Vikings Still Searching For Formula

Brad Johnson

The Vikings are looking for their first win over an AFC opponent this year, and they'll be hoping Brad Johnson can deliver.

The Vikings' quarterback controversy appears to be over — at least for this week,

Brad Johnson wasn't outstanding in the Vikings' 30-20 victory at Detroit on Sunday — he completed 14 of 22 passes for 159 yards with no touchdowns and had an interception returned for a touchdown — but that was good enough for coach Brad Childress to say he was sticking with the veteran.

That is due in large part to the fact the Vikings remain in the thick of the NFC playoff race despite a 6-7 record. To stay in the hunt, they will have to beat the New York Jets on Sunday at the Metrodome.

The Jets (7-6) are coming off a 31-13 loss to Buffalo on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J., and will be looking to take out their frustrations on a weaker NFC opponent.

And it appears they have found one.

This will be the Vikings' final game this season against a team from the AFC East and they are still looking for their first victory. Minnesota lost at Buffalo 17-12 in Week 4, was blown out by New England 31-7 in Week 8 and then edged 24-20 at Miami in Week 11.

That's certainly one of the reasons the Vikings players seemed to keep their victory over the Lions in perspective. Another is the fact Minnesota is 2-5 in its past seven games with the victories coming over the lowly Cardinals (4-9) and the Lions (2-11).

The Vikings have lost to New England, San Francisco, Green Bay, Miami and Chicago in that time.

Despite a season filled with more downs than ups, Johnson should remain the starter as long as the Vikings' postseason hopes remain alive and backup Brooks Bollinger is slowed by a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder.

Bollinger served as the third or "emergency" quarterback on Sunday at Detroit. Bollinger's biggest contribution for the Jets game might be sharing any knowledge about his former team. New York traded him to the Vikings just before the season.

There is always a chance that if Bollinger is healthy enough to go Sunday and Johnson struggles there could be a change. But if the Vikings lose to the Jets and fall out of contention, coach Brad Childress likely would turn to another quarterback.

Second-round pick Tarvaris Jackson figures to get a look if the Vikings coaching staff wants to know more about what it has heading into the offseason.

Johnson, in typical fashion, isn't worried about any of this for the time being.

He remained upbeat after the Detroit victory, pointing out the Vikings had won two of their past three games and saying he did not look in the "rearview" mirror when asked about the fact Childress did not issue his public support to the veteran last week.

Childress, in fact, never, named Johnson his starter before the Lions game, simply allowing everyone to find out who would be under center when the Vikings came out for their first offensive series. By that time everyone knew Johnson was the guy.

Johnson will stay the guy for at least one more Sunday.

BY THE NUMBERS: 54.1 — The average number of rushing yards the Vikings' defense is giving up per game, putting them on pace to finish with the second-best run defense of all time. The 1942 Chicago Bears gave up 47.2 yards per game. If the Vikings hold their final three opponents to a combined 51 rushing yards, they will break the Bears mark and finish the regular season with the lowest average of rushing yards given up per game since the NFL began keeping records in 1920.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I wouldn't say he's effective. I'd say he's dominant. There's not that many guys in the league that can dominate like he can. He's big, he's strong, he's fast, he's quick, he's tough, he's smart. Other than that, he really doesn't have a whole lot going for him. You tell me one weakness he has in his game?" — Center Matt Birk talking about Vikings teammate and nose tackle Pat Williams, who has been a key to the team's success against the run.

NOTES

  • RB Chester Taylor missed part of practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable because of sore ribs. The injury kept him out of last Sunday's victory over the Lions. Taylor will wear a protective jacket under his jersey if he does play.

  • QB Brooks Bollinger is listed as questionable because of a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder that forced him into the third quarterback role at Detroit.

  • NT Pat Williams continues to be listed as probable on the injury report because of a sore right knee. The problem has done nothing to slow Williams, who has been one of the best nose tackles in the NFL this season.

  • Rookie CB Cedric Griffin, who took over as the starter at right cornerback for Fred Smoot three games ago, was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after getting an interception, forcing a fumble, recovering a fumble and breaking up three passes against the Lions last Sunday. Griffin is listed as probable for the Jets game because of a sore neck.

  • LB Napoleon Harris is listed as probable but continues to play despite a dislocated left wrist. He likely will wear a protective cast on the wrist for the remainder of the season.

  • WR Marcus Robinson has an ankle injury that has him listed as probable for Sunday's game. Robinson has been slowed by various ailments this season.
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