As the Vikings bask in the glow of their 26-23 overtime win against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, one word comes to mind to describe their defensive performance: rollercoaster.
It seemed that for every diving pass deflection there was blown coverage, for every backfield tackle there was a Viking falling backwards after getting blasted by a running back. The Jaguars were able to move the ball pretty well, thanks in part to an atrocious Vikings third-down defense. However, the defense held strong when it counted, keeping Jacksonville to 9 points through the first half. The following is a breakdown of the secondary, linebackers, and defensive front of the undefeated Minnesota Vikings.
Any discussion about the Vikings defensive performance on Sunday will begin and end with that fateful 39-yard touchdown pass by Blaine Gabbert with 20 seconds left. Chris Cook’s blown coverage gave Vikings Nation flashbacks to last season and the lost second half leads that plagued the team early in the year. That play notwithstanding, the secondary’s performance overall wasn’t that bad. First round draft pick Justin Blackmon was kept to just 24 yards, and no receiver had more than 75 yards thanks to solid play from the cornerbacks.
Safeties Harrison Smith and Mistral Raymond also struggled with the same up and down play as the rest of the defense. While Raymond had a nice pass breakup on a deep pass early in the 4th quarter, he was also responsible for the blown coverage on TE Mercedes Lewis that resulted in an easy touchdown for Jacksonville.
The linebackers for Minnesota also flashed a few times during this game, especially with Chad Greenway’s multiple pass breakups. However, the group still struggled to maintain consistent pass coverage, which was a big factor in the poor third down defense. That issue aside, Greenway, Erin Henderson, and Jasper Brinkley were the top three tacklers in the game and came up big during the goal line stand in the first half.
The star of the defensive line for the Vikings was without a doubt Brian Robison. While the defensive end was only credited with 3 tackles, all three of those tackles were impact plays. During the Jaguars’ opening drive, Robison dove and brought down Rashad Jennings, preventing the backup running back from hitting the wide open patch of green in front of him. If Robison doesn’t make that tackle, there’s a great chance Jennings gets a first down, if not a touchdown. Robison’s other two tackles were for 1 and -1 yard gains, and that doesn’t include his pass deflection and multiple quarterback
The rest of the defensive line held up okay, holding the Jags to just over 100 yards rushing. On top of that, the unit also forced the lone turnover for the Vikings, a Blaine Gabbert fumble recovered by Kevin Williams. Surprisingly, Jared Allen was a complete non-factor, despite going up against a rookie left tackle Eugene Monroe. Luckily for Allen (and the rest of us), Robison had his fantastic game.
All in all, there were some flaws in the defense on Sunday, but there were also a lot of positives. Sure, I’d like to see more consistency throughout the game, but the fact is this defense held strong when it needed to and kept the game close enough for Chris Cook to almost give it away at the end.
You can follow Steve Retka on Twitter @steveretka with comments or questions.
Tags: Minnesota Vikings