Monday, September 12, 2011
Vikings overdid first-down runs
By Kevin Seifert
When Leslie Frazier accepted the Minnesota Vikings' permanent coaching job, he made clear he planned to build his offense around the power running game. Frazier believed the passing game would sprout primarily from the attention opponents paid to All-Pro tailback Adrian Peterson.
Monday, however, Frazier implied the Vikings might have overdone that approach in a 24-17 loss to the San Diego Chargers. In fact, they attempted only 15 passes, completing seven for a gross (in more ways than one) total of 39 yards.
Most revealing, an unofficial review of the play-by-play showed that offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave called running plays on 15 of the team's 19 first-down plays. Of the four passing plays, one ended up as a 23-yard scramble by quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Peterson, meanwhile, had a 46-yard run in the second quarter but totaled 52 yards on his other 15 carries. Asked Monday how the Vikings will balance their emphasis on Peterson with the need for more explosive pass plays, Frazier said:
"That is something you have to guard against. They were stacking the line of scrimmage, and when that happens, you have to take advantage of that down the field. That is something that we are going to a look at. Adrian is such a threat, and such a focal part of our offense, we have to be aware of how people are going to try to defend us. This game will hopefully be one of those games that we look back on and will have helped us."
I took that final sentence as a suggestion that the Vikings will learn from Sunday's imbalance. Part of the issue, of course, is personnel. Peterson is their best player and it makes perfect sense to build around him. The offensive line probably will improve more quickly with a steady diet of runs, and the truth is that deep threat Bernard Berrian hasn't been much of a factor since the 2009 season. I think the Vikings would benefit from a more balanced first-down approach, but I'm not sure they'll suddenly transform into a downfield passing team.