Standouts are many in rout of Ravens
[size=10pt]Standouts are many in rout of Ravens[/size]
Let's assume for a moment that the NFL's third round of preseason games truly does provide the best glimpse into the progress of a team. If so, what can we say about the Vikings this morning?
Starters for both sides played the entire first half Friday, a game in which the Vikings soundly defeated Baltimore 30-7. The Vikings held a 10-0 lead at halftime, in the process making several discernible points.
â€¢ On this night, the defense played just as coordinator Mike Tomlin would have it -- like its hair was on fire, to use one of Tomlin's favorite phrases. The Vikings held the Ravens to 12 yards in the first quarter, and overall the defense produced two touchdowns: cornerback Fred Smoot's 69-yard interception return of a Steve McNair pass in the second quarter, and Khreem Smith's 29-yard fumble return in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings also scored on rookie receiver Jason Carter's 77-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.
Ryan Longwell connected for field goals of 45, 38 and 23 yards. He missed a 40-yard attempt in the second quarter.
"We had our motors running on offense and defense coming out of the locker room," coach Brad Childress said. "That's what I want to see every time out."
Asked his assessment of the team after three preseason games, Childress said: "We've been up and down."
Baltimore was purported finally to have improved its offense, but the Vikings' starters limited the Ravens to 86 yards and sacked McNair twice. Playing without starter Jamal Lewis, Baltimore running backs Musa Smith and Mike Anderson combined for 19 yards on 11 carries.
â€¢ Carter might be forcing his way onto the team. He caught two passes for 97 yards, including the touchdown from rookie Tarvaris Jackson against what appeared to be a busted coverage. Carter, hoping to land the roster spot expected to be vacated by Koren Robinson, has caught four passes for 145 yards this preseason.
Childress said Carter's value as a punt returner -- he fielded five Friday without a miscue -- should not be overlooked.
â€¢ Once again, Vikings running back Chester Taylor did not find much room to run. Taylor totaled 27 yards on 10 carries, leaving briefly after getting poked in the eye, and caught one pass for 11 yards. In three preseason games, Taylor has gained 81 yards on 29 carries.
Childress, however, said he is more concerned with the quantity of rushing plays than the quality of them.
â€¢ Second-year receiver Troy Williamson is tougher than you might think. On the third play of the night, Williamson caught a quick out pass from Brad Johnson. He slipped underneath Baltimore cornerback Samari Rolle, losing his helmet in the process.
Undeterred, Williamson sprinted another 13 yards down the sideline until Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis knocked him out of bounds. Williamson finished with three receptions for 43 yards.
Johnson, meanwhile, completed nine of 15 passes for 95 yards. His most eventful pass of the night, a potential 32-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Robinson, was declared incomplete when officials ruled Robinson landed with only one foot in bounds.
"You can argue all you want," Robinson said. "They're not going to change the call. ... Overall, we have plenty of things in both the passing game and the running game we can work on."
Johnson's backups, Jackson and Mike McMahon, did little to settle the competition for the No. 2 quarterback spot. McMahon played two series in the third quarter, completing two of five passes for 36 yards, while Jackson completed two of four passes for 80 yards.
On his first series, McMahon connected with Carter for a 30-yard reception down the sideline. But McMahon's final pass of the night was over the head of Carter, who had broken free for what could have been a 20-yard touchdown.
"That'll all work itself out," Childress said.
Re: Standouts are many in rout of Ravens
[size=10pt]Tomlin sees some bad with plenty of good[/size]
Don't get Mike Tomlin wrong.
The Vikings defensive coordinator was pleased with what he saw in a 30-7 preseason victory over Baltimore on Friday night at the Metrodome.
It's just that he knows plenty of work still needs to be done. "We're not going to wear our hands out patting ourselves on the back," he said. "We're going to get back to work and continue on with this process."
But there is no doubt the process of installing the Tampa-2 scheme took a step in the right direction -- especially when it comes to the first unit.
The Vikings' No. 1 defense didn't give up any points in playing almost the entire first half and held Baltimore to 86 net yards, including only 20 on the ground. The defense also accounted for the only touchdown of the opening 30 minutes as cornerback Fred Smoot returned an interception 69 yards for a score.
The line also contributed, getting consistent pressure on Steve McNair. Nose tackle Pat Williams and end Kenechi Udeze both had sacks.
"That's the basis for our defense," said safety Darren Sharper. "If we can get pressure from the front four and don't have to call any blitzes and don't have to mix up coverages and things of that nature, it makes us tough to deal with. That's where it all starts."
The Tampa-2 scheme calls for the front four to provide pressure without much blitzing. This enables the linebackers to drop back into coverage. Those in coverage must watch the quarterback and attempt to jump routes.
This is what Smoot did in the second quarter when he cut in front of Mark Clayton at the Vikings 31 and picked off McNair's pass. Tomlin -- who uses the phrase "together we eat," to describe the team philosophy of this unit -- noted that linebacker E.J. Henderson threw a key block that enabled Smoot to get down the sideline for the touchdown.
"I just got a read on it and jammed the receiver," said Smoot, who left the game in the next series because of bruised ribs.
The second- and third-team defenses played pretty well. Safety Willie Offord had a fourth-quarter interception and linebacker Heath Farwell forced a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Ronyell Whitaker. Rookie defensive end Ray Edwards helped the defense get its second touchdown when he forced a fumble while sacking Ravens quarterback Brian St. Pierre. End Khreem Smith recovered the ball and went 29 yards to give the Vikings their final score.
It was certainly an improvement over last Saturday.
But Tomlin pointed out that today's film session will show some bad to go with the plenty of good: "Of course, we're going to find new problems, and we eliminated an old one in terms of starting slow."
Judd Zugad â€¢ [email protected]