New-look defense has an old look to it
Judd Zulgad, Star Tribune
September 19, 2005 VIKE0919.SIDE2

CINCINNATI -- Remember the optimism about the Vikings' new-look defense in the opening week of the season? It might be best to put it on hold.

Two plays from scrimmage into Sunday's game against the Bengals, the Vikings' 2005 defense looked like the 2004 product that ranked 28th in the NFL before adding five new starters during the offseason.

Facing a second-and-8 from his own 30-yard line, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer hit Chad Johnson in stride on a 70-yard bomb and made it 7-0 with only 52 seconds elapsed. Four quarters and 504 yards of offense later, the Bengals had a 37-8 victory.

"That's terrible -- you can't start the game off like that," said cornerback Fred Smoot, one of three free agents the Vikings signed to improve the defense. "What can I say? It's embarrassing. But I can promise you this: That's the last time it's going to happen if I can do something about it."

The Palmer-to-Johnson connection -- one of three scoring passes for Palmer -- came on a post pattern on which Johnson beat cornerback Antoine Winfield. It also was the result of a breakdown by the Vikings.

"They came out and made an adjustment, a different formation, and we [tried] to check into their formation and got a lot of people mixed up as far as what we needed to check into," said free safety Darren Sharper, who was unable to finish the game because of a sprained left knee.

Though Palmer had a big day passing (337 yards), the Bengals also wore down the Vikings by running 39 times for 167 yards. The Vikings' defense was on the field for 79 plays on a 74-degree day that included 71 percent humidity. Winfield left the game in the second half because blisters on both of his feet broke open.

Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who wasn't pleased the Bengals were able to convert on five of eight third-down situations in the first half, went away from the 3-4 and 3-3-5 (three linemen, three linebackers, five defensive backs) packages that seemed to confuse Tampa Bay in Week 1. The Vikings did give the Bengals some different defensive looks, including one that had Keith Newman starting at strong-side linebacker instead of Napoleon Harris, and Pro Bowl tackle Kevin Williams lined up at left end, with Pat Williams at under tackle and Spencer Johnson at nose tackle.

Rod Davis started at middle linebacker in place of the injured Sam Cowart, who missed the game because of a calf injury. The heat also caused frequent substitutions.

"We have to take a look at the tape," Cottrell said. "We have to go back and examine things. Maybe there was something that we were doing. We were tipping our technique or something."

Is it just me or did this guy even watch the game?? Sharper got sucked in, was in no way A.Winfields fault ... he release Johnson into zone like he was supposed to. Such a moron ...... :hal