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Childress Regains his Balance

What does it mean to have offensive balance?

Normally, it’s an easy term for a television blowhard to credit for the improvement or decline of the unit.  Other times, it can be referred to as the delicate balance between the run and pass.  The real answer is either, “it doesn’t mean anything,” or somewhere between those two.

One of my biggest preseason criticisms of Brett Favre coming to play in Minnesota was that there was no way changing the quarterback was going to fix all their offensive issues.  Here was a team who didn’t protect the passer last year, committed a ton of penalties, employed a dynamic talent at running back who had a turnover problem (not to mention an ineffective backup).  As a result of all those things, plus inconsistent quarterback play, no one really knew what the Vikings had at receiver.  It seemed resonable to project that they didn’t have very much.

Turns out that the Vikings actually did have a lot of talent there, and the Favre acquisition just helped to bring it all out.  But it’s not all about Favre.  Adrian Peterson has upped his game, the offensive line has upped theirs, and Brad Childress has found a perfect blend of offensive balance.

We can’t really understate the value of that last part.  Too many times, plans like these have fallen flat because of a desire to “establish the run” with your best player, despite the prior two years as evidence that you cannot have one productive player and have an offense.  Childress knew that, as important as it is to get Peterson his expected level of touches, the offense is non-functional unless you can protect Brett Favre in any down and distance.

The biggest schematic improvement with the Vikings has been with the protection schemes.  Specifically, the right side of the line — different than last year — is getting the blocking back help it sorely needs.  The Vikings are relying a lot on misdirection runs to spring Peterson and even Chester Taylor.  They are pacing their screens much better as well, not just using them out of desperation like last year.  The key man has been C John Sullivan.  Matt Birk was a big loss, but Sullivan is no dummy, and as helped to solidify the interior OL.

Defenses have also made it clear to Childress that they will 8-in-the-box Peterson at any point in the game, which is just fine to Favre.  Peterson, in interviews, remains adamant that at some point, teams will back off and defend Favre.  That’s not happening anytime soon.  The Vikings are so tough to match up with right now, which they weren’t either of the last two seasons.  Favre hasn’t had to do anything spectacular yet, but he has been spectacular.  At no point in his career has football been this easy for him.

On top of everything else, the Vikings are great this year because they are healthy.  They’re more or less the equivalent of last year’s Panthers: a much improved OL plus a great bill of health plus a well coached defense that runs hard to the football is a winning recipe in the NFL.  Just remember, Viking fans, these are concepts just as fickle as the right arm as your veteran quarterback from the Gulf Coast.  The Vikings are not built on a principle of sustainable success and growth.  They are built to win right here and right now, and as long as they keep the balance and keep defenses guessing, this team is going to be pretty much unstoppable for the balance of the regular season.

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