Tomlin adjusting on fly Vikings
Posted on Fri, Sep. 22, 2006
[size=13pt]Tomlin adjusting on fly Vikings defensive coordinator impresses with in-game changes[/size]
BY SEAN JENSEN
Last year, after a 2-5 start, usually diplomatic Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield made some comments the United Nations certainly wouldn't approve of.
At wit's end after he said the coaching staff altered the game plan before an Oct. 30 game against Carolina, Winfield said the coaching staff was "handcuffing" the players, and he questioned their in-game adjustments.
Although the Vikings are just two games into this season, Winfield said new defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin already has showcased his knack for making adjustments.
"He's definitely switching it up," Winfield said of Tomlin. "I think a lot of teams are expecting us to play the cover 2, and he's doing a great job of mixing up coverages."
The Vikings' base defense is a variation of the Tampa 2, developed by former Vikings assistant coaches Tony Dungy, now Indianapolis' head coach, and Monte Kiffin, now Tampa Bay's defensive coordinator. In that scheme, the two safeties play deep zone coverage, splitting the field in half, and defensive linemen are responsible for particular gaps and applying pressure on the quarterback. The cornerbacks and outside linebackers cover certain sectors of the field, and the middle linebacker has to man the large, central portion.
Dwight Smith said the Vikings' version is different.
"This is the Vikings 2," said Smith, who played for Tampa Bay from 2001-04. "This is a whole different 2. We have our base defense, but we also have things that we put in every week to help us."
For instance, against Washington, the Vikings aggressively blitzed quarterback Mark Brunell in the first half. But when the Redskins started throwing quick passes to negate the pass rush, the Vikings switched to a zone that funneled the receivers to the middle of the field and stressed sound tackling.
"I think that was something, quite honestly, we didn't really do last year: make any adjustments," Vikings middle linebacker Napoleon Harris said. "Whatever the plan was, we kept doing it, whereas Tomlin comes in at halftime and adjusts."
Smith said that is one major distinction from Kiffin's philosophy.
"What you have to understand about Monte Kiffin is, he's going to run cover 2 until the cows come home. Period," Smith said. "He feels if he loses playing cover 2, then you beat him.
"But Mike Tomlin is not going to go down like that. He's going to shoot all the bullets he has in his gun, and you've got to appreciate that."
However, Tomlin said Kiffin taught him valuable lessons about making subtle but significant tweaks to coverages to throw off the opposing offense.
"We put in a coverage 20 minutes before we left the locker room in San Diego for the Super Bowl (on Jan. 26, 2003)," Tomlin said last month. "That was awesome."
Tomlin was guarded Thursday about his defensive strategies and philosophy.
"We have a general philosophy with which we operate here," he said. "But week to week, we'll do the things that are necessary for us to win, and if that means stepping outside of our box at times, we'll do that."
The key, players said, is that their menu, or playbook, is more in line with a family-owned diner than a fancy European restaurant. In other words, they have a small, straightforward menu.
"They didn't want to reinvent the wheel," Harris said. "They wanted to give the guys base keys and reads, so we would play fast and execute. Sometimes, when you have too much, and you try to outsmart the opponent, you get nothing done."
Added Tomlin: "When there's not a lot of memorization, there's a bunch of understanding.
"And when there's understanding, we can make adjustments, and they have the capability of understanding why you do what you do."
Smith said the experience of the defensive starters also is important.
"We feel we have enough veterans and guys who have played enough football, so we don't have to say, 'This is all we play,' " Smith said.
For instance, against Carolina, the Vikings played a lot of man defense, with a healthy dosage of blitzes, a clear deviation from the traditional approach of the cover 2. In fact, players estimated that they blitzed more than 50 percent of the time against the Panthers.
Regardless, the execution was much better than a year ago, when Winfield said the coaches altered the game plan at the last moment. After double-teaming Panthers receiver Steve Smith in practice, the Vikings single-covered him in the game for all but two plays, Winfield said at the time. Smith had 11 catches for 201 yards and one touchdown.
Although he is a rookie defensive coordinator, Tomlin already has impressed some veterans with his instincts during a game.
"Some coaches just have that knack," Vikings safety Darren Sharper said, "and he just has that knack to make the right calls at the crucial times."
Sean Jensen can be reached at [email protected]
Re: Tomlin adjusting on fly Vikings
Goo job Tomlin.. That is exactly what he needs, the respect of his players.. These guys will go and play their hearts out for both Tomlin, and Childress each and every week.. Finally, a team that the coaches have the control of...