Week 3: Vikings vs. 49ers

I’m not the first to say it, but I certainly thought it shortly after yesterday’s Vikings game: It’s nice to be on the winning side of one of those after all these years.

In case you missed it, Brett Favre pulled off yet another miracle at the Metrodome, but this time it was for the guys in purple.

The unbelievable finish masked what was nearly certain to be a disappointing day for the purple. Late in the fourth quarter I started to think how I would start off my recap of the game and I decided on: Zero. That is the number of holding penalties called on the 49ers offensive line. That is not to say that they were holding (which they were), but that statistic highlights that the defensive line of the Vikings did very little to get to Shaun Hill. One sack for the game (on the first play of the game) and one intentional grounding call. That was it. Shaun Hill’s quarterback rating was 94.6. Had Hill not thrown the one interception (which was mostly due to his receiver cutting the route off) his rating would have been 111.25. The defense needs to find a way to pressure the quarterback otherwise Aaron Rodgers will carve up this defense next week.

However, this near-loss can’t be pinned on the defense. Because when you look at the scoring drives for the 49ers there’s another story.

First Scoring Drive:
3rd and 3 at mid-field in the second quarter and the Vikings are called for Defensive Delay of Game. Typically only called when a defender prevents an offensive player from getting up or prevents the officials getting the ball back (kicking or swatting the ball away in an effort to slow down the action). Normally you see this called at the end of a half or end of a game, but in the middle of the second quarter… and on a cornerback? I’ve heard no explanation on this. Same drive E.J. Henderson is called for Roughing the Passer; replays show it’s a horrible call (perhaps the Unnecessary Roughness call on the 49ers four minutes later was a makeup call since it was equally terrible?). Goes from 4th and 1 on the 36 to 1st and Goal at the 5 yard-line.

Second Scoring Drive:
Blocked Field Goal returned for a TD. Steve Hutchinson blocks down to the center on the snap, Phil Loadholt blocks to the outside leaving a huge gap that three 49ers fly through to block the kick. 10 point swing on that one play.

Third Scoring Drive:
After a Favre interception, which was bound to happen with the way he was throwing the ball, the defense bends but doesn’t break. Holds SF to a field goal. Key plays on that drive were the first two runs by Coffee for 12 and 13 yards. Nearly half the yards they gave up all day on the ground were on those two plays. It’s hard not to think what a healthy Frank Gore would have looked like on the field.

Fourth Scoring Drive:
First bad defensive drive of the game. Even with two penalties on the offense during the drive the 49ers easily marched down the field in the 4th quarter to take the lead. Bad time for it to happen, but the defense played well enough to win the game only allowing 17 points and forcing 9 punts.

So what happened?

Obviously the big play was the blocked field goal returned for a TD. 10 point swing easily changes the outcome of this game, but even if you assume Longwell misses it, the 7 point swing still would have made for a different game.

The Vikings also got a special team TD from Harvin with an impressive 101 yard kickoff return.

So if Special Teams balanced out… that only leaves one thing: the offense.

Terrible game by everyone (except Chester Taylor). Wide Receivers and Tight Ends dropping balls, terrible pass-blocking by the offensive line and tight ends, and not a lot of open lanes for the running backs. The Vikings are not going to win many games where Favre attempts over 40 passes.

Another concern is the beating that Favre is taking on the field. There is plenty of blame to go around, but a fair amount belongs to Favre. He is holding onto the ball for a long time, seemingly unwilling to throw the ball away (which is how he gets into trouble with interceptions) and noticeably late on some passes. Perhaps it is still some rust, but Favre must make quicker decisions. On a similar note, he is taking far too much time at the line of scrimmage. Each play Favre runs the clock down under 5 seconds, and twice was flagged (at home!!!) for delay of game.

Obviously the 49ers are better than advertised; but was this lack of offense a bad game by the Vikings or was it the 3-4 defense that gave them trouble? Even if this game had been a loss, perhaps it was good to get some experience before playing Green Bay’s 3-4 defense next Monday. Prediction: Vikings rushing for less than 100 yards will equal a loss.

Lost in all of this nitpicking and negativity is the classic Favre that showed up on the final drive. Odds are very low that T-Jack or Sage could have pulled off a game winning 2 minutes drill with no timeouts, but you come to expect it from Favre. In the final 8 minutes Favre attempted 16 passes, completing 10 and spiking the ball twice. The 49ers did the Vikings a favor by not protecting the sideline and endzone and putting too many men in the middle of the field, but regardless it was an impressive last 8 minutes by the “Silver Fox” (as Jared Allen is calling Favre).

Final thought on the game: Favre passed for 301 yards, the first 300 yard passing game for a Vikings QB since Daunte Culpepper on September 25th 2005.

Skol Vikings!







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