Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.

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Posts about Vikings coaches

Knee-jerk reaction to today's game

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 14, 2014 - 3:07 PM

By halftime, Vikings fans were booing. By early in the third quarter, they were chanting for the backup quarterback. This wasn't how Mike Zimmer imagined his first home game as the Vikings' head coach proceeding.

The Vikings scored on their first drive, with an impressive show of play-calling and game-planning, driving 80 yards in seven plays without Adrian Peterson (obviously) or Cordarrelle Patterson touching the ball. By early in the third period, they hadn't scored again, and Matt Cassel had thrown three interceptions, and the chants of ``Teddy!'' were raining down from the stands, as fans begged for rookie backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

The final: Patriots 30, Vikings 7, with the Patriots scoring 30 straight points. Cassel finished with four interceptions, one more than Christian Ponder ever threw in a game. The last wasn't his fault, as it bounced off the hands of Matt Asiata, but the previous three were terrible decisions and throws.

Instead of spreading the Vikings out and picking on their lesser defensive backs, the Patriots played as if they knew that only a big mistake could lose this game. They remained patient, running the ball and throwing underneath, and the Vikings made enough mistakes - with four interceptions and a blocked field goal for a touchdown - to reward that approach.

So, after two weeks, the Vikings have one impressive road victory and one unsightly home loss, as they head to New Orleans for what, on paper, looks like the toughest of the first quarter of the season

Cassel had a chance to move the Vikings well ahead of expecations. Instead, he attempted throws that would have gotten a rookie benched. The Vikings' defense played better than the score indicates. One Patriots touchdown was the result of that blocked field goal attempt, and another came on a one-yard drive after one of Cassel's interceptions.

The Vikings coaching staff never seemed interested in playing Bridgewater, and certainly wouldn't bench Cassel after one bad game. Another bad performance may open up the possibility of Bridgewater making his debut sooner than expected.

Quick hits from Vikings victory

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 7, 2014 - 6:11 PM

St. Louis -

Wrote my column on Mike Zimmer's debut. Here are a few other observations after full review of the stat sheets and highlights:

-Key stat of the game: One sack. The Vikings' offensive line didn't play all that well last year, and had rocky moments in the preseason, and was facing the strength of the Rams. The line allowed just one sack, and allowed Cassel to complete 17 of his 25 passes.

-Cassel completed 17 passes, yet hit seven different receivers. There will always be someone open in Norv Turner's offense, and Cassel is calm enough to find checkdowns.

-Peterson had 21 carries, and caught two of the three passes thrown toward him. I wouldn't be surprised if that's a median usage for him.

-I thought Turner was cautious when given poor field position but showed his creativity in the red zone. Both of Cassel's touchdown passes came after inside fakes to Adrian Peterson, freezing the middle of the defense.

-The Vikings are currently alone in first place in the NFC North, with Detroit playing on Monday night.

-This is the first Vikings game I've covered in a long, long time when I didn't come away baffled by either the usage of a key player, a play call, or a coach's explanation of the former or latter.

-Next week provides a completely different challenge. Where the Rams wanted to turn the game into a slugfest, New England will spread the Vikings out on offense, hoping to throw underneath to wideouts like Julian Edelman and find Rob Gronkowski deep down the middle. Watching Zimmer and Turner match wits with Bill Belichick will be quite entertaining.

-Personal note: Got to see The Jayhawks, the great band with Minneapolis roots, on Thursday at the Turf Club, and Saturday night at First Avenue via @Yahoolive. A great band that has never sounded better. Best wishes to Marc Perlman and Gary Louris - please keep this thing going.

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I'll be on 1500ESPN-AM sometime tomorrow morning with Mackey&Judd.


 

Welcome to Jones Dome

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 7, 2014 - 9:34 AM

St. Louis -

Just got to the press box at the Edward Jones Dome (such an elegant name). And here's my pick for today:

I think the Rams are an ordinary team. Their strength on offense should be running the ball with Zac Stacy, and yet Stacy is being pushed for playing time by Benny Cunningham. If your lead back isn't really your lead back, how good are you at running the ball?

I think the key to the game will be the Vikings' offensive line, because the Rams' strength is its front seven. If Matt Kalil plays well, Vikings win, something like 23-16.

I'm placing my faith in Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner. I think he'll put the offense in position to win, whether that means helping Kalil or running plays that defuse the Rams' pass rush. The Vikings have enough talent on offense to score points against even a quality defense, and the Vikings' defense will face its most comfortable matchup of the early season.

So...23-16.

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Korzo is in studio and I'm in St. Louis for Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon on 1500ESPN-AM. Vikings beat writer Matt Vensel and regular guest Tom Linnemann will join. Enjoy Group of Death.

Souhan blog: NFL, Vikings predictions

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 4, 2014 - 9:36 AM

I'll be running Garage Logic and co-hosting Sports Talk today on 1500ESPN, 1-4. Hoping to have two friends from the great band The Jayhawks, Gary Louris and Marc Perlman, in studio at some point.

On to football...

My NFL predictions: This year, I’m going to be right on at least 3 percent of them, I promise…

MVP: Drew Brees.

Aaron Rodgers might be set up for a  great season, but he’ll have to share credit with Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson, two exceptional players. Peyton Manning will face a tougher schedule and probably not be in position to chase any records, so he could play brilliantly without matching his 2013 statistics.

Brees is set up to be just as productive as either, and he won’t have to share as much credit. He relies on only one exceptional skill-position player, and that player is a tight end – Jimmy Graham, who won’t produce as much as a great wide receiver. Brees should have an exceptional season and receive most of the credit for it.

Offensive player of the year (other than Brees): LeSean McCoy. It might be trendier to suggest Adrian Peterson in a new offense, or Eddie Lacy as an emerging star, but look at it this way: Last year McCoy led the NFL in rushing even though the Eagles changed quarterbacks while learning a new offense. Now Chip Kelly’s system is fully in place, there is no question who the quarterback will be, and Kelly will be able to spread out defenses even more with Darren Sproles as his wild card. Only an injury will keep McCoy from being the NFL’s most productive back this season.

Defensive player of the year: J.J. Watt is the best defensive player in the game, and the arrival of Jadaveon Clowney will make him more difficult to game-plan for.

Coach of the year: Chip Kelly. A great, rising coach entering his second year in a weak division. It’s all set up for him.

Playoff teams:

AFC division winners: New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Denver.

AFC wild cards: Cincinnati, San Diego.

NFC division winners: Philadelphia, Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle.

NFC wild cards: San Francisco, Detroit.

AFC champ: New England

NFC champ: Seattle

Super Bowl champ: Seattle

I wish I could pick someone else. But I can’t. Seattle won the Super Bowl in a route while facing a record-setting offense last year, and I think Seattle will be better this year. Better at quarterback, better at receiver, and perhaps even deeper on the defensive line, with Kevin Williams joining a fierce unit. San Francisco looks vulnerable, and the 49ers are the only team that seems capable of standing up to Seattle physically. Russell Wilson is primed to have a great season.

Vikings record: 8-8. I think this will be a well-coached team that will have people excited by the end of the season, but this team will also face a brutal early-season schedule that could end its playoff hopes early.

Why the focus on PFF from Zimmer, Norv?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: August 26, 2014 - 1:57 PM

Been at Winter Park the last two days, and head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner have both taken shots at Pro Football Focus' preseason individual grades.

Their message: Someone watching film who doesn't know what the players' assignments were on every play can't know how well they performed.

My takes on this:

-These guys have every right to tell us when we are, or PFF is, wrong. We also have the the right to be dubious about NFL coaches offering accurate assessments of their own players, because they so rarely do.

-Our job in the media is to use stats, whether old-school versions or advanced metrics, to illuminate subjects. But it's also our job to add the context that can make a statistic worthwhile. You have to use a combination of data, sourcing and first-person observation to complete the picture.

This is why good beat writers are so valuable. They're capable of filling in the blanks when a player has an apparently poor performance. Maybe the guy next to him missed an assignment. Maybe he's playing with a bad foot. And, yes, maybe he just played lousy.

I think Pro Football Focus does a masterful job of evaluating film, but I wouldn't take their grades as gospel, just as I wouldn't take anything an NFL coach says in public as gospel.

When I was covering the Vikings in 1999, I watched the tape of a game and downgraded the offensive line. I showed up at the facility the next day ,and Mike Tice, then the offensive line coach, called me in and showed me where I was wrong. Since then, I've been very cautious about grading out offensive line play. It really is a mystery to just about everyone who isn't in the team's offensive meeting rooms.

Over time, you get a good sense of how well a player performs - it didn't require much studying to judge Randall McDaniel as one of the best football players who ever lived - but picking apart one play or one game is risky.

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I'll be on 1500ESPN at an unusual time tomorrow - 11:15 a.m.

We'll run Sunday Sports Talk from the fair, Sunday 10-noon.

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