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  1. #1
    singersp's Avatar
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    For Vikings, spread set a winning look

    Posted on Tue, Oct. 25, 2005

    For Vikings, spread set a winning look

    Empty-back formation injected rhythm into offense

    BY SEAN JENSEN

    Pioneer Press


    Since adding Jerry Rhome, the NFL's most experienced offensive assistant, the Vikings have been more vague about the roles and contributions of their coaches.

    So the coaches were diplomatic Monday when asked who was responsible for suggesting the empty-back set that keyed Sunday's comeback victory over the Green Bay Packers.

    Said Rhome, "I don't know. I didn't come up with it."

    Said coach Mike Tice, "It was the offensive staff's idea."

    Even embattled offensive coordinator Steve Loney did not emphatically embrace the chance to take credit for a positive in an otherwise shaky season.

    Asked whose idea the scheme was, Loney said, "I would think mine. I call the game."

    Quarterback Daunte Culpepper wasn't sure either, but he said the formation empowered his — and the offense's — ability to generate momentum and rhythm in the second half. Culpepper made several key runs and also connected on several critical passes, including a 27-yard touchdown to Marcus Robinson, out of the formation.

    "It was everybody talking about what we could do to get people into open spaces and try to get mismatches," Culpepper said. "It also helps me because it lets me see where the rush is coming from."

    Loney said the formation has been in the Vikings' system for years, and they utilized that package last season. But the Vikings unveiled the look for the first time this season on their first offensive play Sunday, with tight ends Jermaine Wiggins and Jim Kleinsasser, and receivers Robinson, Nate Burleson and Travis Taylor as Culpepper's options.

    "It spreads a defense out," Loney said. "They can't bunch up together, and have different combinations of how they're going to cover it. If you spread things out, Daunte can look and see who has one-on-one (matchups)."

    The formation forces other teams to show their hands and play more man-to-man coverage. In addition, with defenders spread across the field, Culpepper can more clearly identify running lanes.

    In all, the Vikings utilized the formation 10 to 12 times, most effectively in the second half. Culpepper ran at least two quarterback draws out of the formation to gain a season-high 41 rushing yards.

    "When you can spread out guys, you put DBs on an island, and it gives Daunte the ability to see more of the field," Burleson said. "When things are congested, it's kind of like chaos out there."

    One of the Vikings' best offensive plays was a product of the empty-back formation. In the third quarter, Culpepper noticed Robinson single-covered by Packers cornerback Ahmad Carroll, and he quickly darted a pass into the end zone. With a step on Carroll, Robinson caught the pass in stride for a 27-yard touchdown that cut the Packers' lead to 17-10.

    Another benefit of the formation, Culpepper said, is that Wiggins gets a favorable matchup with space against a linebacker.

    "Nine times out of 10, he's going to win that," running back Michael Bennett said of Wiggins. "You look at different little matchups like that, and it worked in our favor."

    None of that matters, though, unless Culpepper is given time by his offensive line. That was not an issue Sunday, as Culpepper and Tice praised the play of that unit.

    "They are starting to play better together," Tice said. "I think there were a number of good performances up front."

    Tice also lauded the cohesion of another important group: the offensive coaches. In their second game with a new setup, Loney and his staff were confident in their communication and game plan. In fact, they did not alter much at halftime, despite the dramatic turnaround.

    Asked what adjustments he made, Loney said, "Nothing. I wish I could say that I was some brilliant guy… .

    "The only difference between the first and second half was, we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot and we made some plays."

    Tice said the offensive staff called its best game of the season.

    Vikings safety Darren Sharper said Culpepper is the key to the offense — and the team — as they enter a critical stretch in the season.

    "The Daunte I saw in the second half is the guy I've seen at mini-camp, training camp, all the way up until the first game. A guy who plays with confidence, who uses his legs and is a dual threat," Sharper said. "Everyone knows that we have weapons on offense. But Daunte is going to have to be our Michael Jordan, the guy who is going to carry us and lead us to a championship, and make the plays when it counts in crunch time. In the second half, we saw the MVP Daunte that we've seen in the past."

    Culpepper said the Vikings' offense now has something to "build on" and that they played their best half of this season.

    But Burleson said the team's second-half performance Sunday will be wasted if it doesn't have similar success Sunday against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.

    "It does a great deal for our confidence. But it means nothing if we don't go out and do it again," said Burleson, who insisted the Vikings can field a top-five offense. "We had a good game against New Orleans and then didn't play well the next week (a 30-10 loss at Atlanta). We have to go out and be consistent. Consistency builds confidence."

    Sean Jensen covers the Vikings and the NFL. He can be reached at [email protected]

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  2. #2
    singersp's Avatar
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    Re: For Vikings, spread set a winning look

    The no-huddle offense was also used, which many of us thought should have been used in previous games.

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  3. #3
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    Re: For Vikings, spread set a winning look

    Great Read Singsp, Thanks. Hope we can build in every game, find sets that favor us, both Offense, and Defense, use our personnel to their advantage.

  4. #4
    V4L's Avatar
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    Re: For Vikings, spread set a winning look

    Sweet read.. Thanks bro.. I like the spread offense alot

  5. #5
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    Re: For Vikings, spread set a winning look

    Spread that offense, spread that offense!

    I get the most pissed off looks from people with my VKG 4 LFE Wisconsin license plate, and I LOVE IT!!

  6. #6
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    Re: For Vikings, spread set a winning look

    thanks for the read, i sure hope this spreads out to more wins!!!
    I BLEED PURPLE!

  7. #7
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    Re: For Vikings, spread set a winning look

    Yeah,open it up..Then run..
    If winning isn,t everything,why keep score?

  8. #8
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    Re: For Vikings, spread set a winning look

    And to think that you typed up all that with one finger....WOW! LOL
    BANNED OR DEAD...I'LL TAKE EITHER ONE

  9. #9
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    Re: For Vikings, spread set a winning look

    Yeah, you should really learn to type with the correct "fingering" (no comments cajun), that hunt and peck philosophy works well, but must take forever!!

    I get the most pissed off looks from people with my VKG 4 LFE Wisconsin license plate, and I LOVE IT!!

  10. #10
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    Re: For Vikings, spread set a winning look

    no huddle and an empty backfield at the same time. i would like to see someone stop that for a drive.
    We're bringing purple back.

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