The Vikings last week faced a Dallas Cowboys team that finished the regular season ranked as the NFL’s 6th best passing offense, a unit that included the NFC’s leading receiver in Miles Austin and a versatile TE in Jason Witten who registered 94 receptions on the season.
Thanks to a fierce pass rush from the Vikings 4 down linemen – including 3.0 sacks from DE Ray Edwards – the Vikings were able to drop 7 defenders in coverage for much of the game. This tactic allowed the Vikings LBs and secondary to cover up QB Tony Romo’s options for much of the game and it ultimately resulted in just 156 net yards of passing for the Cowboys, their lowest output since Week 11 at Washington and their 3rd lowest output of the entire season.
Along with the Vikings defensive line, other players had key roles in the Vikings ability to shutdown the Dallas passing attack. LB Ben Leber had an INT, CB Benny Sapp played well on the outside while Antoine Winfield handled nickel duties superbly and 2nd-year S Tyrell Johnson logged a solid performance.
“Yeah, I didn’t see any pauses,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said of Johnson. “I thought he was pretty fluid. He knew what he was seeing and did a great job of reacting on time. He played a pretty good football game.”
The Vikings face a similar challenge this weekend, although the New Orleans Saints represent a taller task. QB Drew Brees has guided the NFL’s 4th-rated pass offense beautifully, leading the NFL in TD passes during the regular season with 34 and also registering a league-high passer rating of 109.6.
“He knows that offense like the back of his hand,” Childress said of the New Orleans QB. “It is hard to catch him in the pocket and he usually hits his back foot and lets the ball go. He is passionate about what he does. He understands that offense’s movements. He is an anticipatory thrower.”
Adding to the challenge for Minnesota is that they’ll be playing on the road instead of at Mall of America Field, where a raucous home crowd provides an adverse environment for opposing offenses.
It will be key for the Vikings to apply pressure to Brees with their 4 down linemen because this will allow them to drop 7 in coverage, just as they did against the Dallas. And even if the Vikings defensive line can’t get to Brees for sacks – Brees was sacked just 20 times during the regular season, 14 fewer times than Brett Favre – it’s will be vital for them to get their hands in passing lanes. The Vikings did lead the league in sacks during the regular season with 48, but the defensive line also batted down 17 passes.
One way or another, whether by sacking Brees or batting down his passes, the Vikings defensive line must once again be a factor if the Vikings are going to slow down another productive passing attack.
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Ben Leber, Benny Sapp, Tyrell Johnson
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 34 Comments »