The Minnesota Vikings used to have a dominating defense back in the late 1960′s and early 1970′s. They were called the “Purple People Eaters” and were one of the best defensive squads that the NFL has ever seen. As a matter of fact, there were a couple seasons where that squad didn’t even allow their opponents to score 10 points a game.
Let’s flash forward to this season. The Vikings are giving up an average of 31.6 points per game. If they continue on that pace, they will officially be the worst defense in team history. The current record average is 30.3 points per game back in 1984, when Minnesota went 3-13 during Les Steckel’s solo year of terror with the team.
Vikings legend Jim Marshall was part of that defensive squad in 1969 that only allowed 9.5 points per game. He had some comments to say about the current team’s defensive situation:
“The teamwork isn’t there, and that kind of hurts me,” said Marshall. “Nobody loves the Minnesota Vikings the way I do. It’s very frustrating. Our attitude back then was, ‘Nobody scores on us.’ If somebody scored on us, we made sure that was the last time. Everybody on the team was very tight and working together. When I look at the games now, it seems like there’s no coordination. They’re being very aggressive, and I take my hat off to them for that. I don’t know what the defensive scheme is and what the plan is, so I can’t really talk about that. But it just seems like there’s a lack of coordination on everything that’s being done.””
Former Vikings defensive tackle Doug Sutherland was even less polite about his frustration in the team’s defense:
“In those days, the offense would get a field goal for a 3-0 lead, and they’d say, ‘OK, we’ve done our job. Go shut them out the rest of the game,’ ” Sutherland said. “They can’t stop anybody! Greenway is a hell of a linebacker, but the other two linebackers are weak. Obviously, the underneath stuff has to be the linebackers.”
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier is aware of the problem that the Vikings hare having and says that it all comes down to execution and making plays.
“We are definitely giving up too many points,” said Frazier.
Meanwhile, former defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema sees it are more than just a problem with execution and making plays:
“It’s been painful to watch for every fan,” said Lurtsema. “You’re not seeing effort. I’m not seeing wasted energy. You don’t see them busting their tail in pursuit or anything like that. I am confused why they move the linemen in and out to keep them fresh. What does fresh mean? You’re either in shape or not in shape. If a player raised his hand to be taken out with Bud Grant, that would have been his last play. He would have been cut on Monday.”
Despite their frustration, the Purple People Eaters will always be Minnesota Vikings. Their loyalty is unquestioned and they remain hopeful for the Vikings to return to grace:
“What I can tell you is I always have hope,” Marshall said. “I always have hope that things are going to click and things are going to come together. And that’s what you have every game. You watch and you hope things are going to click.”
They had better start clicking soon, or else the Vikings may become the worst defensive unit in franchise history.