Notebook: Run defense feeling the heat, too

The Vikings haven't been able to garner many sacks, but their run defense also struggled against a pedestrian running attack Sunday. So what's to blame for those troubles? Plus, a look at the odds on Randy Moss and the injury concerns for the week.

For the first time in franchise history, the Vikings have gone three consecutive games without a sack. The statistic wasn't made official until 1982, but reaching at least a 28-year milestone isn't good in this case.

What makes it all the more surprising is that the Vikings led the league with 48 sacks last year, but the month of October was unkind to the team's pass rush.

The defense also continued to show cracks in its ability to stop the run. Those problems are more multifaceted than generating a pass rush from the front four.

"I wouldn't put it all in the defensive (line) area, just being able to run the football. I do believe it all starts up front, offensively and defensively. They would probably be the first to tell you they could play better," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "But not all those runs are (defensive) linemen losing gaps. There's linebackers that back those guys. There's safeties that have fits. I would just say overall we had a ton of missed tackles – we had at least 10 missed tackles (Sunday against the New England Patriots) from a few different parties. That's starting back to front or front to back – however you want to do it, there's 10 of them, and if you can't get them on the ground at the point that you're missing that tackle and bleed those yards, that hurts you."

One of those guilty parties is safety Madieu Williams, who appears to be missing tackles with a greater frequency this season. However, Childress defended Williams when asked about him this week.

"I thought he played very well last week against Green Bay, one of his better games," Childress said, going back in time. "I thought he was doing a good job with his independent movement and communicating back there. Obviously he would've loved to have that ball (on a missed interception). He basically positioned himself to be able to turn the football over to us, and it's kind of a flukey deal. But I thought he was having a decent year."

During the offseason, the Vikings opened up the competition for Tyrell Johnson's starting strong safety position with Husain Abdullah and Jamarca Sanford – Abdullah won the job – but Williams' starting position at free safety was never challenged.

"We had all those guys, we had five of those guys really competing for all those spots, and I don't know that specifically we said that, 'Madieu, yours is up for grabs,' but we had five guys in there competing to start, which is what they do," Childress said.

The Vikings' issues on run defense go beyond just one player. On Sunday, they were stifling in the first half, limiting the Patriots to only nine yards on nine carries, but in the second half BenJarvus Green-Ellis exploded. He finished the game with 112 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 6.6 yards per carry.

"It comes down to nothing but fundamentals and some technique stuff, which is disheartening, but at the same time is good because they are correctable," linebacker Ben Leber said. "Sometimes we didn't make tackles in some situations and other times we need to stay in our gaps and not get too nosey. That's for everybody across the board. That's a whole team defense thing. Believe me, we're upset about it and we're going to get it corrected."

Childress said the Patriots ran some of the same schemes in the second half that they did in the first half.

"It was pretty good in the first half," he said. "We got a little bit out of body when they decided to start running some of those gap schemes. We saw those schemes in the first half and did a nice job with them. We didn't play them particularly well in the second half."

That leaves a rush defense that finished first in the league from 2006-08 and second in 2009 with only an average ranking (13th) while giving up 102.4 yards per game.

NEXT STOP FOR MOSS

The gambling site Bodog.com has put odds on where former Vikings receiver Randy Moss will end up next. The favorite, according to the site, is St. Louis. The interesting part about the Rams is that head coach Steve Spagnuolo coached with Brad Childress in Philadelphia, so part of his due diligence should include a call to his coaching brother.

Here are the other top teams for Moss, according to Bodog, with the odds in parentheses: Seattle (4/1), Washington (9/2), New England (5/1), Chicago (11/2), Kansas City (11/2), Miami (13/2), Oakland (7/1), Tennessee (15/2), San Diego (9/1) and Dallas (20/1).

NOTES

  • Despite taking a helmet shot to the chin Sunday in New England, Brett Favre is expected to play this Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. Vikings coach Brad Childress said Monday that Favre was doing leg curls and appeared to show no signs of a concussion.

    "Brett said he was fine. … He cleared very, very quickly," Childress said.

    Childress said after Sunday's game that Favre was woozy. He was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter and didn't return, but Childress said it might have been the sight of his blood that made him woozy.

  • Receiver Percy Harvin could test his ankle today. Harvin suffered what is believed to be a sprain when it appeared his cleat got caught in the turf off Gillette Stadium on his first catch of the afternoon. He returned to the game and finished with six catches for 104 yards, the second 100-yard game of his career.

  • The Vikings' depth at cornerback continues to be tested. Chris Cook and Frank Walker both suffered injuries that sidelined them at least temporarily on Sunday. "They're banged up and receiving treatment today, so hopefully they make it 'til Wednesday," Childress said.



  • Count DE Jared Allen among those surprised by the Vikings' 2-5 start. "I never saw (being 2-5) coming this way," he said. "But we're here and we have to do something about it. We have a team that we can win games with, but we have to prove it. Right now, we shoot ourselves in the foot."

  • Brad Childress is feeling the heat of a 2-5 record with a team that had Super Bowl aspirations heading into the season, but he said he's not worrying about his job. "I have to worry about this football team. That would be somebody else's call completely, but I have to worry about this football team this week playing the Arizona Cardinals and that's plenty for me," he said Monday, about an hour before it was learned that he was waiving Randy Moss.


    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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