Jeff Backus, Jared Allen, and Dirty Cheating Vikings

>> 9.27.2011

26 Sept 2010: Detroit Lions left tackle Jeff Backus looks to pick up his block against the Minnesota Vikings' Jared Allen at Mall of America Field in Minneapolis, Minn.

PaulieP (Scottsdale): Colts first time here, do you believe the allegations about pumping in crowd noise? Have you heard the "skip"?

Jeremy Green: (11:10 AM ET ) I don't doubt it. The Vikings used to do it in the 90's when they had very good foootball teams.

Jeremy Green is the son of former Vikings coach Dennis Green. In 2007, after the Colts' CD of crowd noise audibly skipped during a Pats game, the younger Green admitted in an ESPN chat that the Vikings used fake crowd noise, too. Both teams play in domed stadiums, play admittedly loud music, and are famous for unfailingly-loud crowds—but both teams staunchly deny they artificially boost the crowd noise.

CBS ultimately took the fall for the Colts incident, claiming their audio may have fed back somehow; the NFL scrubbed all recordings of the event from the Internet. Green later said it was just, like, his opinion man—one informed only by half his lifetime spent going to Vikings games during his father’s tenure as head coach. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk said at the time:

Please.

The initial comments from Jeremy Green sure don't read like opinion, and Green's relationship with the head coach at the time puts him in a great situation to know the facts.

The mere fact that Green would try to backpedal in such lame fashion tells us all we need to know.

Then again, Green is now doing hard time for possession of drugs and child pornography, so his character isn’t unimpeachable.

The Lions offensive line had kept Matthew Stafford clean through the first two weeks, allowing zero sacks by either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Kansas City Chiefs. The Bucs and Chiefs have combined for nine sacks across the other four games they’ve played, yet neither bagged Stafford once. Through two weeks, the Lions had the No. 1 Pro Football Focus-graded pass-blocking line in football.

Yet, the line was in disarray against Minnesota: Jeff Backus had one of the worst games of his career, and earned the worst PFF grade (–7.6) they’ve ever assigned him. Backus was flagged for four penalties, including consecutive false starts on a critical fourth-quarter drive. He also got the blame for two sacks and three QB pressures.

Gosder Cherilus was benched after allowing a sack and a pressure in just the first six snaps. Replacement Corey Hilliard didn’t fare much better: he allowed a sack, two hits, and a pressure. Rob Sims also allowed a sack and three pressures; his –4.9 PFF grade was his second-worst-ever (besides the 2008 season opener, when he played through a torn pectoral muscle). Oddly, the two whipping boys of the Lions line—Dom Raiola and Stephen Peterman—had the days’ best grades at –1.1 and +1.1, respectively. Raiola’s pass blocking grade by itself was positive (+0.3)

What happened here? Is Jared Allen that much better than Tamba Hali? Is Kevin Williams that much better than Gerald McCoy? Or might it have something to do with the “crowd” being so loud that Matthew Stafford had both hands pressed over both earholes in the second quarter, trying desperately to hear the radio embedded in his helmet?

Make no mistake: crowd noise is, will, should be a factor in NFL games. During the Kansas City game, when we Lions fans cheered loud enough to draw a timeout or a false start, it was a great feeling knowing we had given our team an advantage. Seahawks fans strongly believe they are “The 12th Man.”

That’s why the Lions veteran line, coached by an experienced coordinator like Scott Linehan, should have been better prepared to deal with the notorious Mall of America noise. The Lions didn’t use max protect against Minnesota’s pass rush, preferring to throw it over the Vikings heads.

Unfortunately, Lions receivers didn’t get open consistently enough to make that approach effective. Nate Burleson, who usually thrives in space underneath, was nearly invisible. It wasn't until Matthew Stafford leaned on Brandon Pettigrew and Titus Young in the second half that the Lions started moving the chains.

Trusting the offensive line to slow Jared Allen and company long enough for Stafford to make the Vikings pay was a gamble. Noise or no, the line clearly didn’t respond the way Lions coaches had hoped. After the game, head coach Jim Schwartz said, “We need to be more effective at [right tackle]. I will just leave it at that.” On Backus, Schwartz’s opinion was similar: “He gets a lot of attention because he's a left tackle. Just in general terms, Jeff can play better and he will play better.”

Ultimately, pointing fingers at Minnesota’s illegal advantage—real or perceived—is folly. Good teams overcome disadvantages like that; they persevere and perforam. No matter what you think of the Vikings’ tactics, Jeff Backus and the offensive line was good enough to pass what might be their toughest test all year: Jared Allen and the Vikings line in one of the toughest road environments in football.

11 comments:

Jon September 27, 2011 at 8:25 PM  

Part of the reason why Nate Burleson "disappear" is Antonie Winfield is covering him. Winfield is an underrated cover CB who happens to be the best tackling CB in the league. Stafford wisely stayed away from Winfield and attack other Vikings DBs and LBs.

Anonymous,  September 27, 2011 at 9:34 PM  

This may have been the toughest test the OL gets this season regardless of the noise and the inability to hear QB audibles. Given the 20 point Minnesota lead with a non-existent running game, everyone in the stadium knew that the Lions had to pass to win against one of the premier defensive lines in the league.

The OL may not have looked good in pass protection (nor run blocking for that matter) but I don't think there is an OL in the league that could have done much better in pass protection under those circumstances. Plus, I don't think ANY first round rookie LT could have done better than Backus under those circumstances. But you know what, the Lions won, and that is what is significant about this game.

Ty September 27, 2011 at 9:38 PM  

Great point; I've always been a Winfield fan. Still, it seemed to take time for Stafford to find and use his other weapons. It was a little disconcerting.

Peace
Ty

Anonymous,  September 27, 2011 at 9:56 PM  

I should also note that if Harvin is susceptible to migraines, then piping in crowd noise is the last thing Minnesota should do, because excessive noise can trigger migrains. Plus, as a spectator, would you want to take anyone to a venue where you always leave with a splitting headache due to the noise?

Alvin,  September 27, 2011 at 10:29 PM  

Look Ty I was there last year and it's just plain asinine homerism for you to keep implying that the Metrodome is so loud MAINLY because of pumped in noise. I've been to Ford field and the Metrodome the last 3 years and Ford field has WAY louder music going on. I'm not implying that they pump in crowd noise at Ford field cause they prolly don't. But you have some pretty weak evidence to say that they do in Minnesota. It's just horrible writing to keep saying that the Noise in Minnesota is mainly made up. That stadium is loud because it's indoors and the seats go up more the out and it's small. It was pretty scary walking up to our seats in the 3rd tear let me tell you. Get off the "pumped in" noise stick Ty, it makes you look like such a competitive homer. Just so you know, I'm a life long Lions fan of 30 years, I'm not some Vikes fan. I live in Wisconsin so my only option last year was to travel to Minnesota.

Al

Ty September 27, 2011 at 10:55 PM  

Alvin--

I'm not saying there isn't legit crowd noise in Minnesota, or that the stadium design doesn't make the apparent noise on the field louder than usual.

I am saying a ESPN-employed professional football analyst with direct ties to the Vikings flatly stated on the record that they, at the very least, used to--and I've heard rumors to that effect before.

Also, historical Twitter search is almost impossible, so I couldn't cite this example--but when the Vikings played the Giants at Ford Field, someone on Twitter Twitpic'd a bunch of long-faced Vikings fans and added "It's weird--it sounds loud in here, but I don't see anybody cheering."

Of course, all the other Vikings sound effects were used that night, too (like the Viking horn). As soon as I saw that Tweet, I thought "They used the fake crowd noise here, too!"

I've never been to the Metrodome, so I'll bow to your experience. But to me, there's a difference between "It's third down and the crowd is so loud the tackles are having trouble hearing the snap count" and "it's so loud all the time that Stafford can't hear the speaker that's embedded in his ear." A suspicious difference.

Anyway, the whole point of the article was basically to say, "all's well that ends well." Cheating or legit, the Vikings blew up the Lions' offensive line as badly as anyone will this season--and if that's as bad as it gets then the Lions are going to win a LOT of football games this season.

Peace
Ty

Ty September 27, 2011 at 10:57 PM  

Anon--

Wow, great point about the migraines! Apparently, the noise hasn't been a trigger yet. I bet the lack of direct light helps.

As for hearing damage, I think the apparent loudness on the field should be louder than in the stands. I could be wrong, though.

Peace
Ty

Detroit Lions September 28, 2011 at 5:47 AM  

Great point; I've always been a Winfield fan. Still, it seemed to take time for Stafford to find and use his other weapons. It was a little disconcerting.

randomguy313 September 28, 2011 at 9:10 AM  

"What happened here? Is Jared Allen that much better than Tamba Hali? Is Kevin Williams that much better than Gerald McCoy?"

Jared Allen > Tamba Hali
Kevin Williams > Gerald McCoy

To emphasize that point I would have to deal a low blow and say in the immortal words of Rob Parker "C'moonnnnnnnnnn"

Really Ty?!? Tamba is on the precipice of being considered elite, but Jared Allen has been doing it for a while.

In regards to the latter question, I pose my own; should McCoy be even mentioned in the conversation of similarities of Kevin Williams?

Despite a two game suspension and plantar fasciitis, Kevin is leap years ahead of Gerald McCoy.

Now add to that, they are on the same team!!

The Lions will be hard pressed to find a more difficult challenge at the defensive line then what they faced against the Vikings. The Bears and Packers can match the talent level to an extent, but the crowd noise in Minnesota gives them the edge.

Anthony September 29, 2011 at 4:23 PM  

Alvin-

I also live in Wisconsin and have been to the Metrodome several times and I can say with certainty that they pump in crowd noise.

I was at a Badgers-Gophers game at the dome with a very heavy favoring of Badger fans, probably 75% of the stadium. Badger fans are some of the rowdiest and noisiest in the country and that stadium was pretty loud.

A few weeks later I was at a Vikings' game there and despite the fact that they were losing and there were a fair number of empty seats, the place was twice as loud.

Factor in the fair weather nature of their fan base (needed an extension to sell out their first playoff game in years) and the team's propensity to break rules (coaching staff scalping Super Bowl tickets and tampering with Favre) and there is far too much smoke for there not to be fire.

One last note, the construction of the stadium includes a canvas and fiberglass roof, two materials used to dampen noise.

I have been to baseball games, pro football games and college football games up there and the only time you don't hear crickets in there is when it's full of Badger fans or when the Vikings are playing.

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