No huddle: The kneejerk reaction to the Vikings game

Whither the O-Line?

What was most surprising about the game today was what was clearly the team's biggest weakness: The offensive line. Recent history has shown that the Vikes, especially under Denny Green, were astute at quietly assembling huge-yet-athletic guys up front. No wonder those offenses were so good.

It seems obvious now after today's game. I've been down on Matt Birk, ever since the local-boy-made-good essentially rode Moss out of town, and I took a little bit of satisfaction in watching the goody-goody get raked over the coals for bungling the treatment of his hip injury. But, boy, if today proved anything, it's how much the Vikes need him anchoring that line.

Withrow was often beat by Chris Hovan, who a year ago had no business being in an NFL uniform (no doubt the former Vike's revenge was sweet today), and my 68-year-old father remarked that he could get around McKinnie today--and for once I didn't feel compelled to dispute him.

People are going to get all over Culpepper on this one, and gripe about the two Wiggins touchdowns that were called back (and I'll grant them that the interference call on the first one was hooey). But the fact is, this team has a major problem up front, and that's likely to haunt all season. (Plugging Goldberg in during the second half helped not enough.) Culpepper didn't have time to do much back there.

Also, today solidified that Tice is still a terrible game coach. The team looked ill-prepared for way too many ill-conceived substitutions, and it cost them: a timeout in the first half when the D only had 10 men on the field and another timeout in the second half when the play clock nearly hit zero. I expected this; Tice is the worst clock manager in the league by far.

But I didn't expect this from a guy who espouses so much work-ethic bullshit: His boys looked tired out there, and early, giving up buckets of sweat in the 68-degree Metrodome. Poor conditioning, like a leaky O-Line, wasn't on the agenda.

But, hey, the D was fired up, if not exactly smothering. Special points to Sharper, who did draw echoes--I said echoes, now--of a Kenny Easley or a Ronnie Lott. But I'm afraid my belief that this would be a maddeningly mediocre 9-7 team was shaken today, and not in a good way. (The inverse of that record seems more likely.)

But my belief that Queens will be a middling bore, sans Moss, was not.

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