in Buffalo. Quarterback Chad Henne and receiver Brandon Marshall flashed a growing chemistry that could prove challenging for opposing defenses to contain. And the Dolphins defense set a fast pace that Buffalo had a hard time answering. Will they be as much of a challenge as the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints? Probably not, but you never can tell what will happen.

Even with time off for his grandson’s christening [insert your own Brett Favre is old joke here], The FavreTM will have another week learning his receivers and how they run their routes. Favre didn’t unretire to lose, so I’m willing to bet that he’s logging his characteristic long hours in practice and looking at film. His favorite target from last season, Sidney Rice, may not be available, but something tells me that the 29-yard pass Favre lobbed at Greg Camarillo on Thursday night is just the beginning. Not only that, but it was reported that Percy Harvin’s migraines may have been triggered by sleep apnea. If that diagnosis is accurate, then now that Harvin is under treatment for sleep apnea, look for a surge in his production as he kicks off the rust.

And, for the love of Ragnar, give Adrian Peterson the damn ball! He’s running angry trying to show the team and everyone else that his fumbles are behind him and that Chris Johnson is full of hot air. Let him.

On defense, there is a good chance that possibly both Chris Cook and Cedric Griffin will be healthy enough to play in the next two games. If so, the secondary will get a nice upgrade and, just maybe, a few interceptions. He’s a nice, tall cornerback and I have a feeling that Cook will be able to win the jump-ball battle. Other than the secondary, the defense’s greatest problem on Thursday night seemed to be fatigue—the Vikings offense didn’t stay on the field long enough for the defense to catch their collective breath. By the fourth quarter the line that had done such a good job of stuffing the run suddenly seemed porous. I believe that as the offense improves the defense will too.

So, once again, I’m counting down until a Vikings game. But this time, I think there’s a much better chance that I’m counting down to a win. I’ll leave you with a song that no corny video can ruin for me. Which is good because the video really is pretty corny.

*This piece is also posted at both http://vikingsmix.com/ and http://www.dailynorseman.com/ under my alter ego Skol Girl.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

 

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The Good, the Bad, and the Not So Good-looking:

It is always a challenge to get caught up after a vacation. When the vacation you’re catching up from isn’t yours, it’s also a surprise.

My sister swept into town, her husband and her baby in tow, and I wasn’t able to find the time to even skim the sports page until they left. Which was tough because plenty of interesting things happened in the wide world of Vikings football while I was distracted by the cuteness of my teething eight-month-old niece.

As far as I can tell, this is what I missed. Percy Harvin spent a night in the hospital for observation after collapsing on the practice field because of migraine complications—he was released the next day. The Vikings lost to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football. Sidney Rice went to Vail, Colorado for hip surgery. Javon Walker, who once elicited criticism from Brett Favre for contract antics back when they were teammates together in Green Bay, signed with the Vikings to help shore up the depleted receiving corps. The Vikings completed a rare player-for-player trade with the Miami Dolphins, exchanging corner back Benny Sapp for wide receiver Greg Camarillo. Former member of the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff, Pete Carroll came to town with the Seattle Seahawks to face the Vikings on Saturday night—the Vikings won, but their performance was a mixed bag.

Actually, I did manage to see both the 49ers game and the Seahawks game, but I’m kind of writing off the 49ers game because I was distracted. My niece was watching the game with me and Rookie was a cute, non-sleeping, handful in her Vikings onesie. So I’ll just speak to the game against the Seahawks which I watched without Rookie.

Saturday night reminded me of a Clint Eastwood movie, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Really, there was a little bit of everything.

I’m more of a bad news first kind of person, so that’s where I’ll start. The Vikings offensive line needs to gel, protect the quarterback, and give the running game a fighting chance. Certainly, they are affected by not having John Sullivan in at center and having a rookie on the line too, but in the meantime, the quarterbacks are suffering. There were some plays Saturday night where, I don’t know if there was a miscue or what, but Seahawks defenders barreled through the line untouched and flattened Brett Favre. To make matters worse, one of the times he was being flattened Favre fumbled the ball.

For his part, Favre was mostly what you would expect. He some showed signs of fatigue and rust, but it was liberally sprinkled with accurate missiles spread out to nine different targets. Perhaps the most shocking reception was Farve’s first pass over the middle to Percy Harvin. I didn’t even realize that Harvin was going to play because he hasn’t been able to participate much in practice. While Favre did throw two picks, one of them wasn’t his fault—Bernard Berrian couldn’t quite hang on to it and the Seahawks defense snagged it on the bobble.

But now, onto better things.

I’m just going to highlight a few things, but there were lots of good things peppered into an up-and-down game.

Greg Camarillo pulled in passes with his sure hands showing Vikings fans why the team traded Benny Sapp to get him from Miami. Camarillo may not have breakaway speed, which was a liability when the Seahawks defender got two yards ahead of him and intercepted Brett Favre’s pass, but Camarillo’s fantastic sticky fingers could still make him a favorite target for Brett Favre. Some of the local journalists have sneered a bit that he isn’t particularly explosive or dynamic, but I think with Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin (when available), and Bernard Berrian (when he’s on the same page as Favre) not every player on the offense needs to be exciting and dynamic—some of them can just get the job done.

Despite being treated a bit like a redheaded stepchild, Sage Rosenfels marched the Vikings downfield and distinguished himself as the only Vikings quarterback to pass for a touchdown during Saturday’s game. He connected with newcomer Javon Walker in the end zone. Walker was in thick coverage but fought to come up with the ball. With the latest talk being that Tavaris Jackson is going to be the second quarterback on the depth chart, I hope that other teams recognize Rosenfels abilities and give him a chance to do more than fondle a clipboard on the sidelines this season.

And on defense, young Chris Cook is making a strong bid to be a starter in the September 9 game at New Orleans. With his height and his speed Cook was a desirable pick, but the coaches have said how much they like his sheer drive to learn everything they have to teach. Buzz-worthy through training camp, Cook was in on several great stops Saturday night. He’s got confidence, ability, and drive—and Lito Sheppard and Asher Allen are going to have to work hard on Thursday night if they want to win the starting job away from him.

On special teams Darius Reynaud had a fantastic game. His kick return from around the Vikings 4-yardline up to the Seahawks’ 22-yardline was a thing of beauty. If he can keep making plays like that, you have to believe he has a future with the Vikings.

It is going to be interesting to see how many starters the coaches decide to play on Thursday. Will we get a repeat of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, or will we see a more cohesive team? Guess we won’t know until Thursday. Is anyone else getting twitching about September 9?

This piece is also posted at vikingsmix.com and http://www.dailynorseman.com under my alter ego Skol Girl. She’s all football, all the time.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2010 in Brett Favre, Family, Lifestyle

 

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