[size=18px]Time short to prepare for unfamiliar foe[/size]

Posted on Wed, Nov. 23, 2005
BY DON SEEHOLZER
Pioneer Press


It wasn't exactly a good news/bad news joke. Call it more of an observation.

The good thing about playing on Monday night, Vikings coach Mike Tice said Tuesday, is that it gives players and coaches an extra day to prepare.

The bad thing is they're about to face an unfamiliar opponent, the Cleveland Browns, on a short week.

"The unfortunate thing for us is we're playing a team we don't know," Tice said, "so we've got to really double up and work through a late night as coaches to make sure we put in a new game plan and at the same time not all of a sudden become geniuses and think we've got all the freaking answers."

Adding to the degree of difficulty is that the Browns (4-6) play a 3-4 defense, which the Vikings haven't faced this season, although they did use it as their primary defense for three weeks.

"We've got a lot of work to do and a very short window of time," Tice said. "We've just got to stay at it and stay at it and stay at it. Make sure when we leave here tonight or wake up in the morning still being here that the plan we put in is one that the players can grasp very quickly."

Tice said a 3-4 defense demands more athleticism from a team's guards, who don't have opposing tackles lined up directly across from them, and rapid recognition of which linebacker is blitzing.

"You understand the fronts and coverages," quarterback Brad Johnson said. "The big thing is just learning the personnel. We're familiar with the 3-4 defense. It has some different coverages, but we'll pick it up pretty quick."

The Vikings (5-5) are riding high after their 20-17 Monday night victory at Green Bay, with a three-game winning streak and four victories in their past five games. But Tice doesn't want them getting too high.

"We've got to make sure we don't become too smart all of a sudden," he said. "It's not the week to not take good notes, and it's not the week to start feeling good about ourselves. We still have some things we're stubbing our toe on."

Injury report: Tice said he probably would give tight end Jim Kleinsasser time off during practice this week to rest a sore groin but said, "He'll definitely play."

• Wide receiver Troy Williamson injured his right shoulder during Monday's game, but Tice said it didn't appear to be anything serious, just a bruised AC joint.

• Running back Mewelde Moore sprained his ankles, but Tice said he seemed to be fine.

• Wide receiver Nate Burleson (knee/shoulder) and defensive end Spencer Johnson (knee), who were inactive Monday, seemed to be doing better, according to Tice, and Johnson predicted he could play 25 to 30 plays.

Except for Kleinsasser, Tice said, "I'm not apt to play anybody this week who can't go through practice, especially a skill player."

Defense rules: The Vikings' defense turned in one of its most dominating performances of the season Monday night, and Tice had a simple explanation.

"They're starting to play better as a unit," he said. "Communication has been better. The communication between coaches and players has been better. The listening has been better, and they're playing with more awareness."

The Vikings held the Packers to 21 yards rushing and forced two Brett Favre interceptions, one of which rookie cornerback Dovonte Edwards returned 51 yards for a touchdown.

That's the kind of thing people were expecting this season from the rebuilt defense, and cornerback Brian Williams is among those who thought it would happen sooner.

"I think everybody's picking it up," Williams said. "Everybody's on the same page now."

Briefly: The Vikings won't complain to the league office, but Tice clearly disagreed with a fourth-quarter holding call on guard Anthony Herrera that wiped out a 25-yard run by Moore.

"You can see why it was called," Tice said. "If I question anything, it was the position of the official. Was he in position to make that call?"

Don Seeholzer can be reached at [email protected]