Cowboys @ Vikings: Scouting The Opponent By What Their Coaches Are Saying

While Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress was busy fending off questions about Brett Favre's elbow, Favre's ankle, Favre's "junk mail", Favre's emotional state, Favre's cortisone shots and Favre's throwing motion, some of the other coaches on the Vikings staff were actually preparing for the Cowboys.

Special teams coordinator Brian Murphy likes where the team's return unit is at. Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell may have the third center starting in just the fifth game, is worried about the Cowboys front seven and then there's Brett Favre's sore elbow ...

Injuries have crippled the Vikings at cornerback, and Defensive Coordinator Lezlie Frazier is pinning his hopes on a strong pass rush to keep Tony Romo from having a huge day throwing to a Cowboys receiver trio that's about six inches taller on average than the Vikings' remaining corners.

All quotes are from interview transcripts courtesy of the Vikings Media Department.

Field Position will likely be a key determining factor in the game outcome. Vikings special teams coordinator Brian Murphy is pleased with his return unit after the Jets game.

I think the good thing is this: we had some production in the kickoff return game and what I would consider to be the hardest group to block from a scheme standpoint. With guys running all over the place, I thought our guys for the most part covered it up well and Percy showed not only a sense of explosiveness but the ability to find a hole and get us some decent drive starts.

If Jon Cooper starts at Center this week, it will be the Vikings third starting center in five games. Vikings Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell knows it’s going to be a challenge going up against Jay Ratliff.

He [Ratliff] is a very good nose guard. He’s not just a two-gap guy. He’s not just going to stand up there. He’s trying to make plays. He’s trying to get in the backfield. He has the ability to redirect. He’s got great quickness. He can change his quick speed into power if he needs to. It’s going to be a good challenge for us.

With Favre possibly being hampered by a sore elbow and a sore ankle, Adrian Peterson may be called on to carry the offense for the Vikings. The last time Peterson played against the Cowboys was in the 34-3 win in the playoffs last year. Plenty of things went wrong in that game for the Cowboys but one thing did go according to plan. The Cowboys held Peterson in check: Peterson notched 63 yards on 26 attempts for a 2.4 YPC average. That is the fifth lowest average of his 53 game NFL career (incl. playoffs). OC Darrell Bevell is acutely aware of what the Cowboys front seven can do.

They have a great front seven, particularly with the bookends that they have on the ends with Ware and Spencer. That’s their job, to put an edge on the defense and harness everything back up into the inside. They have a good scheme, but they have outstanding players with the two ends, with the nose guard. They can wreak havoc all over. Brooking is a long-time veteran. They’ve done some good things with that defense.

The Vikings are crippled at cornerback, which could translate into a huge day for Tony Romo. Both Chris Cook, the 34th pick in the 2010 draft, and Cedric Griffin, the Vikings starting right corner are out injured, leaving Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier decidedly short-handed.

Yeah it creates that issue a little bit but it’s next man up. A couple guys are going to have to step up and play well for us. We wish we had Cedric out there, we wish we had Chris Cook out there but other guys will step up and make plays for us.

The injuries leave Antoine Winfield (5-9), Asher Allen (5-10) and Lito Sheppard (5-10) as the only healthy cornerbacks, and they'll have to literally go up against Miles Austin (6-3), Roy Williams (6-4) and Dez Bryant (6-2). DC Lezlie Frazier anticipates a lot of throws at the two backup corners, and will try to compensate with the pass rush.

Asher isn't going to get much taller so it is what it is. We just have to rush the passer and they're going to get the ball out sometimes on time and they're going to throw three step at Asher and Lito, and whoever else is out there are going to have to stand up and make some plays when that happens.

It's good for Asher. It's a good test for him. It'll be more like that this week and he's going to get tested and I'm sure Lito will too when he's out there. I'm sure they aren't going to consistently try to make a living off of Antoine Winfield so that's the way its going to be.

I thought our guys did a great job of rushing the passer in that game [2009 playoffs] and we're going to have to do the same thing this game. We're going to have to do a great job of rushing the passer but any quarterback, if you hit him consistently; it's going to have an effect. I don't care if you're Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, or even Brett Favre you want to hit the quarterback and create some indecision and hopefully we can do that again this weekend.

The Vikings have been struggling against the run, and had a particularly hard time against the Jets who ran for 155 yards against the Vikings last week. Lezlie Frazier recognizes that the run defense has had some gap problems that the Cowboys may want to exploit.

I get concerned when we get out of our gaps and we're not where we are supposed to be. People get anxious and start wanting to make other peoples plays, then you get a little concerned. I think we'll get things where they need to be and we'll get tested this week by Dallas. They have the ability to run the football and I'm sure they probably saw some things in the Jets game that they think they can exploit so we'll have to really step it up and play good run defense.

We went back and looked and there were five plays that they [Jets] got close to 100 yards on when we weren't where we were supposed to be and guys feeling like they have to make a play because of the circumstances of the game and you can't do that. You just got to do your job and let everyone else do their job and we'll be fine. It's how we became, and have been, a great run defense football team and that won't ever change.

Adrian Peterson concurs:

Those guys just really play good, solid football. They’ve got a lot of talent. Unfortunately, I guess I just haven’t really had a breakout game against those guys. I think we’ve played them twice, two or three times. I look forward to changing that.

And just because I thought this was funny in a sad kind of way, partial transcripts of Brad Childress's Wednesday Q&A session:

Q: How concerned are you about Brett Favre’s health and emotional state at this point?

A: I’m worried about both, but I’m worried about a lot of guys’ emotional state. I just don’t want guys to get mentally ill four games into the season. We talk about that. You make your corrections and then you get on with your next opponent. You don’t let the last game beat you twice. I think he’s got a decent balance; we’ll just see how his arm shapes up here the rest of this week.

Q: Will you hold him back in practice this week?

A: I’m sure we’ll parcel his reps out to him, get the ones that he needs, which we did a good bit of last year at times.

Q: Is it something where a cortisone shot could help? Or have you already tried that?

A: I’m not going to get into our whole treatment scheme, but there’s many different things that we use. Those are all doctor decisions, not my decisions.

Q: The other day he threw the ball well on long throws but seemed to have trouble with some of the shorter throws. Is that tendinitis related at all?

A: I don’t think you can look on Wikipedia and see that long ones are easy and short ones are tough under tendinitis. But you’re right, he had enough velocity to make a couple great throws like he did to Percy, and obviously enough of a touch to throw a high-arcing ball to Randy. Why he struggled with some of the underneath stuff, that’s kind of hard to say.

Q: Did you see anything different with his throwing motion due to the elbow?

A: I didn’t see a funny motion. I didn’t see any kind of clutching motion or anything like that. I know he may have repositioned his brace on his elbow a couple times. We used to think Donovan [McNabb] had something wrong because he used to bend over like his stomach hurt, like he was being poked, just kind of a tic, if you will, that people have.

Q: You said you were concerned about ‘both’ the physical and emotional state of Favre.

Are you talking about being involved in an NFL investigation during the season? A: I should go back and say concerned, I am concerned about everybody on our football team. I am not overly concerned about where he’s at with whatever he’s got going on in his life. I don’t mean to minimize it, but it is what it is. I see a guy that’s here, ready and prepared, doing the work. I don’t see ill effects from that.

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