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Updated: October 12th, 2010 4:58pm
Notebook: Turnovers and penalties a major issue; Cooper moves past Cook

Notebook: Turnovers and penalties a major issue; Cooper moves past Cook

by Phil Mackey
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- With eight penalties for 51 yards in Monday night's 29-20 loss to the New York Jets, the Minnesota Vikings have now racked up 33 penalties for 255 yards in only four games.

In terms of penalties per game, the Vikings (8.25) are the third-most mistake-prone team in the NFL behind the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders.

Add in the 11 turnovers so far this season, and it's obvious why it seems as if the Vikings are fighting against a strong current to get things moving in the right direction.

By comparison, Vikings opponents have been penalized only 19 times for 157 yards while committing just five turnovers.

"The word rhythm gets used," head coach Brad Childress said. "Rhythm is just being able to stay on the field, move down and whatever it is -- whether it's 13 plays or a couple of explosive plays. Just being able to string some of those things together.

"We were obviously kind of frenetic early on with three penalties in the first three plays, that's not certainly the way you script up a gameplan and the way you want to go. We ran a couple of those plays aside from the first one later in the game, had pretty good results."

In 2009, the Vikings burst out of the gate with six consecutive wins, and over the first four games they were penalized only 19 times for 141 yards while committing just three turnovers.

Brett Favre committed zero turnovers in those first four games last year, along with throwing only seven interceptions all season. But so far in 2010, he has already matched that interception total while also losing three fumbles.

"I believe he can fix it," Childress said about Favre's turnovers this season. "You've got some open guys, we've seen him hit those open guys before. You're sure going to pull apart scheme and what you're doing that you want to do differently. I believe he can fix it."

The elbow

Favre, dealing with a bout of tendinitis, noticeably clutched his right elbow after every throw in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter on Monday.

After the game, he told reporters, "This is probably the worst it's felt in four games," which may help explain some of the errant throws throughout the evening.

"Obviously, rest is big and not using it is big," Childress said, regarding a possible remedy for Favre's ailing elbow. "Whether it's heat, whether it's stim, whether it's cold, whether it's electrical current they are doing it all and will continue to do it all."

What about a pitch count during practice?

"Yeah, we'll have to take a look at that," the coach said.

Cooper passes Cook on depth chart

With center John Sullivan sidelined due to a calf injury, the Vikings turned to Ryan Cook for snapping duties against the Jets.

By the third quarter -- after a botched exchange with Favre, some penalties and other offensive confusion -- Cook stood on the sidelines while Jon Cooper anchored the offensive line instead.

Childress mentioned "a couple of protection calls, getting our line slid the correct direction" as reasons for the switch as well.

"I thought Coop played decently," Childress said. "I don't think we had center-quarterback exchange issues that I'm aware of there. We hadn't talked about him that much so I thought he did OK."

When asked if Cooper had officially moved ahead of Cook on the team's depth chart, Childress said, "I would say right now, yep."

As for Sullivan, it would be a surprise if he was able to return by Sunday's game against Dallas.

To go for two or not?

With 12:47 remaining in the fourth quarter, Favre found Percy Harvin on a crossing pattern that went for a 34-yard touchdown, temporarily cutting the Jets' lead to 15-13.

At first, Childress and company motioned the offense to stay on the field for a two-point conversion. Then the kicking team ran on the field, forcing the Vikings to burn a timeout -- one that may have come in handy later in the game.

They eventually decided on a two-point try, but Favre's pass fell incomplete. The Jets later scored two touchdowns to take two separate nine-point leads -- margins that would have been eight (one score) had the Vikings gone for the extra point after Harvin's touchdown.

Of course, attempting to tie the game in a low-scoring environment early in the fourth quarter was of greater importance at the time.

"The way points were coming, with how we weren't moving it particularly well -- we did end up getting hot, but they weren't moving it particularly well -- that if you were able to tie the score there, you had a chance to take it to overtime at 15," Childress said.

"And I thought we had a decent play called to tie it, but the one really to me is it's still going to take a field goal. And if we get the two, obviously a field goal would win it for us. But 15 would put us into overtime. You don't know if there's going to be more scores or anything of that nature."

When asked about burning a timeout in that spot, Childress responded, "It's one of those things where, I hate to use a (Wisconsin football coach) Bret Bielema phrase, but you consult your chart, and obviously everybody that can do math here and knows that two gets you to a tie right there.

"Nine minutes to go in the game, and I gave you my rationale in terms of yards being hard to come by there -- would you be able to tie it up? They were having trouble moving it, so you're saying will it swing back to you? Well, we were having just as much trouble moving the football, so that was my thinking there."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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