Tis the season of giving and the Minnesota Vikings are proving a generous bunch.
As the Vikings prepare for their season finale, much of the blame for the 4-10-1 record has been placed on the quarterback situation and the offense.
But perceptions can be wrong. The Vikings are 12th in points scored with 377, an average of 25.1 per game and five behind their opponent this Sunday, the Detroit Lions, who are considered a strong offensive team.
Defense is a different, more telling, story. No one has given up more points than the Vikings, who have surrendered 467, an average of 31.1 per game.
To make matters more embarrassing for the defense, the Vikings are only 17 points away from the worst defense in franchise history for point surrendered.
"I didn't know that, but now I do and I'm kind of going to put some emphasis on that – don't give up 17," safety Jamarca Sanford said.
The Vikings are only marginally better at home, giving up 30.6 points per game, and are no better within the NFC North, giving up 31 points per game in divisional matchups. The same is true when playing indoors – an average of 31 points given up in eight games indoors.
"I've heard about it, but I don't think it's something (coach Leslie Frazier) has talked about or he's brought up. The way we look at things, it's always been about wins or losses," linebacker Erin Henderson said. "Good stats, bad stats – they're stats. That's not something you want to be a part of and that's not something that you want to have. You just go out there and play on Sunday and do your best. Our goal is to keep the team under 17 points every time we step out there. If we execute our defense and play the way that we're capable of playing, hopefully that won't be something that we'll have to worry about it."
If the Vikings give up more than 17 points against the Detroit Lions, they will have given up more than any other Vikings team, passing the mark of 484 by the 1984 Vikings under the direction of Les Steckel.
"Well, you know things like that happen sometimes. I'd hate to be a part of a defense that done that, but it's part of the game. It's just one of them years," Sanford said. "That still doesn't determine the character of guys that we have in here and the talent that we have in here. It's just one of them years where it sounds like it's about to be a record-setting record year by the defense, I guess."
In the column of points against, five the top six for least points surrendered have already secured a playoff spot, with all of the top 10 there still having a chance. None of the bottom 10 have secured a playoff spot.
Wins mean the most, so that's what Frazier is concentrating on more than the dubious potential to be the most generous defense in franchise history.
"You don't like to give up a lot of points for sure so we're going to work as hard as we can to get a win on Sunday. That's more important than anything we're going to do," Frazier said. "You'd like not to give up 17 or more points, but more important is we want to win this game."
The days of giving up 250 points or less in a 14-game schedule, which the Vikings did nine times before the NFL switched to a 16-game schedule in 1978, are long gone. But if the Vikings are only two points worse than their average and give up 33 points on Sunday, they will have surrendered 500 points on the season.
So why are the Vikings on the precipice of that dubious distinction?
Injuries have been part of it, especially in the secondary during the passing era of the NFL, but injuries happen to every team. The combination of youth and injuries might be a more accurate assessment.
"We got hit with a lot of injuries this year and that didn't help us at all. We've got some young guys, but we've got some young guys that can play. But when you've got the lineup changing every week and you don't know if a guy gets hurt here and a guy gets hurt there, it affects us and you try to not let it affect," Sanford said.
"Guys have been up and down and the lineup's changing. I think that played a big role in our struggles. A lot of defenses are giving up points in this day and time. It's hard to play defense like back in the day when you'd see a 13-7 game. It's hard to see that kind of game today just because of what offenses are doing these days."
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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