Re-Focused – Vikings @ Chiefs, Week 4

| October 4, 2011

Well, one of them had to win eventually and despite neither side looking entirely convincing, with no small amount of infighting on one sideline, the Kansas City Chiefs prevailed.
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A crumb of comfort for fans of the Minnesota Vikings is that their team didn’t throw away a double digit half time lead this week. That is small solace however; a team that at least looked good for 30 minutes per game through the first three weeks simply did away with that strong section of display and looked substandard for the majority of the full 60.
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With injuries on one side and re-building on the other, neither team is going very far very fast but Chiefs’ fans can at least cling to the faint hope of this game being a turning point. For Vikings fans, the wonder now begins of when that goose egg in the win column will disappear.
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Minnesota – Three Performances of Note
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1) Kevin Williams back on form
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Kevin Williams took another step towards rediscovering his best form against the Chiefs. A week after a solid display against the Lions, Williams took another step forward in both run defense and as a pass rusher. Williams registered a hit and two pressures rushing the passer and was a persistent pain for the entire Chiefs offensive line. On separate occasions, Williams beat all five Kansas City linemen for positive plays and only Casey Wiegmann was able to get the better of him even on one occasion. As Williams knifed in to the backfield and took down LeRon McClain in the backfield for a two yard loss at 8:09 in the first quarter, he showed the sort of destructive player he was, and still is even without the company of Pat Williams. Can he rediscover his best form this season as other defensive tackles struggle around him?
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2) Trouble running left
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At times you wonder what Adrian Peterson could do with a little bit of help from his offensive line. For the fourth straight week he collected close to three quarters of his rushing yardage after first contact. Peterson was able to break one run off left end for 14 yards but aside from that, his longest run was only 7 yards and only averaged over 4 yards per carry (aside from left end) through one point of attack: 4.8 yards per carry off middle right. The Vikings have changed offensive scheme this season but right now it simply isn’t paying dividends. Steve Hutchinson is a shadow of his former self, grading negatively as a run block for the third time this season and has only one game above +1.0 in the last two seasons. The rest of the offensive line has simply never been up to standard as a run blocking unit and if the Vikings are to make use of Peterson and give Christian Ponder (who will surely see action sometime this season now) a stable platform to have any chance of success then it is looking increasingly like they need to overhaul their offensive line personnel.
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3) It only takes three snaps
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Tyrell Johnson played in only three defensive snaps for the Vikings, but in that space of time managed to miss a tackle and get caught taking a dreadful angle in pass coverage on a post route by Steve Breaston. The Vikings have struggled to find safeties since they let Darren Sharper go, in Husain Abdullah they have found one solid performer but those three snaps by Johnson showed just why Jamarca Sanford has been given a shot at starting this season. Sanford himself was at fault in this game, missing a tackle on Dwayne Bowe’s decisive touchdown reception.
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Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
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1) Coming up smelling like roses
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Brandon Flowers last week looked down and out, fears of another Chief down with an ACL tear were quickly put to bed but the dreaded term “high ankle sprain” would have put some fear in to the Kansas City fans. Those fears passed as Flowers returned to the field, and did so at his best. Flowers was targeted twice and didn’t yield a catch to Devin Aromashodu or Bernard Berrian on those two chances. With little pass rush to come by, that’s an impressive display, Chiefs fans can at least be optimistic of more of the same from Flowers this season; they finally dodged an injury bullet in 2011.
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2) One man wrecking crew
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Tamba Hali got used to carrying the load for the Kansas City pass rush in 2010 and against the Vikings this week it was business as usual for him and his fellow Kansas City defenders. As a unit they registered two sacks, two hits, and 12 pressures. Take Hali out of that working group and that number drops to just five pressures. As a comparison, Hali registered pressure in some form 11 times on 30 pass rushes – better than 1-in-3 opportunities. The rest of the Kansas City defenders got their five on 102 combined rushes, worse than 1-in-20. Where would Kansas City be without the Penn State alum?
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3) The same McClain?
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The Chiefs picked up a trio of players from the team that knocked them out of last year’s playoffs and right now they aren’t getting the expected returns on those investments. Jared Gaither can’t get on the field (when he did last week he false started), Kelly Gregg is show signs of age and is being out-performed by Amon Gordon, and Le’Ron McClain looks a shadow of the player he was for the Ravens. McClain in Baltimore was a big bodied, punishing lead blocker, runner and receiver; in Kansas City he looks noticeably thinner and doesn’t bring anything like that sort of strength in any facet of the game. McClain is still listed at 260lb but he doesn’t look that big and really struggled in this game with the likes of Henderson brothers. If the intent was to slim McClain down to give him the speed to lead for Jamaal Charles, then the Chiefs will now be desperate to have his power game back.
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Game Notes

●  Matt Cassel looked downfield (20 yards or more) only three times in this game, but completed all three for 108 yards and a touchdown.
●  Due to a knee injury, Erin Henderson took his brother EJ’s snaps in the Vikings’ sub packages. The younger Henderson played every defensive snap for the first time in his professional career.
●  Phil Loadholt yielded two sacks in this encounter. This marked the first time he allowed two sacks since the Vikings’ divisional playoff victory in his 2009 rookie season against the Dallas Cowboys.
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PFF Game Ball

Brandon Flowers, CB, Kansas City Chiefs

Just a week after going down injured with what at the time looked like another season-ending injury for the Chiefs, Flowers was back at his best. In 34 snaps in coverage he was targeted only twice and didn’t yield a single catch.
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