In holding Donovan McNabb to one completion over the final 39 minutes of Sunday’s opener, the San Diego Chargers may have set the blueprint for stopping the Minnesota Vikings’ veteran quarterback.
Consistent outside pressure kept McNabb in the pocket, even on the designed bootlegs and rollout passes he needs to be effective.
“That’s kind of what the 3-4 (defense) does anyway,” McNabb said on Wednesday. “They just weren’t allowing me to get outside, and at times, I would have to throw over the top. One time, they brought a corner blitz, plus an outside linebacker, so I had to get the ball out of my hands quickly.
“And that’s something that a lot of teams are going to do. I expect that. But we have to be able to combat that by being able to run the ball underneath that or the quick (passing) game.”
McNabb called his passing line — 7-of-15 for 39 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a 47.9 rating — “embarrassing” after the game. But the 34-year-old quarterback bristled at the suggestion this is merely an extension of the problems that led to two benchings last season in Washington.
“Not the case now,” McNabb said. “This is a new season. Everything that happened last year — I mean, they could look at different things. Last year, I threw for over 3,000 yards. That’s a pretty decent season. It’s not one of my best. But from the start of it, it can be a lot of assumptions.
“But this is a long season, and as this game ends, they’ll probably be saying, ‘Hey, this is the guy that we expected to see.’ As the game continues on, everybody will start picking out different things. I can’t worry about that. My focus is what I need to do here to help us be successful, and that’s the way it’s going to go.”
The offensive line did McNabb no favors against San Diego by allowing an unofficial 13 QB pressures, including two sacks. And offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s commitment to running the ball on first and second down kept leaving the Vikings needing 5 to 9 yards on third.
Asked if the Vikings’ struggles are merely a sign the unit needs more time to grow in offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s scheme, McNabb responded, “That’s something you say when you’re young. Do I have time to sit back and let it grow? No. I want it to happen now and that’s the way that I prepare. I prepare just like the rest of the guys. We prepare to win now.”
SERIES HISTORY: 52nd regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 31-20, and are 18-7 at home. However, Buccaneers have won four in a row, including the last meeting — a 19-13 decision on Nov. 16, 2008, in Tampa.
NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – NOTES, QUOTES
Wide receiver Percy Harvin expects to get more chances to return kickoffs on Sunday, and he doesn’t have to beg this time.
Not after returning the opening kick 103 yards for a touchdown against San Diego.
“I don’t think it’s lobbying at this point,” Harvin said. “Coach (Leslie Frazier) knows what I can do on special teams. It’s just what we’ve got in the next offensive possession as far as whether he’s going to put me back there or not.”
Frazier said after Sunday’s game Harvin only was deep twice — Lorenzo Booker lined up there the other three times — because coaches didn’t think San Diego would kick to him. Stamina and the injury risks also are factors, though, so there’s no telling exactly how many opportunities Harvin will get.
“We’ll see,” Harvin said. “Me and Coach talked today, so I’ll be back there a little more.”
–The Vikings blitzed on 42.3 percent of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers’ dropbacks in the opener.
Week 2 will pit them against Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who can make an overaggressive defense pay with his legs as well as his arm.
“Freeman’s a little bit more mobile than Rivers is,” linebacker Erin Henderson said. “He has a little bit more escape-ability. He can get out of the pocket, can move a little bit and still be pretty accurate once he gets out of there. We want to try to get our thing, get him on the ground. He’s a big fella.”
One of the NFL’s biggest quarterbacks at 6-foot-6 and 248 pounds, Freeman ran 364 yards on 68 carries (5.4-yard average) last season in addition to throwing for 3,451 yards.
“Obviously, he’s capable of getting away from some stuff,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “Similar to (Pittsburgh quarterback Ben) Roethlisberger in a sense — it’s hard to bring down. Sometimes it’s hard to bring him down with one guy. You have to get home on your blitzes.”
BY THE NUMBERS: 76.7 — Percentage of snaps on which the Vikings used at least two tight ends in the opener, without having any of them catch a pass. “Me personally, I had a little more run game and protection than normal,” rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “But I feel like we executed our assignments as tight ends.”
QUOTE TO NOTE: “At times, we looked extremely great, and at times, we looked average. Man, that’s not the type of team that we are. So, we’ve got to go out there and work a little bit harder on just being more consistent for those 60 minutes.” — RG Anthony Herrera, when asked about the Vikings’ offensive performance
NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Vikings may be the healthiest team in the NFL.
There were no signs on Wednesday they plan to make any significant lineup changes in the wake of Sunday’s loss.
– RG Anthony Herrera said his stamina “wasn’t a problem” in his first full game back from knee reconstruction. “We only had 36 plays, so it wasn’t a problem at all,” Herrera said. “But our training staff did a really great job of getting me in shape, getting me ready to play. I surprised myself. I wasn’t tired at all.”
– UT Letroy Guion played 70 snaps in the opener but got in on only four tackles (one solo) and took two late penalties. He figures to start again this week before starting under tackle Kevin Williams returns from his suspension.
– CB Antoine Winfield said he’d love to be reunited with former teammate CB Benny Sapp, who was released by Miami on Tuesday. “We were hoping coach would run out and go grab him,” Winfield said. “But that’s the business side of it. He’s still a good player. He’ll catch on.”
– SS Tyrell Johnson will continue to rotate with SS Jamarca Sanford this week. Johnson took the first series in the second and fourth quarters at San Diego.
– QB Christian Ponder will remain the No. 2 quarterback ahead of QB Joe Webb this week.
– DE Adrian Awasom did not practice because of a previously undisclosed knee injury. If he doesn’t play on Sunday, DE Everson Griffen figures to take the bulk of backup snaps at end.
– WR Michael Jenkins was a full participant in practice despite a previously undisclosed groin injury.
– CB Asher Allen was a full participant in practice for the first time since a sore toe began bothering him more than a month ago.
GAME PLAN: Most interesting this week against Tampa Bay will be the involvement of the Vikings’ tight ends, who are expected to be a central part of the offense but were targeted only twice in the opener.
The Bucs’ run a similar Tampa-2 defense to the Vikings’ scheme, which encourages offenses to throw underneath coverage to tight ends and running backs — as Rivers did 34 times (completing 26) against Minnesota last week.
“You’ve got to be able to put together some first downs so you can get a rhythm,” Frazier said. “Because we weren’t able to do that, then it shrinks down the playbook and you miss out on some opportunities when that happens.”
Starting tight end Visanthe Shiancoe played 39 of 43 snaps in the opener. Rudolph played 21 and Kleinsasser 20, including seven of eight “F” snaps in the backfield as the Vikings continue to move forward without a fullback on the roster. Even undrafted rookie Allen Reisner got on the field for two snaps.
“It’s built to try to stop outside plays or big plays downfield,” McNabb said of the Bucs’ scheme. “But your tight ends play a major part versus a Cover-2 scheme, and we see it every day here with our guys.”
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
– Vikings RE Jared Allen, who has at least 11 sacks each of the past four seasons, vs. Buccaneers LT Donald Penn, who gave up six sacks, nine knockdowns and 36 pressures last season. Allen had a half-sack, four QB pressures and an interception in the opener, looking more like his 2009 self than the one that struggled the first half of last season.
– Vikings defense, which missed 13 tackles against San Diego, vs. Buccaneers HB LaGarrette Blount, who broke 50 tackles last season. Blount wasn’t pleased with only getting five carries in the Bucs’ Week 1 loss, and the Vikingsneed to tackle far better on the edges for their Tampa-2 scheme to go.