Vikings exposed Monday night
MINNEAPOLIS -- Remember the 2002 season, when New England quarterback Tom Brady threw 25 consecutive passes in a game against Pittsburgh? Or how about the Patriots' recent game against Buffalo, when they threw on 10 of their first 14 offensive pl...
MINNEAPOLIS -- Remember the 2002 season, when New England quarterback Tom Brady threw 25 consecutive passes in a game against Pittsburgh? Or how about the Patriots' recent game against Buffalo, when they threw on 10 of their first 14 offensive plays?
The Vikings, for one, took note, and they insist they were prepared for the spread offense New England used to amass 430 yards in its 31-7 victory Monday night. Coach Brad Childress said Tuesday he was comfortable with the schematic adjustments his defense made after the Patriots' first touchdown drive. He said he is not concerned about other teams emulating the approach and suggested that "a high amount of missed tackles" and other physical breakdowns were the primary reasons for the Patriots' yardage total.
The Vikings' plan to combat the Patriots' spread offense was to mix their coverage and pass rush schemes.
"You don't want to be predictable," said Childress, whose team sacked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady three times. Otherwise, Brady was able to complete 29 of 43 passes for 372 yards and four touchdowns.
Asked if he thought the Vikings mixed their defensive calls enough, Childress said: "Yeah, I thought we did. It took just a second to calibrate, but I thought we did some things."
Those adjustments impacted neither the scoreboard nor the stat sheet, however. Convinced they would be unable to move against the Vikings' top-ranked run defense, the Patriots elected to throw on 70 percent of their offensive plays. They romped 86 yards on their first possession and then had three more drives of at least 50 yards before they put the game safely out of reach.
That massive accumulation, defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin said, was more a product of superior execution than a lack of preparation or the element of surprise.
"(The Patriots) did pretty much what we expected them to do," Tomlin said. "We expected them to change the pace of the offense to level the playing field. We were at home. We knew they would have an answer for our pressure package and probably would have an empty backfield, but they did a nice job.
"We made adjustment after adjustment and threw just about everything you can throw at it. They handled it pretty well. They had a nice plan and they executed."
The Vikings hope the Patriots provided a unique matchup problem because the alternative -- that they exposed a devastating hole in the defense -- is much less encouraging. Some of their future opponents, Childress said, have neither the personnel nor the inclination to run an empty-backfield set.
The temptation could still arise, perhaps as early as Sunday in San Francisco. The 49ers will be facing a defense that could be without two starters: middle linebacker Napoleon Harris (dislocated wrist) and defensive tackle Kevin Williams (high ankle sprain).
"I think you can have a chance to see it any week," Childress said, "(but) I don't know that everybody is set up to do it quite that way. (The Patriots) kind of major in it, Brady and that group. I think they probably just made a conscious decision that they weren't going to slam the ball against the wall and decided that their best fortune would be to spread people out and put us in the air."
Safety Darren Sharper, whose one-handed interception in the first quarter was one of the Vikings' few bright spots, agreed.
"I don't think anybody else can do what (Brady) did," Sharper said. "I think that overall we can play much better defensively. ... Brady just drives that ship."