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Lunch Break, September 10: The Jet Sweep, Turning the Trick in '14 and Tarkenton on Defense

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner got creative in getting the ball to WR Cordarrelle Patterson in last week's win, electing to hand the ball to him ono runs (three attempts) at nearly the same rate he and quarterback Matt Cassel targeted him in the passing game (five targets).

NFL.com's Bucky Brooks noted this and added more to it in his recent piece, which explains an offensive concept commonly used at lower levels of football that is now being used by NFL offenses more frequently.

Offensive coordinators want to maximize the ability of their most explosive players to post big gains on the perimeter, and the jet/fly sweep provides them with an additional opportunity to give those players a touch in space. Also, the misdirection action created by this sweep opens up a variety of complementary runs (zone-read) and passes (play-action vertical throws) that could lead to huge plays from other players on the perimeter.

The offensive dynamic of having a running back pound a defense downhill and complementing that with a speedy receiver pressing the edge on sweeps can be an effective one against any defense. It puts a lot of stress on defenders as they try to keep both weapons in check.

The NFL is a league that thrives on competition and parity. The line between winning and losing, and the line between good teams and poor teams, is razor thin. Every year, we see teams who were at the bottom of the barrel the previous season rise to the playoffs, and we see the reverse of that, as well.

Former Vikings QB Sage Rosenfels, who is part of a group of players that has started a new website called Football By Football, touched on this topic in a recent column and also offered a few submissions for teams who could flip the script in 2014. One of those teams? The Vikings.

View exclusive images shot by the team photographer from the first game of 2014 as the Vikings took on the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Every year, an NFL team or two comes out of nowhere and shocks the league by having a playoff season after a poor showing the previous year. Kansas City and Carolina were the epitome of this last year. Terrible in 2012, and in the playoffs 12 months later.

As for the Vikings, specifically, Rosenfels explained why the Vikings could make it to the playoffs this year, writing:

Zimmer was lucky enough to hire Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator. Turner has a long track record of coaching great tailbacks and tight ends, a strength of the Vikings offense. Ladainian Tomlinson, Emmitt Smith, Ricky Williams, and Stephen Davis all had some of the best years of their careers with Norv as the OC. Antonio Gates walked off the basketball court and into a multiple pro-bowl tight end career under Turner's coaching. Should be interesting to see what he does with Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph.

The NFC North is competitive but doesn't have a dominant team. The Packers have one of the best QBs in the league, but their defense struggled mightily last year. Same story for the Bears, as Marc Trestman brought the best offense in years to Chicago. But their defense was near the bottom of the league. Detroit has a talented but streaky quarterback with Stafford, but continues to be an inconsistent franchise.

Though I don't expect the Vikings to win the division, if they get a few breaks and improve on their weaknesses from last year, they have enough talent to get back into the playoffs after only a one year absence.

Marc Sessler of NFL.com has set out on a season-long mission to chart the performance of the NFL's top rookies in 2014. After one week, he has Vikings LB Anthony Barr on his list.

Barr's 62 snaps on Sunday ranked sixth among all 4-3 outside linebackers. Emerging as one of Minnesota's surest tacklers against St. Louis, the rookie has won the trust of Mike Zimmer. Look for the Vikings to increasingly unleash Barr as a pass rusher.

Barr led the Vikings in tackles in Week 1, and he figures to play a prominent role this week, as well, with Tom Brady and the Patriots coming to town. There aren't very many ways to slow down a future Hall of Fame quarterback, but pressuring him in the pocket – Barr's forte – is one way to do it.

On the same day the Vikings left Minnesota to fly to St. Louis for the season opener, they reached agreement on a contract extension with RG Brandon Fusco. Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press wrote about Fusco's pedigree, Fusco's under-the-radar nature and how the Vikings feel about securing his services for the foreseeable future.

Vikings fans might not know much about the fourth-year man. But they should count on seeing Fusco, now under contract through 2019, as an anchor on Minnesota's offensive line.

"He's got a lot of toughness," said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. "He plays every week. He's got physicality in the running game. He's smart. He does a good job in protections. ... He does his job; he gets his job done. We're very, very excited to have him for five more years."

Just a day after signing his extension, Fusco performed well for the Vikings in a Week 1 victory. He threw a key block on Patterson's 67-yard touchdown run in the 3rd quarter, which blew the game wide open and virtually eliminated any thought of an improbable Rams comeback.

Quick HittersKent Youngblood uses the upcoming Vikings home opener at TCF Bank Stadium, an outdoor venue, to reflect on memories of the team's "glory days."

How does Vikings legend Fran Tarkenton feel about Mike Zimmer's defense? Check this out.* *

Ben Goessling of ESPN.com writes about some business-related aspects of the Vikings.

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