Vikings’ decent defense goes to waste

The Vikings played decent defense, but their defenders were still irritated by a trend of giving up scores early to fall behind. Detroit’s defense simply played better and more consistently.

On a day when the Minnesota Vikings defense held the Detroit Lions to just 255 yards on 65 offensive plays and allowed the Lions to convert just 1 of 13 third downs, theirs wasn’t the best defense on the field. Detroit overpowered the Vikings and completely outmuscled and beat them into submission in a 17-3 win Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.

While the Vikings aren’t pointing fingers, the defense is feeling the angst of having to shut down opposing offenses because their own offense has struggled so badly over the last two games.

“It’s very frustrating, but, at the end of the day, we let them score,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “I’m a big guy on believing if they don’t score, they don’t win. Even though the offense didn’t play very well, defensively we have to play better.”

Defensive end Brian Robison echoed that frustration, saying that the Vikings have to play lights-out defense if they’re looking to win games when the offense isn’t clicking.

“The bottom line is that we have to find a way not to give up any points if their defense is going to play that well,” Robison said. “We have to find a way to outplay the opponent’s defense.”

The frustration was felt throughout the team as the Vikings defense kept the team in the game until a long drive that started with 4:38 to play in third quarter and ended with a touchdown 3:16 into the fourth quarter. The offense was the primary culprit this week, but Harrison Smith believes that players aren’t going to hang their heads because there is room for improvement everywhere.

“There are a lot of tough guys in here – a lot of guys that love the game,” Smith said. “We’ve just got to get back at it and correct what we did wrong in every phase – defense, offense, special teams – and just try to improve next week.”

Although the Vikings defense posted solid numbers, it did its part in the loss, once again letting an opponent get ahead of them early, a trend that has typified their last three losses.

Against New Orleans, the Saints got the ball first and drove 80 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown and followed that up with a touchdown on the second drive. That was all the Saints would need for a 20-9 win. Against Green Bay, two early touchdowns dug the Vikings a hole they couldn’t climb out of. On Sunday, Detroit marched 80 yards on seven plays to start the game and build a lead that wouldn’t be threatened.

“We’re just not executing on the first drives,” Munnerlyn said. “I think sometimes we might be too antsy, too excited, instead of just locking in and focusing. It’s something we’ve got to work on.”

With momentum being able to swing in the favor of the opponents so early, it has tended to snowball against the Vikings. It has become a source of frustration because it has become a trend and that is never the formula for success in the NFL.

“We can’t let these teams come out and just jump out on us every time,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “We’re allowing them to get the momentum right away. We’ve got to fix what we’re doing wrong, come out with some energy and not be flat. We have to be able to come out strong and finish. We have to find a way to stop then. We can’t let them be the frontrunner.”

The defense attempted to carry the team on its shoulders and the numbers would say that it did enough to help the Vikings win. But the only numbers that mattered were the 17 points scored by the Lions and the 3 scored by the Vikings.

“That might look good some weeks, but when it’s not enough to win, it’s not good enough,” Smith said. “Any loss is tough to swallow, but we can’t sulk on it. We have to learn from it and move forward to next week.”

While there were some positive things coming out of the Vikings defense, there wasn’t any joy in their performance because the team wasn’t successful. Asked if anything positive could come out of the defensive play Sunday, Munnerlyn said the only way to assess a game is whether the team wins or loses and the Vikings didn’t get the job done Sunday.

“I don’t think so,” Munnerlyn said. “It’s a loss. You can say the defense played well and the offense didn’t play well. At the end of the day, we’re a team and that was a loss. We’ve got find ways to win. (The offense) put up three points. If they don’t score, we win the game. We’ve just got to step up and make plays.”

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