Last week, the Vikings talked repeatedly about defenders being out of their gaps. Those were mental mistakes.
Sunday's 30-20 loss at Seattle may have been even more concerning when it came to the run defense. There were numerous times that the mistakes were physical – missed tackles were prevalent and, what might be even more concerning, getting pushed back was a problem on occasion.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, normally a glass-three-quarters-full type of optimist, knows the problems with his once-revered run defense are now multi-dimensional.
"Defensively, our run defense doesn't even resemble the type of run defense we're capable of playing and we have to go back to the drawing board and come up with some ways to defend the run better than we're doing," Frazier said Monday after the Vikings surrendered a season-high 195 net rushing yards. "We've got to look at some things and try to get some things corrected and really almost start from square one when it comes to our rush defense. It's not up to par by any means."
The Vikings were going against the league's No. 2 man in rushing yards, Marshawn Lynch, who accounted for 124 of Seahawks' 195 rushing yards. But it hasn't been a one-time problem for the Vikings.
After going four straight games without surrendering 100 yards to any team, the Vikings have now allowed the century mark to be obtained by four straight players. With Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, Cardinals RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, Bucs RB Doug Martin and now Lynch all blowing past the 100-yard mark themselves, the Vikings have allowed opposing teams rushing totals of 183 yards, 126 yards, 156 yards and now 195 yards.
"We put out there early who we wanted to be as a defense, and as a team. I think now we just have to go back and go see what we've done and know we can do that again," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We've proven that. If you do it once, you can do it a million times. I don't care what you're doing. And I think it's the same in this game."
Gap control may have improved against the Seahawks, but missed tackles were an issue throughout the game. It started on Lynch's first run of the game, an 8-yard gain, when nose tackle Letroy Guion couldn't get off a block and Lynch ran through his attempted arm tackle. But it seemed to get worse as the game progressed and no one was immune from Lynch's power running style running through them.
"We had some missed tackles, for sure. And we had some occasions where we still were not where we needed to be sometimes in some of our fronts," Frazier said. "I don't want to keep coming back on Monday's and talking about our run defense. So, we've got to figure it out."
Seattle's final drive encapsulated the Vikings' day against the run. The Seahawks got the ball with 5:27 to play and a 10-point lead to protect. The Vikings never got the ball back, largely because they couldn't effectively stop running plays they knew were coming.
It started with Robert Turbin's 12-yard run that had a crease because Guion got blown back. After a 4-yard loss created by Erin Henderson splitting the gap and dropping FB Michael Robinson, QB Russell Wilson made his longest run of the day by getting Greenway up in the air on a pump fake and scrambling 13 yards. After Wilson converted fourth-and-1 with a quarterback sneak, Lynch took over, and over the course of his six consecutive runs encountered missed tackles by Jared Allen, Guion and Jasper Brinkley.
Two plays later, Wilson was kneeling down with the win sealed.
"There were some times, in particular in that four-minute situation … we couldn't get the push that we needed on defense to get off the field when we knew they were going to run the ball, and that's a demoralizing time when that happens," Frazier said.
For a one-month stretch, it appeared the Vikings run defense had it all figured out. Now, however, it has regressed and Minnesota's once-feared run defense is less than average – 18th in the league.
"It's not going to be perfect football. But you have to be as close as you can, and we're frustrated," Greenway said. "We want to win. We know how things have been feeling this last month, really. So we've got to get it flipped."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings' run defense getting run over
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