Vikings' nickel defense got a workout

The Vikings got plenty of work for rookie Xavier Rhodes in his first game because they spent the majority of their time in the nickel defense Sunday.

The Vikings defense got gashed Sunday by the Detroit Lions, but it may have been as much by design as it was by execution from Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson and the rest of the crew.

When one watches a replay of the game, one thing about the Vikings defense stood out. Not many stellar performances. Those were hard to find. What was easy to find were a lot of defensive backs on the field for almost every play.

The Detroit offense was on the field for 80 plays Sunday. Of those, the starting four players in the secondary – cornerbacks Chris Cook and Josh Robinson and safeties Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford – were all on the field for all 80 of them.

But how many times did they have five? Xavier Rhodes was on the field for 70 of 80 plays and A.J. Jefferson found his way on the field for one play. For seven of every eight plays, the Vikings had five defensive backs on the field. Who paid the price for that? The linebackers.

The Vikings' indecision at one linebacker position was self-evident Sunday. Chad Greenway was on the field for all 80 plays. Erin Henderson missed just one play. But what about the other linebacker spot? Both Marvin Mitchell and Desmond Bishop were on the active game-day roster. Mitchell was on the field for just 15 of 80 plays – less than 20 percent. Bishop didn't play. Frazier said the Vikings have a plan for Bishop.

"I don't know if there's anything more he needs to do other than just to stay healthy and continue to work as hard as he can. We do have a plan for him, and we'll see how things go this week," he said. "Nothing different that he has to do, other than to continue to learn, and continue to work as hard as he can."

When football observers are asked to break down the basic tenets of a team, one of the first that comes up is what style of offense and defense does a team play? Some play a 4-3. Some play a 3-4. Against Detroit, the Vikings played the 4-2.


  • Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (IR-Lakeville) made a symbolic point – which some may refer to as moot – Tuesday when the Minnesota State Legislature convened a one-day special session (a half-day, actually) to provide aid for victims of a cyclonic storm that ripped a path across the state and downed hundreds of thousands of trees in its swath. The mini-session was sanctioned to deal only with a bill that would provide state aid for storm victims. This isn't unusual in Minnesota politics. Tornadoes hit the state every year. Special sessions get called to get the wheels of bureaucracy in motion in the seven months they don't work. Yet, Holberg, a longtime opponent of the stadium, introduced a "message bill" – the equivalent to an angry text message. Her bill requested that the typical Minnesota Data Practices Act legislation be included in all stadium-related expenditures. Of 10,000 projects that are covered by the DPA, at most one is a billion-dollar construction project. The proposed bill died because it was inappropriate to make such a motion during a special session.

  • A lot of people have weighed in on Ndamukong Suh. So has Ben Watson. Who? You remember Ben Watson. He was Joe the Policeman in the "What's Goin' Down?" episode of That's My Mama. Watson, a tight end who has never played against Suh, opted to draw his personal line in the sand by condemning Suh's history of NFL cheapshots. Had he still been playing for Cleveland, he would have met up with Suh face to face Oct. 13. Now he is a roster filler for the New Orleans Saints. The only way they meet this year would be in the playoffs.

    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.

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