For the Packers’ week four game against the Minnesota Vikings, I did a Q+A with Examiner Joe Oberle. These are his responses to my questions on the Vikings. You can see my responses to his questions by clicking here.
Mark Strotman: What has the transition been like in going from hating Brett Favre for the last 17 years to embracing him as your team leader? Is it still as weird to see him in purple as it is for me?
Joe Oberle: The first time I saw him Brett Favre in a Vikings’ purple uniform during preseason, I laughed at the almost surreal nature of it. It really looked strange because he truly was the face of that team to all us Vikings fans. It has taken some getting used to, but is happening sooner than I expected, and I think it is because he is seems to be emerging as the team leader. It is his personality and love for the game that is coming through with his teammates and also with the fans. Personally, I never hated him. I didn’t like the Packers, but I always respected Favre for the way he played the game–all out and with a genuine love for it. I always wanted the Vikings to squelch his joy, but I thought he was great for the game and a great rival. He single-handedly took this rivalry to new heights, and this season, he is doing it again.
MS: When the Packers offense takes the field, it will really mark the first good passing team the Vikings have gone up against this season after facing Brady Quinn, Matt Stafford, and Shaun Hill. The run defense is outstanding, but has the loss of Darren Sharper hurt the pass defense a considerable amount?
JO: I don’t think so. As you have noted, the pass defense hasn’t been tested all that much because the Vikings’ first three opponents have attacked the Minnesota run defense to help keep the pressure off their quarterbacks. Sharper was great while he was here, but he seemed to have lost a step–and it really showed during last season’s playoff game. It was time for some new blood in the secondary; it may come at the loss of some experience, but I think they Vikings will gain in terms of speed and ability.
MS: For the first two weeks of the season you were able to run the ball with ease against both the 3-4 defense in Cleveland and a 4-3 scheme in Detroit. From what you could see, which seemed to be easier for AP to run against: the 3-4 with quicker athletes or the 4-3 with bigger bodies to clog up the line?
JO: That’s a good question, and it is one that I think will play out all season as Peterson and the offense will face a variety of those two types of defensive schemes. Speaking statistically, AP rushed for more yards against Cleveland’s 3-4, but I think that may be the better defense for him to run against–if they play it straight and don’t cram the box with eight or nine defenders. If he can get past the first line of defense, his speed and agility come more into play, not to mention his size and speed with some linebackers and defensive backs. If you clog the middle on him at the line and slow him down there, he has less change to break free into the open field to do what he does best.
MS: The Vikings now use a form of the Wildcat because of their specialty man Percy Harvin. I have never been a fan of the Wildcat, but how has it worked so far with two of the game’s fastest players in the backfield (Harvin and Peterson). Do you see it being a factor against the Packers or more of an “every now and then” play?
JO: We have only seen it on a limited basis for the Vikings, and head coach Brad Childress, who has long demonstrated a proclivity for the clandestine, may be either teasing opponents so they have one more thing to think about, or really sitting on it until he feels it’s ready to go. So far, at least in the Vikings version, I am not a fan either, mostly due to its lack of success. For a team with a rookie running it and a new quarterback learning the rest of the system, it seems like right now there is a greater chance of something going really wrong with the Wildcat than having it really surprising someone. I am for keeping under wraps until you really know it’s going to work or else make it a bigger part of your offense (a la Miami) and really dedicate yourself to it. I am not sure they would be interested in doing the latter if it is going to put their $12 million dollar man on the bench.
MS: Staying on topic with Harvin, has he overtaken Bernard Berrian as the Vikings’ number one receiver? In Green Bay, Favre favored Donald Driver over Greg Jennings because Driver was more of a possession guy than a home run threat as Favre favored the short pass. Both Harvin and Sydney Rice have more often been targets than Berrian this season.
JO: For the time being, Harvin has emerged as Favre’s favorite target, connecting on two (what we like to call) “Farvins”–a Favre to Harvin TD pass. The Vikings offense has been seemingly designed to go underneath quite a bit this season, as Favre continues to acclimate himself to the offense and his new receivers. It has worked well so far, as he is league leader in completion percentage. In addition, Berrian missed all of the preseason with a hamstring injury and is working his way back into the lineup. Once he is at full strength, I think you will see Favre take more shots downfield. To be honest, I am surprised Favre hasn’t connected more with Visanthe Shiancoe, as No. 4 made a career out of hitting his tight ends in Green Bay.
MS: The Packers huge weakness this season has been the offensive line, while the Vikings biggest strength on defense is their defensive line. Do you think the Vikings will be able to rush just four linemen effectively so they are able to drop seven back in coverage? Because of your secondary, will this be a key factor in stopping Green Bay’s passing game?
JO: If I were drawing it up, I would certainly try it. Aaron Rodgers is arguably Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s biggest concern, and if you can put pressure on the Rodgers with the four lineman augmented by a few blitzes, it would seem to attack the Packers at the weakness. But with this game, as with many in the past, I think you can throw records, expectations and plans out the window, as emotion will take over the game and it could be pretty wild. There will be so much hype coming into this game that any number of things could happen. That said, I believe the team that controls their emotions the best will come out on top–and I am not yet sure who that is going to be.