The 3-4 defense was at one time a scheme used primarily by AFC teams, meaning teams in the NFC such as the Vikings wouldn’t see very much of it on a season-to-season basis.
But in recent seasons, more and more NFC teams are employing the 3-4 as their base defense. The NFC North’s own Green Bay Packers, after the addition of Dom Capers as defensive coordinator, are one example of a team that’s switched to the 3-4.
As a result of both the scheduling formula that pits the NFC North against the AFC North this year and the growth of the 3-4 in the NFC, the Vikings will see the 3-4 defense several times in 2009. Three of the Vikings 4 preseasons opponents – Kansas City, Houston and Dallas – have a 3-4 base defense and the Purple’s Week 1 opponent – Cleveland – also uses the 3-4.
And there’s more. As Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell pointed out during his Thursday press conference, 5 of the Vikings next 6 opponents play the 3-4. San Francisco will bring the 3-4 with them to the Metrodome this weekend. Then, the Vikings will face the scheme twice against Green Bay in Weeks 4 and 8. The Vikings will also face 2 more AFC versions of the 3-4 when they play Baltimore in Week 6 and Pittsburgh in Week 7.
“Each time we play it we’ll be more comfortable with it,” Bevell said. “So we will get them all in a row and be able to see that technique. Now, some of the 3-4 schemes can be different. They can play their techniques a little bit different, but just being able to identify it, to see how they play it, each and every week, I only think we’ll get better at it.”
With just 3 down linemen and 4 defenders standing up near the line of scrimmage prior to the snap, the 3-4 defense is a dynamic scheme that can utilize multiple looks and subsets of alignments to confuse the offense. Just as teams who use the 4-3 defense have different strategies within that particular alignment, teams using the 3-4 are not all the same, either.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson noted a difference in the way Cleveland and San Francisco each run their versions of the 3-4.
“These guys (San Francisco) like to throw a lot of different looks out at you,” Peterson said. “Any 3-4 defense likes to confuse you. They get a lot of guys up standing up (and) rotating around. In Cleveland they did that a little bit, but not too much. Just watching these guys, you see them doing that a lot.”
Peterson agreed that having already seen the 3-4 defense several times in 2009 will help them against San Francisco and the other teams who run it, but he also indicated each team provides a different set of challenges.
“It will help because you got a feel for that defense, but still again, you got to make sure you focus on that opponent in the different formations that they have.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Darrell Bevell
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