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Monday, December 7, 2009
Third and one: Vikings

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

After Minnesota’s 30-17 loss at Arizona, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:

  1. No matter how many years he has played or how well he has played this season, quarterback Brett Favre demonstrated he can still be flummoxed by an innovative defensive scheme. NBC’s cameras did an excellent job of documenting how the Cardinals disguised their coverage by clustering near each other at the snap of the ball. That strategy, along with keeping linebacker Karlos Dansby deep downfield at times, led Favre down his old path of throwing wildly into coverage. Were it not for Adrian Wilson’s two drops, Favre would have had a four-interception game. Go back and look at the replay of Dansby’s interception. Favre was so out of sorts he was looking to his right and he released the ball down the middle.
  2. I’m sure a few fans were aghast when, at one point of the first half, the Vikings had Artis Hicks at left tackle, backup center Jon Cooper at right guard and Ryan Cook at right tackle. That was the necessary shuffle after right tackle Phil Loadholt and left tackle Bryant McKinnie briefly departed with injuries. Both players returned at less than 100 percent and need to make a quick turnaround to be ready for Sunday’s matchup against Cincinnati. I, for one, was totally onboard with the Vikings’ decision to run the ball on third down with that lineup. No sense putting Favre in danger of a missed communication.
  3. I don’t blame NFL owners for planning to rescind the supplementary revenue sharing plan that aids revenue-poor franchises like Minnesota. Imagine you’re the McCaskey family. Because you have new-stadium revenues in Chicago, you are required to contribute to a pot that benefits a division rival. Then the Vikings go out and use that collective money -- anywhere from $5 million to $10 million per season -- to help them acquire big-name players like defensive end Jared Allen, Favre and even former Bears receiver Bernard Berrian. Assuming the NFL is successful in abolishing this program, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf will have to further subsidize the franchise if he wants to maintain his current payroll.
And here is one question I’m still asking:

How much will the Vikings miss linebacker E.J. Henderson? I don’t want to be crass or cold-hearted at a time when a fractured femur has cast long-term doubts on Henderson’s career. But the team successfully navigated his 12-game absence last season and has the capacity to do the same again in 2009. The Vikings have been looking for ways to get outside linebacker Ben Leber on the field more, and Leber has experience calling defensive signals. One workable solution would be to use hard-hitting rookie Jasper Brinkley on early downs and then move Leber inside in the nickel.