Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Vikings 2005 Season Review

Here are 2 views of the 2005 season.

Sippin the Kool-Aid
In a nutshell the Vikings started poorly finished better against weak competition. Culpepper was terrible in the first 5 games as the team stumbled to a 1-4 start. Beating only New Orleans at home and Green Bay on the road as both teams went on to finish with 2 of the worst records in the NFL. It would be easy to argue that their seasons may have been more successful than the Vikes 9-7 season, as NO was able to draft Reggie Bush and GB was able to upgrade their defense with AJ Hawk.

Week 9 was a turning point for the 2005 Vikings. Brad Johnson started for the injured Culpepper and the defense started to play with some consistency. Their record down the stretch is mis-leading since they played weaker teams including Detroit(5-11) twice, Green Bay(4-12), St. Louis(6-10), Cleveland(6-10) and beat Chicago in a meaningless December game after the Bears had locked up the division.

The defense appeared to be better than any in recent memory. They finished 21st in overall yardage allowed and 19th overall in ppg. This is a stark improvement from the previous several seasons, but it doesn't exactly bring back memories of the Purple People Eaters.

The offense was consistent but lacked any real threat and finished 25th in the league for yardage (19th in points). Culpepper was terrible in the first 8 weeks of the season, the running game was 27th in the league, the offensive line was a sieve, Burleson was never able to handle the load as #1 WR and our red zone production was last in the NFC North 13th in the NFC. All of this bleak production still led to a winning record and 1 win shy of a playoff birth.

This was Mike Tice's last hurrah as his team came out unprepared and schematically over matched each and every week. As much as he stared at that play sheet, game plan chart, grocery list or whatever it was it didn't seem to help.

Double Fisting the Kool-Aid
The Vikings started the year with a tough schedule. Including home vs. a tough Tampa team then on the road vs. Cincy, Atlanta, Chicago and Carolina. After their 2-5 start the team rebounded nicely to finish the year 7-2 (including winning 3 of their last 4 road games) and
narrowly missed making the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

Defensively the additions of Fred Smoot, Pat Williams, Sam Coward and Darren Sharper led to a vastly improved defense that kept the team in nearly all of their games as they snagged 24 INTs. While adjusting to new schemes the unit surrendered 27.6 ppg in the first 7 weeks, but only 16.8 ppg in their final 9 games.

On offense Brad Johnson was able to provide the leadership and experience necessary to put his team in position to win. The numbers won't overwhelm you, but he didn't make many mistakes throwing only 4 INTs all year and always gave us a chance to win. Koren Robinson stepped up and became a difference maker down the stretch on offense and on special teams where he made the Pro Bowl as a returner.

Tice made wise decisions regarding his coaching staff as he brought in 2 experienced coaches as consultants to help his current staff.
The right buttons were pushed and the hottest team in the 2nd half of the season was 1 break away from making the playoffs and making a run at the Super Bowl. Nobody wanted to play the purple down the stretch! In the end it wasn't quite enough and the new ownership decided to make a change and the entire coaching staff was let go.

Ultimately many of the team's losses were much closer than the score indicated. Take away a couple key injuries (Birk and Culpepper) and if the ball just bounces our way just once and the 2005 season is a whole lot different in our memories. 2006 is our year!

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