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Monday Morning Mailbag: Running Game Starts Slow

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It was a good team win yesterday. The first half caused a lot of concern. Also, the fact that the running game never got off the ground. Defenses are going to stack the box on us all season long. What do you think the offense needs to do to get the running game established? That said, the defense looked great. As always, Skol Vikings! -- Mike B. Goodwin, SD

A big part of why the running game never got going is Tennessee committed to stopping it by stacking the box with as many or more defenders than the Vikings could block. At the end of the day, though, that is nothing new. As head coach Mike Zimmer said in his press conference, there isn't going to be a team this year that doesn't come into a game against the Vikings not stacking the box. So the Vikings have to find a way around it and/or make teams pay for overcommitting to the run. To some extent, they did make some plays in the passing game that may have been a result of the Titans overcompensating to stop Peterson (Stefon Diggs had 103 receiving yards). Part of it, too, is I'm sure Peterson and the running game had to knock some rust off because they didn't have reps together during the preseason. This is definitely an area they can work on this week.

Shaun Hill played pretty well against Tennessee. He wasn't spectacular, but he didn't turn it over and he spread the ball around nicely. Taking the great defense and Adrian Peterson into account, do you think they might just roll with Hill for a few more weeks and give Sam Bradford more time to get comfortable? Or is Bradford still expected to start ASAP? -- Zac Benson

I'm not going to be in the business of predicting which quarterback coach Zimmer is going to roll with. Let's just wait and see what the team does and analyze it from there. There is so much that goes into that decision and the coaches are much more qualified to make the call than any of us. With that being said, one byproduct of the Vikings going with Hill and of Hill playing well, is that the unknown of who will play quarterback in Week 2 is still there.

Are we going to look into another kicker? I'm not trying to hate on Blair Walsh, but this season I feel we need the most points possible. What are your thoughts? -- Mike Adams Sioux Falls, SD

Zimmer said during his post-game press conference on Sunday that Walsh is the team's kicker and there isn't a doubt about that. I take that to mean that they aren't looking at making a move at that position and they expect Walsh to kick through trouble, find his groove and perform with more consistency. He did a nice job of bouncing back after the missed kicks, finishing the game with made field goals of 30, 33, 45 and 50 yards, so that is something upon which he can build heading into a week of practice.

What grade would you give our offensive line? I saw some missed blocks, and also we did not open holes for Adrian Peterson. But the Titans had eight defenders in the box most of game. On the other hand, the offensive line did not give up a sack and that's a good thing. What are your thought on this? -- Jeff Sanders Kirkwood, MO

While it was disappointing to see the running game stalled, I feel it was even more encouraging to see how much the pass protection improved from last year. The Vikings did not allow a sack on Sunday, which is a big reason why Hill was able to put up the numbers he did – 236 yards passing and seven completions of 15 yards. I'd rather have to find a way to get better running the football than I would protecting the passer. 

I hope Norv Turner opens things up the rest of the season. It isn't fair to Adrian to expect him to win against nine and 10 players in the box. It's time they opened things up on 1st down more often. Most importantly, the offense needs to make defenses pay on 1st down for crowding the line or when they're in their base package. -- Gary St. Cloud, MN

Already with the play calling? I can't agree here. By my count through the first drive of the 4th quarter, the Vikings threw 12 times on 1st down and ran it nine times. The Vikings won the game by nine points and they have the best running back in the game, yet they still threw 33 passes. Diggs was over 100 yards receiving. Seven different receivers were targeted. Cordarrelle Patterson had a rushing attempt and a reception. I guess I don't know what else you want to see for you to call the offense "opened up." At some point, you have to put the onus on the players to execute and you can't always blame the play calling whenever something doesn't go right.

With the struggles in the red zone, what do you think the chances are that coach Zimmer plays Laquon Treadwell, who has shown he can be a big red zone target to go along with Kyle Rudolph? More offensive touchdowns are needed. With this defense and an offense that can put up, say 21 points a game, the Super Bowl can be the end result! -- Theron Merrick Edgewood, NM

At this point, the Vikings will be searching for anything that can help solve their red zone woes. This was an area the team wanted to improve upon after struggling there last season and then on Sunday they failed to score a touchdown on three red zone trips. A big key to red zone success is being able to run the ball down there. Throwing it can be tough because the field is compressed, which means there is less area the defense is forced to defend. With that being said, Treadwell was active for the game but he didn't play, and maybe that will change going forward as the team tries to solve its red zone conundrum.

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