View Full Version : QB Johnson has saved day for Vikings

12-18-2005, 02:20 PM
QB Johnson has saved day for Vikings

By Joe Bendel
Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Minnesota Vikings were a bad -- and dirty -- joke through the first seven weeks of the season. Their record stood at 2-5. Their starting quarterback Daunte Culpepper was lost to a season-ending knee injury. And their off-field exploits were fodder for the late-night talk-show hosts.
Then came old man Brad Johnson to save the day.

"He turned that team around," said Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel, who will try to stop Johnson and the surging Vikings today at the Metrodome. "It's a pretty impressive story."

The story of these 2005 Minnesota Vikings could end up being one for the ages if they continue on this six-game winning streak and burst into the playoffs after sustaining so many early-season wounds.

Most had left them for dead after Culpepper sustained his injury in a 38-13 Week 7 loss to Carolina, but in rode the 37-year-old Johnson, who has added a cool and calming influence to this rejuvenated bunch from the Twin Cities.

He is 6-0 since taking over as the starter, and he's been strikingly efficient, completing 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,247 yards with eight touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 90.9. Unlike Culpepper, who'd tossed 12 interceptions and just six touchdowns, Johnson is not giving games away.

"I think it comes down to execution," said Johnson, a 14-year veteran who's played for three different teams, including a stint in Tampa Bay from 2001-04 that was highlighted by a Super Bowl victory three years ago. "Basically guys are making plays and staying out of bad situations, and sometimes you just punt the ball. Turnovers are a big part of the game as far as winning or losing. We kind of changed that the last few weeks and hopefully we can continue."

Johnson is effective because he does not try to force the action, and, he's an equal-opportunity distributor. He's utilized five different receivers since stepping into his role, in addition to getting the ball to talented tight end Jermaine Wiggins, the Vikings' leading receiver with 57 receptions for 500 yards.

In last week's 27-13 victory over the Rams, he threw for just 146 yards, but his 16 completions were distributed to nine different pass catchers. It was testament to his ability to survey the field and move the ball efficiently.

He is not necessarily looking to throw the home-run ball, like the Peyton Mannings and the Carson Palmers of the world. Instead, Johnson follows the KISS method -- Keep It Simple, Stupid.

"He's making good decisions with the football," said Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, fourth in the NFL among linebackers with seven sacks. "He's trying to place the ball in position for his receivers to go up and make plays on it. He's been managing the game well, and he's not giving it away. When you have an offense that's not going to self-destruct and turn the ball over, they'll have a good opportunity to win the game, and that's what he's been doing."

It can be argued that Johnson is doing his damage against inferior competition. Five of the Vikings' six victories during this streak have come against teams with losing records, including Detroit (twice), Cleveland, Green Bay and St. Louis. The lone victory against a team with a record better than .500 came against the Giants in New York, where the Vikings failed to put up an offensive touchdown.

Their scores in that win came on a punt return, kickoff return and interception return. Fact is, it's been their defense that's made the big plays (five interceptions last week, 17 during the streak). Johnson is just providing the steady hand.

"He's a smart veteran football players, and he's been around this league for a while," Keisel said. "When guys like him get another shot after teams maybe give up on them, they take advantage of that opportunity. He's leading that team, and we're going to have our hands full with him."

A former Florida State star, Johnson does not move particularly well -- Porter and fellow outside linebacker Clark Haggans would like to tee off on him -- but he is savvy enough to make plays with his feet, evidenced by a 16-yard run against the Packers.

The most recent time Johnson played against the Steelers (in 2001 while with the Bucs), he was sacked 10 times, including four by Porter.

"We stayed in the same formation every time, and they blitzed us the same," Johnson said. "I had about 12 beers after that game."

None of this is to suggest Johnson is a statue in the pocket, though he's been sacked 17 times this season.

"He might not have great wheels, but he's athletic," said Steelers rookie cornerback Bryant McFadden, a Florida State alum who's worked out with Johnson in the offseason. "You can't count him out. He might be an older guy, but he's big (6-foot-5, 226 pounds), and he knows how to make plays. That's what makes him so dangerous."

Joe Bendel can be reached at joecbendel@aol.com or (412) 320-7811

12-18-2005, 02:33 PM
"singersp" wrote:

...The most recent time Johnson played against the Steelers (in 2001 while with the Bucs), he was sacked 10 times, including four by Porter.

"We stayed in the same formation every time, and they blitzed us the same," Johnson said. "I had about 12 beers after that game."

LOL, sounds like he earned that 12 pack. For the most part, the article appears to state the obvious. I sure am glad we have him in there and had him signed as the backup.