Randy Moss is 35 years old and the fourth-leading receiver on his team, but Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he's expecting the potentially dangerous SuperFreak of old when Moss plays his first regular-season game as an opponent at the Metrodome on Sunday.
"They still take some shots with him down the field," said Frazier, whose Vikings play the 49ers on Sunday. "There are times they're trying to get behind the secondary with him. So he still shows that if you blink, he can run by you. He's got that ability. He really seems to be rejuvenated in their offense. He's doing a good job."
Frazier also became possibly the first person ever to say this about the sometimes-moody Moss: "It seems like he's always motivated to play."
Moss, a starter opposite Michael Crabtree, has five catches for 61 yards (12.2) with a long of 20 yards and one touchdown in two games. He caught just one pass for 14 yards in last week's win over Detroit. Crabtree (13), tight end Vernon Davis (8) and receiver Mario Manningham (7) have more catches than Moss.
"I'm not sure of his role," Frazier said of Moss. "I know on tape they utilize him quite a bit. They bring him in in different packages and he's playing well for them. He's making some plays for their offense.
"He's had a great NFL career, as we all know, and had a lot of great years here in Minnesota. We have to do a good job when we line up against him because he can still make plays, as evidenced by what we're seeing on tape. I would expect him to be up for this game, as he is for every game. You look at his career. He's had a great career. There aren't many games where it seemed he wasn't ready to play. I'm sure he'll be prepared to play against us on Sunday."
Where do you start?
When it comes to slowing the San Francisco offense, the Vikings are in agreement that it starts with slowing the running game.
The 49ers, a physical team that has a pair of eight-point victories over 2011 playoff teams, have used their sixth-ranked rushing attack to set the tone. “They establish the running game, and once they do that, it opens up everything for the passing games,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “They can play-action off of that, bootleg off of that. So, for us, it’s about going out there, stopping the run and trying to make their offense a little more one-dimensional.”
Easier said than done. The 49ers have run 59 times for 334 yards and two touchdowns in the first two games, a 5.7-average that is second-best in the league. And it’s multi-faceted attack, even with Brandon Jacobs having missed the first two games. Frank Gore has averaged 6.1 yards per rush running mainly between the tackles while Kendall Hunter has provided a change of pace.
“Hunter is the guy who can bounce outside,” Robison said. “He has the speed and the quickness to get outside and make a lot of plays on the edge. And then you have Gore, who wants to head downhill quick. We have to have awareness of which back is in the game, and be able to play off of that.”
But that’s not all.
“You get so concerned with the run, you fall asleep, and then they go deep on you,” safety Jamarca Sanford said.
Rookie safety Harrison Smith was nine years old when Randy Moss was a rookie sensation for the Vikings in 1998. Needless to say, he became a fan. And now he’s about to face Moss, who has returned from a year out of the game to play for the 49ers.
“Sometimes it’s funny looking at the rosters,” said Smith, who has started both games. “When you’re a rookie, there are some guys you grew up watching play, and he’s one of those guys. He looks good. He can still run. He can still go get the ball. He’s how I remember watching him.”
Everson Griffen has shown his versatility since arriving here. He has been tried at linebacker, has played both defensive end and as a pass rusher from the tackle position on passing downs. In Indianapolis last week, rushing from the inside, he got the only sack by a Vikings defensive lineman this season.
So is it harder to pass rush from the inside?
“You can really use your same moves,” he said. “You’re just in tighter quarters. You just have to make them quicker, and that’s the only thing. It happens quicker inside.”
- Remarkably, the Vikings have made it through two regular season games without a significant injury. Or many injuries at all, for that matter. Frazier said today that he expects every player on the roster to participate in practice today. We'll have an update when we get the injury report after practice this afternoon.
- Frazier said the team is expecting rookie receiver Jarius Wright be able to play this week, but said he'll wait to see how he practices today and Thursday. Wright has missed the first two games because of a sprained ankle. "He was getting better at the end of last week," Frazier said of Wright.
- DE Brian Robison is wearing a brace on the elbow he banged up in Sunday's game. He's expected to play on Sunday.