Checking in for Steve Corkran, who took the trip to Minnesota while I tend to things on the home front. The plan is for me to do the live chat during Sunday’s game . . .
The Minnesota Vikings were already one of the NFL’s worst teams defending the pass even before losing their best player for the season.
The loss of Antoine Winfield to a broken collarbone in last week’s 45-7 mugging against the Green Bay Packers makes the problem even worse.
Aaron Rodgers did as he pleased against Minnesota, and make no mistake, the Raiders are not the Packers and aren’t likely to be so any time soon. But they made great strides as a passing offense against San Diego, as Carson Palmer’s 14-for-20, 299-yard performance against the Chargers will attest.
Minnesota is is giving up 272.8 yards per game through the air, ranked No. 30 in the league. True, yardage isn’t everything, but the Vikings have also surrendered 18 touchdown passes with six interceptions and an opposing quarterback rating of 101.7. Only the winless Colts (109.7) are worse.
The key will be controlling the noise factor and keeping defensive end Jared Allen reasonably under control. Allen enjoyed some of his best games with Kansas City against the Raiders, and at this point is playing better than ever, as detailed by colleague Mark Emmons in Saturday’s print editions.
Palmer acknowledged losing Winfield hurts the Vikings.
“It definitely changes things,” Palmer said. “He’s been a great player in this league for a long time. He can play all over the place, in the slot, outside, he can blitz, cover and tackle. Losing him was definitely a hit for them.”
Palmer allowed for the fact that an unknown could emerge and play the game of his life at any time, but Winfield isn’t the only issue. Cornerback Chris Cook is out while he sorts out domestic battery charges and safety Hussain Abdullah has a concussion last week. Veteran Bennie Sapp was signed for depth.
WHAT ABOUT DHB?
A leaky Minnesota secondary, combined with the absence of Jacoby Ford with a foot injury, could mean some action for Darrius Heyward-Bey. In the midst of a season that was somewhat of a breakthrough _ he’d only reached the end zone once but had become consistently productive _ Heyward-Bey has disappeared from view for the past two games.
Heyward-Bey played little against Denver _ a position-group issue, according to coach Hue Jackson _ and was blanked against San Diego.
No big deal, insist Palmer and Jackson.
“We don’t really have a leading receiver, a guy that’s going to catch 100 balls,” Palmer said. “We have a bunch of good players, and sometimes it’s their week, sometimes it’s another player’s week. So we’re always hoping someone steps up and makes plays. Last week it was Denarius (Moore). Who knows who it will be this week?”
Asked if this could be the week for Heyward-Bey to re-emerge, Jackson invented a new word: “I don’t think he de-emerged. Sometimes that’s the way it happens. The ball just didn’t go there. I think he’s going to be OK. He’s playing, and he’ll get his opportunities. Sometimes the defense dictates otherwise, but I expect Darrius Heyward-Bey to have a big game. I do.”
Jackson was dismissing talk of the Vikings being a “trap game” and for good reason. The Raiders haven’t proven they’re good enough to even qualify for a track game. Only a team that routine stacks wins together should be considered worthy of looking ahead.
“There are no trap games in the NFL,” Jackson said. “When you lose, you lose, when you win, you win. If we lose, it won’t be because it’s a trap, it’s because that team whipped our butt.”