The Vikings defense is showing marked improvement, but one ranking came as a surprise to Captain Munnerlyn.
The Vikings are still on the wrong side of .500 and haven’t had a complete game in all three phases since the Week 1 blowout win against St. Louis.
But the Vikings defense is quietly making a move up the charts in terms of statistical dominance. Of the 11 defensive categories the NFL keeps, the Vikings are in the top eight in seven of them. Most impressive, they’ve moved up to No. 4 in pass defense, which came as something of a surprise to cornerback Captain Munnerlyn
“We’re Number 4? Wow, I didn’t know that,” Munnerlyn said. “We’re just trying to work each and every day to get better. We want to be No. 1. Our goal is to be the No. 1 defense, not just in passing, but overall.”
Munnerlyn admits that he hasn’t lived up to his own expectations. While he feels he’s done a decent job – “But I’d like to take a play back here and a play back there” – he has been impressive and has reached No. 4 in pass defense not because of him, but at times despite him.
“As a group, those guys are doing a great job,” Munnerlyn said. “I’ve told those guys that I have to pick my game up to their game. They’ve really been playing very well. They’ve been picking me up. At the same time, I’ve been trying to pick those guys up. The sky’s the limit for this secondary.”
Munnerlyn’s impact has been multi-layered. The most obvious beneficiary has been Josh Robinson
. In 2013, Robinson was asked to replace Antoine Winfield in the slot and was brutal. When asked to play slot corner, 39 of the 41 passes thrown Robinson’s way were completed. With the arrival of Munnerlyn, Robinson has been able to stay lined up on the outside and the results have been markedly improved. Flip-flopping from the slot to the outside, he was among the easiest defensive backs to complete passes against. Allowing just two incompletions from the slot, opposing quarterbacks were completing 17 of 25 passes against him on the outside.
This season, Robinson has stayed outside and has allowed just 16 of 31 passes thrown his way to be completed. Having a steady role in the defense has made Robinson a better player, with a good part of the credit being in having Munnerlyn in the slot.
The Vikings have risen on the defensive charts, but they’re looking to continue the climb and not being satisfied with the recent upturn. We’re only halfway through the 2014 season and the Vikings have a lot of football yet to play. They’re on the brink of not being a factor in the playoff picture. Wins need to come in bunches, starting today.
At least the secondary is showing signs of improvement.
“It’s a long season, man,” Munnerlyn said. “To be ranked fourth right now halfway through, that’s pretty good. But we’ve got to keep it up. In eight games you can go from fourth to 32. Easy. We’ve got to keep this intensity going and keep competing.”
VIKINGS-REDSKINS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 29th-rank offense (11th rushing, 31st passing) and the 8th-ranked defense (17th rushing, 4th passing).
Washington has the 7th-ranked offense (19th rushing, 5th passing) and the 11th-ranked defense (15th rushing, 7th passing).
Minnesota is averaging 312 yards a game (190 passing, 122 rushing). Washington is averaging 392 yards a game (290 passing, 102 rushing).
Defensively, the Vikings are allowing 324 yards a game (212 passing 112 rushing). The Redskins are allowing 330 yards a game (219 passing, 111 rushing).
The Vikings are tied for 19th in giveaway/takaway ratio at minus-1 (12 giveaways, 11 takeaways). The Redskins are 30th at minus-8 (16 giveaways, 8 takeaways).
Minnesota is 29th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on just eight of 20 red zone possessions (45 percent). Washington is tied for 16th at 56.5 percent (13 touchdowns on 23 possessions).
The Vikings are 28th in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on 13 of 20 possessions (65 percent). The Redskins are tied for fourth at 50 percent (13 touchdowns in 26 possessions).
Minnesota is 28th in third-down conversion percentage, making good on just 38 of 111 chances (34.2 percent). Washington is even worse at 33.3 percent (32 of 96). The league average is 41.2 percent.
The Vikings are seventh in third-down defense, allowing conversions on 38 of 104 attempts (36.5 percent). The Redskins are 16th at 41.7 percent (45 of 108).
Washington has the league’s best average gain on first down of 6.52 yards. The Vikings are 19th at 5.06 yards. The league average is 5.34 yards.
The Vikings are fourth in the league in average starting position following kickoffs – the 23.7-yard line. The Redskins are 23rd at the 20.4-yard line. The league average is the 21.3-yard line.
Defensively, the Vikings are seventh in averaging starting position on kickoffs at the 20.0-yard line. Washington is dead last at the 25.7-yard line.
The Redskins have two 300-yard passing games – both from Kirk Cousins. The Vikings have one from Teddy Bridgewater.
The Vikings haven’t allowed a 300-yard passer. Washington has allowed two.
The Redskins have five 100-yard receiving games – four from DeSean Jackson and one from Pierre Garcon. Jarius Wright has the Vikings’ only 100-yard receiving game.
The Redskins have allowed two 100-yard receivers. Minnesota has allowed one.
The Vikings have three 100-yard rushing games – two from Jerick McKinnon and one from Cordarrelle Patterson. The Redskins haven’t had a 100-yard rusher all season.
Washington has allowed three 100-yard rushing games. Minnesota has allowed two.
Griffin hasn’t thrown enough passes to qualify on the league leaderboard.
Bridgewater has only started five games, so he is low on all the comparative stat charts, but the one universal stat that dependent on the number of passes thrown is passer rating. Bridgewater is 31st with a rating of just 71.3.
The only quarterbacks with a lower passer rating than Bridgewater are Blake Bortles (68.3) and Geno Smith (65.6).
Bridgewater is last in the league in touchdown percentage per pass. He has thrown 155 passes and just two of them have gone for touchdowns.
Bridgewater is 23rd in fourth-quarter passer rating at 81.4 and 24th in third-down passer rating at 76.7.
McKinnon has climbed his way up to No. 17 in the league in rushing with 392 yards. Alfred Morris is sixth with 513 yards.
Garcon is tied for 20th in receptions with 39, while Jackson is tied for 41st with 32 catches. Greg Jennings leads the Vikings with 29, which ties him for 51st place.
Jackson leads the Redskins in receiving yards with 664, which puts him in eighth place in the league. Garcon is tied for the 30th with 443 yards. Jennings leads the Vikings with 383 yards, which puts him in 45th place.
Morris and Matt Asiata are tied for 30th place in scoring among non-kickers with 24 points (four touchdowns each).
Blair Walsh is 12th in scoring among kickers with 59 points. Kai Forbath is 16th with 57 points.
Walsh is tied for sixth in touchbacks with 27. Forbath is tied for 31st with 10.
Jackson is 14th in the league in total yards from scrimmage with 660 (664 receiving, minus-4 rushing). McKinnon leads the Vikings with 484 yards (392 rushing, 92 receiving), which puts him in 43rd place.
Redskins punter Tress Way leads the league in punting average with 49.7 yards per punt. Jeff Locke is 21st with a 44.9-yard average.
Way is seventh in net punt average at 41.4 yards. Locke is 26th at 38.8 yards.
Andre Roberts is ninth in the league in punt return average at 10.9 yards. Marcus Sherels is 14th with an 8.5-yard average.
Roberts and Sherels are among the league leaders in calling for fair catches. Roberts has returned just 14 of 31 punts he has fielded, while Sherels has returned just 19 of 33 punts.
Patterson is 10th in the league in kickoff return average at 24.7 yards. Washington hasn’t returned enough kickoffs to have anyone qualify for the league lead.
Harrison Smith is tied for third in the league with three interceptions. As a team, the Redskins have only three picks.
Everson Griffin is third in the league with eight sacks. Ryan Kerrigan is fourth with 7.5 sacks.
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