Stillers-Vikings Postgame Report (Aug. 16th, �01)
(First off, let me remind readers that I do not care about wins or losses in preseason.� What I care about is progress; cohesion; and a glimmer of each unit having some chance of success in the rigors of the NFL�s regular season.)�
The Dikings beat the Stillers, 24-10, in a fairly close game.� Only a very late fumble return for TD made the margin look this wide.�� Before we analyze the play of the Stillers, we should take a look-see at the raw facts about this Minnesota opponent:
- In the last 4 games of �00 (incl. the playoffs), the Vikes gave up 40, 33, 31, and 41 points.�� Obviously, they�re not to be confused with the �85 Bears� defense.
- Minn�s �00 defense gave up 55 total points on �first drive� series, an NFL high.
- Every one of Minn�s front-four is playing a brand-new position on the DL this season.�
- Minnesota was not only the last NFL team to start training camp, but they had to deal with the ordeal of Stringer�s death, which cost them at least a week of practice time.��
Despite all of this, the Stiller offense could muster but one adequate drive on its first drive, and then sank back into the stinking, sputtering quagmire that has become the pride and joy of Billy Cowher.�
Stewart and Co. cobbled together a 12-play drive that resulted in a questionable Stewart TD off a 1-yard sneak.� Aside from a Bettis 19-yard run up the gut of the ill-prepapred Viking defense, the biggest gain on the drive came from a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Minnesota.� Stewart completed teeny, tiny passes to Witman and Breuner, which, with some modest RAC yardage, gained 7 and 9 yards.� The longest pass play was a 10 yard curl to Ward that netted 11, on a play in which Stewart actually conducted a splendid play-fake, and had all day in the pocket, but as is his wont settled for the safe, conservative curl pass.�
On the 2d series, Stewart threw an absolutely hideous 8-yard out-pass off his back foot to Burress.�� A pitiful drop by the once-reliable Shaw negated a 7 yard gain on 3rd and 4.��
The last 2 O-drives of the half were a fiasco.�� On a 3rd and 3, Burress was thrown a short slant, and was draped and grabbed all over by the DB.� Unbelievably, not only was a flag not thrown on the DB, but Burress was called for a weak, ticky-tack PI penalty on one of the tiniest push-offs you�ll see all season.� On the resulting 3rd & 13, the Western Union Man had all day in the pocket, and then threw a weak, floaty, short pass on a deep crosser to Shaw that hit the Viking MLB right in the gut for a miserable INT.�
Marvel Smith personally helped sabotage the next series.� Smith got beaten so badly by DE Sawyer that he barely got a pinkie on the DE, who harassed Stewart, and then Hovan picked up the sack.� On the next play, the refs apparently felt sorry for the abuse Smith was taking, and flagged Sawyer for encroachment even though Smith was the imbecile who was lurching back.� Not satisfied with the stench he�d provided, Smith proceeded to get whipped on the next play again by Sawyer, who stripped Stewart of the ball for a Viking recovery.�
So, there you have the starting 5-cent offense for the nite.�� Exactly one pass traveled 10 yards downfield and except for the pitiful INT, none traveled any further.�� The focal point of the passing game?� Why, none other than FB Jon Witman, who caught 2 passes for 10 yards.�
The 2nd and 3rd team offenses weren�t much better.� Martin started the 3rd quarter and did little.� When he rolled or scrambled, he rarely ever looked downfield to throw the ball.� Maddox looked downright shameful.� His throws were weak, off-target, and poor.�� Of course, both men were victimized by pathetic drops by Blackwell, Edwards (which resulted in a Maddox INT), Rivers, Brown, Baker, and probably 4 other men whom I simply don�t feel compelled to type their name.�
Some comments on individuals:
- Tharpe and Duffy both looked poor.�� Pray for good health if these meatheads remain as backups.
- Tuman continues to look like a turd.� If Tuman were asked to block a 64-year old grandma, I�d put my money on the grandma.
- Plex Burress was thrown exactly 2 passes all nite --- an 8-yard out and a 4-yard slant.� I think it�s great that Jon Witman is more of a focal point for this passing game than Burress is.
- It�s no wonder Marvel Smith was getting tooled and abused.� I can�t recall ever seeing splits as tiny as the Stiller o-linemen were taking in pass formation.� Sure, ya can�t use 4-foot wide splits, but using near FG-formation splits is absolutely asinine.�
- Here�s a sign of exactly how much new OC Mike Mularkey has revolutionized this offense.� The Stillers are down by a mere 7 points, but only 1:03 remains and they are 86 yards from paydirt.� Maddox hits Brown on a slant for 15 yards.�� Then, on the next play, Mularkey calls for a middle screen, which was simply blown up and engulfed by the Vikes, and the harassed Maddox half-fumbled the ball away for the final Viking TD.� We�re over 70 yards from tying the game, and there�s only about 45 seconds remaining in the game, and we�re calling Cowher�s favorite play �- the screen pass.� SOS �- Same old Sh!t.�
Defensively, the Stillers did an ok job, but hardly anything to rave about.� Because Robert Smith no longer totes the ball, the Vikes have to rely on youngsters Bennett and Chapman, who have combined to carry the ball exactly zero times in their NFL careers.�� Nevertheless, the Viking offense marched up and down the field in the first half, dominating the TOP with 17:58 to 12:02.� Only a holding flag stalled the Vikings on their first drive, which had crept all the way to the Pgh. 23.� The vikes marched 84 yards on 17 plays to score on their 2nd drive, and scored another TD and a late FG before the half.�� Some individual comments:
- Chad Scott played pretty soft, and weak, in the first half.�� He was playing a good 14 yards off Moss on many a play, and he actually was beaten on a deepish slant that Moss dropped while tripping/stumbling in the EZ.�
- DeWayne gave up a long bomb to Moss, although the coverage was decent.� Later, DW suffered a concussion when his head hit the quad of a RB on a tackle attempt.�
- The biggest thing Mike Logan did all nite was whiff and then hang on to Culpepper, while Culpepper casually shrugged him off and completed a clutch 3rd down pass.�
- TE Chamberlain ate up the Stiller defense, snaring 4 balls for 50 yards.
- Rookie NT Casey Hampton had a superb sniff and stuff of a Viking screen pass.��
- Rookie LB Kendrell Bell has, in my mind, cemented the starting job with his play tonite.� On one 3rd-and-1 plunge by rugged FB Kleinsasser, Bell read the play and flew in for the kill, meeting the hulking Kleinsasser with good force and angle.� Klein was able to spin off the hit for a 1st down, but this was a first-rate play.� Then, with the Vikes on our 1-yard line, RB Bennett tried to dive over the stack for a TD, but Bell met him like a freight train and stopped him cold.�� Bell also broke up a pass while in coverage.�� I say again:� I�ve seen enough of KenBell, and it will be a downright travesty if this man is not starting on opening day.
- On the other hand, Jason Gildong picked up right where he left off last season with a downright shameful, piss poor performance more befitting a crippled monk than a supposed Pro Bowler.� On the first series, GilDong failed to maintain his contain, and rushed too far inside.� Culpepper easily sauntered out of the pocket and around GilDong�s end, and then hit Chamberlain for 22 yards.�� In the 2nd quarter, Gildon was shoved waaay inside, and Bennett easily cruised around end for an easy 9 yards.� And on the short TD pass to Moss, Gildon got bullied so badly by the blocking FB, that he offered no hindrance of vision or passing lane for the rolling-to-his-right Culpepper to have to contend with.�� And on one 2nd quarter play that absolutely incensed me, Gildon whiffed on Bennett after an option pitch on a play in which Big Jason was totally unblocked.�� After the whiff, Bennett was stuffed by another defender, and then Big Jason gets up and shakes his fist in the air, as though he actually did something productive.� Pass pressure and harassment?� He didn�t even sniff Culpepper the entire half.� There were probably more egregious screwups by Big Jason, but frankly I wasn�t even �isolating� on the worthless dungboy.�
- Special Teams � Kris booted a good 42-yard FG.�� A few kickoffs went 4 yards deep into the EZ, while a couple were fairly poor.� I�m looking forward to see what Brown can do in an outdoor stadium.� Hank had a splendid 27-yard punt return, in which he read and then sliced thru a small crevice and took off for the big gainer.�
Defensively, this effort was a bit soft and cheesy.� Of course, there are not many offenses in the NFL that can boast of the prowess of the Vikes.� My sole disappointment in the defense is that, despite facing an OL that has lost 2 starters since last season (including 1 to a recent, unexpected death), the defensive front-7 failed to even come close to dominating the Vikes� OL.� All the more alarming is how worried the Vikes were about center Birk, who had never, ever faced an NT in his NFL career.�
Offensively, we have seen the enemy, and the enemy is us.� There no longer is ANY question that we are embarking on the same abortion we�ve had to endure for the past 3 years.�� You may recall that I wrote a few days ago, �Key to watch for in the Minnesota game this Thursday -� can the starting offense complete maybe 3 passes that travel longer in distance than 9 yards downfield ??��� Facing a soft, creampuff defense that had been literally shredded in its last 4 games of �00, the longest pass downfield this starting offense could muster was all of 11 yards.� And remember --- the Titan and Raven defenses are about 14 times better than this ragtag Viking defense.� Forget the gimme yardage Bettis gained in the first drive.� He was facing a vanilla defense that has had about 25% of the practice time this summer as the Stillers have had.���
I see the defense as being capable of rounding into form by the end of August.� As for the offense, unless radical changes are made, a fourth year of the Billy Cowher 5-cent offense appears to be imminent.�