Lost in the shadow of Adrian Peterson’s historic season and the weekly hyper-analyzing of Christian Ponder’s performance is the drastic improvement the Vikings have made in pass defense. Under first-year coordinator Alan Williams, the Vikings rank 10th in yards per attempt allowed (6.8), 19th in yards per game allowed (237.0) and 21st in passer rating allowed (90.3).
Those rankings may seem modest at first glance, but considering the Vikings ranked 30th in yards per attempt, 26th in yards allowed and 32nd in passer rating allowed a season ago, the improvement is considerable. That begs the question: What has led to the improvement?
There are several factors that have contributed to the improvement, but perhaps none more important than the young talent the Vikings added during last year’s draft. The selection of S Harrison Smith in the 1st round and then CB Josh Robinson in the 3rd round has made a profound impact on the defense’s ability to defend the pass. The additions of Smith and Robinson will pay dividends for years to come because they both figure to be foundational players for the Vikings defense. But those additions are paying immediate dividends as well, and Sunday’s win over the Bears is just the latest illustration.
Both Smith and Robinson grabbed INTs on Sunday, and both led to scores for the Vikings. Robinson’s came in the 1st quarter, and he returned the INT 49 yards for a TD. The play was later overturned and Robinson was ruled out of bounds at the 5, but Adrian Peterson scored moments later to put the Vikings up 14-0. Smith’s INT came in the 3rd quarter, and he dodged and weaved his way to the end zone for a 56-yard score to give the Vikings a 21-7 lead that would prove insurmountable for the Bears. It’s the second INT-returned-for-TD by Smith of the season.
Both plays are certainly notable in the aftermath of the Vikings win because the directly led to points for the Vikings. That both plays were made by first-year Vikings is notable as well because one could argue that a season ago those plays would not have been made.
Tags: Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson
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