With two games to go, the Minnesota Vikings are trying to avoid extending their NFL-record streak of games without an interception. It currently sits at nine consecutive games, which broke a three-way tie for the NFL record.
It's obviously something that defensive backs want no part of.
"That's terrible. That's terrible," safety Jamarca Sanford said when informed of the record streak. "Being a starter in the secondary, that reflects on you. We've got to start forcing some turnovers. We work on it every week in practice and we've just got to find a way to bring it to the game and get some picks."
Ironically, Sanford was the last Viking to have an interception. It turned out to be the second interception for him in that Oct. 9 game, and the third for the team that day. Since then, nothing.
Every NFL team stresses turnovers. The Vikings recovered two New Orleans Saints fumbles Sunday in the first half, but their best chance at an interception came when Sanford converged on cornerback Brandon Burton, who was in position in coverage to make an interception. Sanford knocked the ball away, but it wouldn't have mattered anyways. The Vikings were called for a defensive penalty, which would have wiped the would-be interception away anyways.
Cornerback Benny Sapp had the next-closest opportunity for an interception when was in perfect position on a pass that he leaped high to knock down but was unable to hold onto.
Informed last week that the Vikings' streak without an interception had reached eight games, Sapp called it a "drought." After the game, Sapp, who has only been with the injury-depleted Vikings for the last five games, was more direct.
"Guys have to play with no fear, including myself. We've got to go out there and make plays," Sapp said. "We're playing defensive back to get interceptions and stuff like that. Right now we're just not capitalizing on them and I can't call it. You guys see the game just like I see it. I don't know."
Frazier said on Monday that he might have to get more creative with the depleted secondary in order to snap the streak.
"The secondary in our league and the way they spread you out, it's a tough deal. We have to find a way to be a little more creative in the next ballgame because I'm sure the next two opponents will try to exploit what we are doing in the secondary," Frazier said. "We'll have to try to figure something out."
They might be afforded some opportunities early on in Saturday's game against the Washington Redskins. QB Rex Grossman threw a pair of first-quarter interceptions, but he still managed to come back and lead the Redskins to a 23-10 win over the New York Giants. It was the second time this season Grossman was intercepted twice in the first quarter and was still able to win, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. All other NFL quarterbacks have recorded only four such wins this season, Elias reported.
In 11 starts this year, Grossman has thrown 18 interceptions and only 13 touchdowns. Frazier is hoping his defensive backs can make the most of any opportunities Grossman may throw the Vikings' way.
"I hope so. We have to find a way to get some turnovers. On the road, that's a big deal when you're trying to win a ballgame," Frazier said. "It'd help us a lot if we could get interceptions and fumbles and put our offense on the short field. We need to find a way, whoever the quarterback is. We need to find a way to get some interceptions."
Frazier said, despite dealing with a defensive backfield now made up of mostly backups, he hasn't been backing off the time-honored mantra to create turnovers.
"You want to preach interceptions, you want to preach turnovers — fumbles, interceptions. It's a big deal for our defense and for our team. So, the fact that we haven't had an interception in nine games, it's an emphasis and we'll continue to emphasize it. You hope that this is the week we have a breakthrough – somehow, someway. You don't want to jeopardize coverage, but we need turnovers. We need an interception; we need fumbles. That gives us a chance on the road for sure."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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