Stats in-depth: Big deficiencies on defense

Through four games, how are the Vikings stacking up on defense? Statistically speaking, they are a long way from even the NFL average in several key defensive categories. We survey and explain the damage one-quarter of the way through the season.

While the quarterback controversy is sure to rage on with fans of the Minnesota Vikings, the statistics at the four-game mark show many of their deficiencies are on defense.

The basic stats showed a defense that is ranked 29th in the NFL overall and dead last against the pass.

But go further and the problems on defense become a little more pronounced. Four weeks into the season here are some of the Vikings' glaring deficiencies:

Pass defense: Just how bad has the pass defense been? Overall, the Vikings are giving up 430.8 yards per game. That's 75.7 more yards than the average NFL team, and the pass defense is to blame. The Vikings are giving up 78.2 yards more per game than the average NFL team.

Inceptions conundrum: Last year, the Vikings had 10 interceptions and half of them came from their cornerbacks – three from Antoine Winfield and two from Josh Robinson. This year, the team is well ahead of pace – with seven interceptions through four games, they are on pace to almost triple their output from last year. However, none of those picks have come from their cornerbacks. Safety Harrison Smith and linebackers Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway have two interceptions each. Defensive lineman Kevin Williams has the other. The average interception rate in the NFL is 2.7 percent of passes thrown. Despite no interceptions from their cornerbacks and teams throwing against the Vikings (averaging 47 attempts per game) more often than then NFL average (36 attempts per game), the Vikings are still ahead of the curve overall on interceptions. They are averaging an interception on 3.74 percent of pass attempts, just over one percent better than the league average.

Deflating pressure: For years, the defensive line has been a strength in Minnesota. In 2011, Jared Allen led the NFL with 22 sacks and nearly broke Michael Strahan's single-season record of 22.5. These days, the story is different. As a team, the Vikings are tied for 20th with nine sacks, but teams have generally decided that passing is the way to beat these Vikings. When looking at their sacks per pass attempt, they are coming up short. NFL quarterbacks have been sacked, on average, 7.39 percent of the time they are attempting to pass. The Vikings are only sacking their opposing quarterbacks 4.81 percent of the time.

Situational failures: If third downs are where the money is made in the NFL, then the Vikings defense may need to search the want ads. Through four games, their third-down offense is actually converting 1.21 percent higher than the NFL average (37.68). But, again, the defense is a problem. It is giving up 9.59 percent more converted third downs than the NFL average. Nearly half the time – 47.27 percent, to be exact – when the opposition has a third down, it converts against the Vikings. That has led to Minnesota yielding six more first downs per game than average. And 7.8 more points a game than the average defense.

Still want to blame the offense for the Vikings' 1-3 record? The team's lack of success is – statistically speaking, anyway – much more a product of poor defensive play than any of their issues on offense.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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