About the Author
Recent posts by Eric Edholm
Pro Football Weekly asks former Vikings LB and current radio analyst Pete Bercich five burning questions as the team gets set to finish off its regular season against the Lions in Detroit.
PFW: If you were choosing, who would be the Week 17 QB and why?
Bercich: If Brett Favre is healthy enough, then it's got to be Brett Favre. You brought him in to start, you didn't bench him because of poor performance and he hasn't played because he hasn't been healthy. So, if your starter is available and he's healthy, then he's the one who has to start. Now, the decision of whether or not he's healthy, well, that's always a gray area. A lot of times players think they are ready to go, and the coaches and training staff may think they are not healthy. That's the only place that I think there is any gray area or discrepancy, and that's if he's healthy enough. But if he can throw and think and do all those things, then I think you have to play him.
PFW: The blitz was an unexpected facet of the game plan Tuesday. How much of that was a one-game thing for Michael Vick and how much might we see of it going forward, especially if this staff returns?
Bercich: I think the Vikings took an attitude and a game plan that was pretty similar to what the Giants did (to Vick). Barring a missed tackle here or there, the Giants really should have beaten the Eagles. I think that was a big part of it. What was nice was that Antoine Winfield was coming (on blitzes) so much from the nickel position because we haven't shown a ton of that throughout the year. That's the problem with Vick: If you blitz somebody, even if they are free to the quarterback, it's doesn't mean they are going to take him down. But Antoine is athletic enough to get him down. You can't just send a 260-pound linebacker at him; you have to have someone who is quick and can make plays.
They mixed it up a lot. You know, Mike Vick is only six feet tall. So you can really help defend the middle of the field by having a guy putting his hands up. You've got a 6-foot-5 (DT) Kevin Williams, and if Vick stays in the pocket and (Williams) keeps his hands up ... that's the one thing with Michael Vick — I see more batted balls with him at quarterback than really anybody else in the league. Some of that is because he's six feet tall, but the other part is the technique that defenses use when they rush him.
Now, is that going to change what the Vikings do? I don't necessarily think so. I think that amount that they blitz is going to be a week-to-week game-plan thing. It's a copycat league, and if you see a team that struggles with something, if their offensive line doesn't handle movement really well, those are the things you are going to do. So I don't just think that blitzing is now going to be engrained in the psyche of (defensive coordinator) Fred Pagac, but I do think it helps.
The other thing that helps is that when you have a team that — let's face it — is not going to the playoffs, when you sit down and show them the game plan that a lot of guys are blitzing, guys tend to be more engaged. Guys get more excited about the game plan. So it's a lot easier to keep those guys engaged and fired up about a game. If I know I am blitzing 25 percent of the time, I am going to be loving the game plan. I think that was another big part of it, too.
PFW: Has Antoine Winfield been robbed of a Pro Bowl invitation?
Bercich: It's hard to say. Being one of the three or four best corners in the league, Antoine did have a very, very good year. I think offenses stayed away from him. But he doesn't have the productivity from an interception standpoint, and that's what a lot of Pro Bowl balloting is. You know, offensive players vote for defense, and if you're an offensive lineman and you play against Philadelphia and you see Asante Samuel with seven interceptions, and Antoine has two, it's a little jaded in that respect. But I think (Winfield) had a very, very good year. He wasn't as productive from a numbers standpoint as the last few seasons, but I think he played just as well.
PFW: Sidney Rice's season might be over. It's unrelated, with his concussion, but how much do you blame him now for the way he handled the hip injury in the offseason?
Bercich: The team can only recommend what they think should happen. We don't know for sure who said what and how things went. If the team felt he needed surgery, it's still up to the player whether he goes out and has it done. The team can't force anybody to have surgery. In hindsight, should he have had the surgery? Well, yeah, obviously. He took a few steps back once the games started. So hindsight being 20-20, he should have had the surgery. But that's the business of the game, though. That's a tough call for any player. The only thing you can be sure of is that he ended up having to have the surgery, so you would have liked him to have gotten it done a long time ago.
PFW: If DLE Ray Edwards walks next year, could you see a Brian Robison-Everson Griffen tandem working in his spot?
Bercich: I guess you could do it by committee. The one thing about Ray is that he's a really good run defender. And the other thing you have to keep in mind is that a left defensive end, your base end, he's normally bigger and is normally a better run defender. The reason for that is because most offenses are right-handed and most quarterbacks are right-handed. Typical West Coast offense, right-handed quarterback, tight end on the right side — that means the left end is going to see a lot more double-teams and going to see a lot more running his way. You're also pass rushing from the vision side of the quarterback; you're not coming from his blind side.
I say all this because Brian Robison is 260 pounds. Could he do it for a week? Yeah. Could he do it for two weeks? Yeah, probably. Could he do it for 16 weeks? Probably not. So you either have to do it by committee or you have to find somebody else. Now, I will say this: It's a lot easier to find a left defensive end than it is to find a right defensive end. Bottom line. It's the same thing with a left (offensive) tackle and a right tackle. It's a lot easier to find a right tackle than it is to find a left tackle. It's just the right- and left-handedness of the game.