Posted on Wed, Oct. 04, 2006

[size=13pt]So many close games fray nerves[/size]

Hutchinson says line 'coming along'

BY SEAN JENSEN
Pioneer Press


The Vikings haven't heeded several of their new coach's preseason edicts.

But the players have fulfilled one: They are competitive in every game.

Although they are one of six .500 teams, the Vikings have the dubious distinction of being the only NFL team to have each of its games decided by seven points or fewer.

The Vikings also are one of just two teams that have won two games by three points or fewer.

The tension has taken its toll.

"I'm tired of just being in a tight game," Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot said. "All our games ain't got to be like that."

But coach Brad Childress said he expects nothing less.

"Well, you know — you've heard me say before — that's invariably the way it is," Childress said of the close games. "Whether somebody's coming to beat you, or you're going to beat somebody else, or you're trying to hold somebody off, or vice versa. That's what this league is all about.

"There is parity, and if you let somebody hang around, they've got a chance to be coming back up the field at you, and you saw a bunch of those games (Sunday)."

Same old, same old: Left guard Steve Hutchinson is tired of questions about the cohesion of the offensive line.

When asked that question Monday, Hutchinson rolled his eyes and said, "It's the same question every week.

"It's coming along."

Asked about the pass protection, Hutchinson said they did not give up a sack in Buffalo, although Johnson was hurried five times, according to the game's play by play.

On Monday, Childress defended the play of right tackle Marcus Johnson, who struggled against Bills veteran defensive ends Chris Kelsay and Ryan Denney. Johnson also committed a false start as the Vikings lined up for a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter.

But Hutchinson and center Matt Birk said the offensive line cannot keep relying on lack of familiarity as a crutch.

"You can only say that to a certain point," Hutchinson said. "I mean, we're not going to be in Week 15 and saying the same thing. It is new. The fact of the matter is, there are a lot of new guys in the system."

Hutchinson, though, insisted his unit has made "tremendous strides."

Added Birk, "I think the feeling-out process has come and gone.

"(We've) just got to execute better."

Receiver watch: The Vikings are starting a tradition. Each week, the Vikings quietly work out receivers at Winter Park. Last week, Efrem Hill, Darius Watts, Charlie Adams and Randy Hymes tried out for the Vikings.

On Tuesday, the Vikings worked out former New England Patriots receiver Bethel Johnson.

Johnson has started seven of his 39 NFL games and has 30 catches for 450 yards and four touchdowns. Johnson also has returned kickoffs, averaging a solid 25.2 yards on 39 attempts with two touchdowns.

Twins' Game 5 update: When the Vikings play the Detroit Lions might not be resolved until Saturday. Barring a sweep, the Twins are scheduled to play the Oakland Athletics in Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Saturday. If a fifth game, which would be played Sunday at the Metrodome, is necessary, the Vikings would play on Monday night.

Lions executive vice president Tom Lewand said his club has been prepared for this possibility since April, when the NFL released the schedule. At that time, the Lions booked rooms with their Minneapolis hotel through Sunday night.