Through three games, the Vikings have the fifth-rated defense in the league – ranking eighth in both rush defense and pass defense. Considering how often the defense has been pushed onto the field because of the sputtering Vikings offense, the defensive production has been outstanding.
The Vikings have allowed 262 yards on 73 carries on the ground and just 602 yards passing so far this season. They have been solid in both aspects of the defense and the rise of the pass defense has been a pleasant surprise. For much of Brad Childress' tenure as head coach, the pass defense has been one of the team's weaknesses. Even without Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook, both of whom returned to action last weekend, the Vikings secondary has gone above and beyond the call of duty.
While some may contend that yardage numbers don't tell a true story of the effectiveness of a defense – good teams will often have big leads and revert into a prevent defense that allows for a lot of late yardage – the bottom line of a defense is how many points it allows. The Vikings are killing in that category too, ranking second in the league with a 12.7 points-per-game average.
Of the 38 points the Vikings have allowed, 21 of those points came on the first drive of the half by an opponent. Leslie Frazier's defense has surrendered 21 first-quarter points, but only 17 points in the final three quarters combined and none in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Vikings, such dominance hasn't been rewarded on the offensive end after getting them back on the field quickly with a chance to score.
As the Vikings prepare for a brutal stretch of games over the next month, with their next five games against 2009 playoff teams – the Jets, Cowboys, Packers, Patriots and Cardinals – they are going to have to count of their defense to do a lot of the heavy lifting. The offense showed signs of improvement against the Lions, but still appears to have a long way to go to being a force like it was last year. The problem can't be centered on the absence of Sidney Rice alone, so there are significant concerns moving forward as to how much the team can count on the offense to score the kind of points needed for a comfortable win. Until that happens, the onus is going to continue to fall on the defense. Through three games, the ‘D' has more than held up its share of the bargain. Expect that to continue, as the Vikings transform on the fly from a team that beats you with offensive firepower to one that wins games through defensive stinginess.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.