COLUMN: Vikings season still salvageable ... with a disclaimer
ST. PAUL Here is an excerpt from the type of e-mails distraught Vikings fans send when their favorite team loses: "It is an embarrassment to watch these guys consistently shoot themselves in the foot." Now here's some advice for distraught Viking...
Here is an excerpt from the type of e-mails distraught Vikings fans send when their favorite team loses: "It is an embarrassment to watch these guys consistently shoot themselves in the foot."
Now here's some advice for distraught Vikings fans everywhere: Don't panic just yet.
That 1-3 record isn't pretty, but it's not as bad as it looks.
Other Vikings teams have had lousy starts, and you knew, you just knew, there was no salvaging the mess they were in.
This season is different. This season is salvageable because this team is loaded with talent and capable of putting together a long winning streak.
That said, there is this disclaimer: Brett Favre's elbow tendinitis and the outcome of the NFL's sexting investigation have the potential to derail Favre's season as well as the Vikings' hope for a Super Bowl run.
At the moment, the bigger concern is what's going on with Favre's right elbow. Favre, obviously in pain, often grabbed it during the second half of Monday night's loss to the Jets. Afterward, he said it was probably "the worst it's felt in four games." Although Favre said he was unsure if the elbow affected his passing, he failed to connect with a receiver on 20 of 34 passes.
"He missed some throws he generally makes," Vikings coach Brad Childress said Tuesday.
Childress said his training staff is tending to Favre's elbow every way possible. If the pain is manageable and the tendinitis doesn't greatly affect the
way he throws the ball, Favre could start putting up numbers and getting results similar to last season.
He certainly has the arsenal to beat the likes of Dallas, Green Bay and New England, the next three opponents on the schedule.
The addition of Randy Moss makes the Vikings' offense far more dangerous. It didn't look that way in the first half Monday night, when the Vikings were ultraconservative, but when the offense isn't battened down, it can dent a defense in many ways.
Moss and Percy Harvin could have Pro Bowl seasons, along with Adrian Peterson and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.
It would help, of course, if Favre weren't in danger of being face-planted on just about every pass play. He was sacked four times and hurried many of his throws.
A few things need to happen, including getting John Sullivan healthy and back at center. That's just a small part of it, though.
The entire offensive line still needs to come around with its pass blocking, and no back has shown he can protect Favre the way Chester Taylor did. It's time to go with Jim Kleinsasser or Jeff Dugan in the backfield on pass plays for extra protection or maybe even stick one of the linebackers back there. It's unlikely a defensive player would blow past E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway or Ben Leber if one of them is protecting Favre. Why not go old school and have a player go both ways if it means improving the passing game and keeping Favre upright?
"You have to address the negative portions of it and know what you have to do to eliminate them," Childress said. "And then I think you have to focus on the positive part of it and know we have the ability to do some things we believe we can do offensively, defensively and, more importantly, as a team. Somewhere during the course of the year -- it doesn't seem like it now -- the offense will have to pull one out because the defense is struggling."
Though the offense isn't close to being where it should be, the defense can't be blamed for the team's struggles. Of the Jets' 29 points, 13 (two field goals and a touchdown) resulted from two fumbles and a Favre interception.
The defense is good enough to keep games close, so the offense will have a chance to win every game, even if the Vikings trail.
Asked if he expected his offense to start clicking Sunday against the Cowboys, Childress said, "God willing."
In 2008, the Vikings started 1-3 and rallied to finish 10-6 and win the NFC North. That team didn't have Favre, Moss or Harvin. That team didn't have the talent these Vikings have on offense and defense.
That team is proof there's no need to panic -- just yet.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.