NFL Nation: Adwale Ogunleye

Familiarity has its advantages

September, 9, 2008
9/09/08
12:04
PM ET
 
 Scott Boehm/Getty Images
 In his first game with his new team, Minnesota's Jared Allen said Monday's game was "one of the least productive games of my life."

 Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

The ball sailed past Minnesota receiver Bernard Berrian a few times. Once, it hit his feet. Another time, he couldn't adjust quickly enough as the ball was in the air.

On the other side of the ball, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen burst through the line a handful of times, tripped on a couple of plays and ultimately finished with what he called "one of the least productive games of my life."

In Atlanta, a defense stocked with newcomers was bumbling all over the field. The Detroit Lions gave up 21 points in the first quarter to the Falcons and never recovered.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears' veteran defense carried it to a surprising victory at Indianapolis. And the Green Bay Packers' homegrown roster proved to be the most decisive team on the field Monday night.

In retrospect, it shouldn't be a surprise that the NFC North teams who largely stood pat in the free-agent market were more prepared to play on the opening weekend of the season. High-profile acquisitions impress the media and whip up fan support, but it is a difficult task to bring a group of new veterans together in time to play your best football in September.

Perhaps that's why the Vikings were surprisingly calm and, in many cases, smiling after their 24-19 loss to the Packers on Monday night. Berrian entered the game with almost no game-speed work with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. They played one quarter of one preseason game together because of injuries. He ended up catching three of the seven passes Jackson threw his way.

Allen's unofficial stat line was filled with zeros, with the exception of one defensed pass. And yet when we ventured into the Vikings' locker room, you couldn't hear a bowling ball drop, let alone a pin. Players weren't exactly jubilant, but they seemed far from discouraged.

"We're going to be fine, man, really," nose tackle Pat Williams said. "We gave up a few big plays, and that's it. I'm not worried at all. If we can get a little more consistency and not give up big plays, we'll be alright. We've just got to work on a few small things."

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