The Vikings defense has been nothing short of excellent under Leslie Frazier’s tutelage. Frazier joined the Vikings in 2007 and since then he’s coached the #1 rushing defense twice, the #2 rushing defense once and he’s seen his pass defense improve each season.
That consistent improvement has been a vital part of the Vikings winning back-to-back division titles and marching to the NFC title game a season ago. This year, though, consistency has been a bit tougher to come by and perhaps the most glaring result of that is the Vikings lack of success on 3rd downs.
In 2009 the Vikings had the NFL’s 3rd best 3rd down defense, holding opponents to a 34.5% conversion rate. This year, however, opponents are converting 41.8% of the time, which ranks just 26th in the NFL. The dip in this area was on display last weekend in the Chicago when the Bears, who came into the game with the NFL’s worst 3rd-down offense, converted 11 of 19 (58%) third downs and scored 2 of their 3 TDs on 3rd down plays.
“We’ve been very good on third down in the past,” Frazier said on Thursday. “To not be getting it done right now, it’s not like us. It’s something we’re taking a hard look at and trying to correct.
“It’s a combination of having good coverage and being able to rush the passer at the same time. We’ve been inconsistent in doing both and this will be the weekend for us to be consistent in both rushing and covering.”
Certainly injuries have been a factor for Frazier’s group. Starting CB Cedric Griffin was lost for the season to a knee injury and backups such as rookie Chris Cook and veterans Asher Allen and Lito Sheppard have also dealt with ailments that have kept them out of the lineup at times.
“It would help if we could go through an entire week with the same group practicing and knowing that they’re going to play on Sunday,” Frazier said. “That would definitely help. But whoever plays, you count on those guys being able to make plays.”
Frazier refused to lean on injuries as an excuse, however, pointing out that every NFL team deal with injuries each season. Green Bay, as a matter of fact, might be the team dealing with more significant injuries than anyone. Instead, Frazier explained that the onus is on the defense to perform at a more consistent level.
The last time the Vikings played at Mall of America Field, Frazier’s defense shut down the Arizona Cardinals offense. The most encouraging part of the performance was the pass rush, which came alive at the end of the 4th quarter and in overtime to notch a total of 6 sacks, including 4 in the waning moments of the game.
Tags: Leslie Frazier
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