Heading into last week’s game against the Chicago Bears, the Minnesota Vikings had the fourth-ranked passing defense in the NFL. A large part of that was the defense’s – primarily the defensive line’s – ability to get after the quarterback.
Before last week’s game, the defense as a whole recorded 30 sacks and seemed to have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL during their games against Buffalo, Washington and Tampa Bay. But after the bye week, the defense seemed to do a complete 180. It did not record a single sack against an offensive line that has given up 24 sacks this season.
The Bears seemed to have the perfect strategy during Sunday’s game to neutralize the Vikings’ pass rush. The Bears decided to go with plenty of short passes and a lot of screens so the Vikings pass rushers would be neutralized.
“We’ve seen (the Bears throwing short passes) on tape all year,” said Vikings defensive end Brian Robison. “They do that as well, it happened to be more prevalent yesterday, so I don’t know if it was something they saw yesterday that they decided to do. Maybe the fact we’ve been rushing the passer so well they were going to get it out quick and take their chances getting 5, 6 yards here and there.”
Defensive tackle Linval Joseph also mentioned that the Bears were using a lot of quick passes to throw the Vikings defense off and said that it was the Bears game plan, and ultimately it worked.
“It gets you off beat a little bit,” said Joseph. “But at the end of the day you have to make tackles, and you make those tackles and put them in a bad situation where they are going to have to pass the ball and hold the ball a little longer, so it’s a team effort and we’ve just got to do better next week.
“I felt like we had a lot of opportunities and we messed it up ourselves, so I can’t really say too much about that. I know that we have to play better and have to play together.”
Playing together is one of the primary parts of the Mike Zimmer defense, especially when considering the pass rush. The head coach does not want the defensive line thinking individually or about themselves. There is a system in place that has certain people taking up blockers, which allows others to run free.
In recent weeks the defense had been performing well in the system, and had been getting a lot of sacks because of it. They were not always like that though, and really struggled in games earlier in the year to teams like the Green Bay Packers. The defensive lined seemed to regress back to where they were early in the year, and the head coach noticed.
“Some of it (Jay Cutler) got the ball out quicker early in the ball game trying to keep us off rhythm,” said Zimmer. “Some of it we didn’t rush the correct way – which had been an issue in the past – so we’ll get back to working on that.”
If they want to have any luck next week against the Green Bay Packers, they will have to get back to the way it was and be able to get pressure on the quarterback with just four down linemen. If they can’t and have to send blitzers on a regular basis, Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers will have one less defender in coverage to worry about.
Even so, the Packers have game tape of what the Bears did to neutralize the Vikings’ pass rush, and you can be sure they will be looking at it to help them develop their own game plan.
“This week that’s what we got to work on because we got Green Bay and they pass the ball very well and run the ball pretty well, too,” Joseph said. “We’re going to watch the film, and it’s a copycat league. Now we know what we have to do because we got it on tape.”
If the Vikings hope to have a chance against Green Bay – who beat them 42-10 Week 5 – then they will have to get after the passer better and disrupt Rodgers.
Vikings strive for more disciplined pass rush
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