The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Vikings News

January 3, 2013

Musgrave becoming more creative with offense

Still wants to get ball to Peterson but keep defense guessing

EDEN PRAIRIE — Minnesota¹s offense has a simple focus: Adrian Peterson. The

Vikings aren¹t scheming to surprise opponents with, suddenly, 50 passes per

game.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, however, still has plenty to work on.

Just because the Vikings have a straight-forward, no-frills style doesn¹t

mean Musgrave hasn¹t had to dig deep in the playbook to find combinations,

alignments and calls that work to keep the attack balanced and the defense

guessing at least some of the time.

Coaches and players have credited Musgrave for his ingenuity, particularly

over the last month as the Vikings won four straight games to force a

rematch Saturday with Green Bay in the playoffs. In last Sunday¹s win over

the Packers, Musgrave unveiled several wrinkles that proved effective.

In the second quarter, wide receiver Jarius Wright lined up as a fullback in

front of Peterson before running to the flat and snagging an 8-yard

touchdown pass. In the third quarter, fullback Jerome Felton, who had two

receptions and no carries over the first 15 games, lined up as a receiver

and was wide open for a 17-yard reception during a drive that reached the

end zone.

"As the ball was in the air I was like, `Hold on, is that coming to me?' "

Felton said.

The Vikings accumulated a season-high 444 yards against the Packers. Coach

Leslie Frazier credited Musgrave and the other offensive assistants for the

plan.

"He¹s so intelligent and so creative in what he does, and obviously with

Adrian there are only so many runs you can create and do, but he still finds

new ways to get him the ball and obviously that¹s working," quarterback

Christian Ponder said. "In the passing game, finding ways to get guys open

and create different throws and play actions and all these different things.

He has such a great understanding of defenses. I think that¹s the biggest

thing that impresses me."

Musgrave¹s system hasn¹t always worked so smoothly. The Vikings netted 120

or fewer yards passing six times this season, though they won four of those

games. As the offense sputtered early in their worst loss of 2012 ‹ a 36-17

setback at home against Tampa Bay ‹ one agitated and inebriated fan started

yelling toward the coaches¹ box, "Hey Musgrave! Three and out! Three and

out! Three and out!" (Musgrave stands on the sideline during games, so the

rant was misdirected.)

Wide receiver Percy Harvin acknowledged earlier this season that his

frustration with the organization, expressed publicly during minicamp,

stemmed from a lack of clarity about his role and said the communication

from Musgrave last year wasn¹t consistent. One of the reasons Frazier hired

Musgrave in 2011 was the work he did in Atlanta with quarterback Matt Ryan,

the 2008 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, but Ponder regressed at midseason

and looked lost until last month.

After that first game in Green Bay, when Ponder threw two costly

interceptions deep in Packers territory, Musgrave tried to take some of the

mounting pressure on the quarterback, asking him to make throws the next two

games that were even safer than usual. With a couple of important victories

to help Ponder¹s confidence recover, he played more assertively the last two

weeks.

"As players we go out there and execute and actually make it happen, but you

need coaches to put you in positions to be successful," center John Sullivan

said. "I think Bill¹s done a great job of that."

Musgrave is as soft-spoken as coaches come, holding pleasant but unrevealing

news conferences each week with reporters and rarely showing emotion on the

sideline during games. There¹s a mad scientist at work in that mind of his,

though. He wrote a quarterback¹s handbook years ago, with 100 rules to live

by for those playing the position at all levels, based on his own insight,

beliefs and experience. Musgrave said earlier this season that Ryan

memorized it his rookie year with the Falcons.

In training camp this year, after a lethargic practice, Musgrave tried to

motivate his group by putting a bunch of leaves and sticks on a table during

a meeting and lighting it on fire, visual evidence of the offense¹s

responsibility to be the spark of the team. He had a garbage can of water

nearby to safely extinguish the flames.

Now, five months later, and Musgrave is still finding ways to ignite the

Vikings.

"He tries to put us in the best position possible to make plays," wide

receiver Michael Jenkins said. "You¹re pretty excited to see what¹s in the

playbook when you come in for the next week. It¹s a fun offense to play in."

         

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Vikings News