There will be a lot of focus on the battle between 39-year-old quarterback Peyton Manning and a young, hungry Minnesota Vikings defense Sunday when the Vikings look to make a statement to the rest of the league by going into Denver and continuing their recent trend of knocking around quarterbacks who aren’t very mobile in the pocket.
Not to say that Matthew Stafford is a glacier, but he does his best work in the pocket winding up and firing passes. Philip Rivers moves around like he has feet in cement. Both of them took a beating over the last two games.
For the Vikings defense, that’s all part of the game plan – force a quarterback to pass and come after him when he does. Over the last two games, the Vikings sacked Stafford and Rivers a combined five times. But they registered 20 hits on them and, as a result, got them to hurry passes or take their lumps.
“We’ve been preaching that since training camp,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “We’ve been able to stop the run and get them into passing situations. That’s what we want to do. When we get them in those situations, we have to hit the quarterback and make them uncomfortable. When we’re able to do that, we’ll win a lot of games.”
The primary difference between quarterbacks like Stafford and Rivers and a quarterback like Manning is that Stafford and Rivers have built a reputation for standing in the pocket with a willingness to absorb a big hit to deliver a pass – often knowing they are going to get drilled as they start their windup to throw.
Manning is another story completely. If you can stomach it, go back to the Super Bowl blowout to the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle was able to create constant pressure on Manning and he got happy feet, threw the ball and ducked, or self-sacked by simply falling to the ground.
Smart quarterbacks know when they’re going to take shots. In 16 games last season, Manning took just 17 sacks. Through three games, he has been sacked eight times. That works out to 43 sacks this year.
The one quality Stafford, Rivers and Manning share is the ability to get rid of the ball quickly. The results are shorter passes for shorter gains. In 2014, Manning averaged 7.9 yards per pass attempt. Through his first three games, that number has dropped to 5.9 yards. In NFL terms, that is a significant drop.
The Vikings are aware of that and intend to make sure Manning doesn’t get a chance to air passes out, instead fearing for his safety and checking down or throwing quick-hitting slant passes and bubble screens.
“When you can keep closing in on him, a quarterback starts paying more attention to the pressure than what his receivers are doing downfield,” Robison said. “You never want to let a quarterback to get comfortable because that’s when he’ll pick you apart. If you can get to him and knock him down, it will make him a little more antsy about the rush.”
It’s clear Manning will have something planned for the Vikings defense Sunday. But he is likely spending plenty of time contemplating is how to avoid finishing the game in the same general condition as Stafford and Rivers have.
- The Vikings re-signed wide receiver Donte Foster to the practice squad Tuesday. He was signed to the practice squad at midseason last year before being one of the final cuts Sept. 5. To make room for Foster, the Vikings released fullback Blake Reynaud.
- The Vikings also released WR Gavin Lutman from injured reserve.
- The Vikings started the season near the bottom of the weekly ESPN power rankings following their brutal performance against San Francisco. After beating Detroit, the Vikings moved up to No. 16. After beating San Diego Sunday, the Vikings jumped up to No. 13 on the list. One can only imagine how high they might jump if they can beat Denver this weekend. They moved from 11th to 15th in the Scout.com rankings after beating the Chargers.
- The Vikings haven’t beaten a team with a winning record on the road since Week 16 of the 2012 season when they beat the Houston Texas 23-6.
- The Vikings have never beaten Peyton Manning in his career. Manning has posted a 3-0 career record against Minnesota. Sunday will be his first game as a Bronco against the Vikings. The other three wins came as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
- The Vikings and the New York Yankees are teaming up with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to present a group of 100 people with hearing aids at an event Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. The group will include 20 Holocaust survivors. The Wilf family is a descendant of survivors of the Holocaust.
- Former Vikings defensive back Shaun Prater signed with the Indianapolis Colts Tuesday. The Colts have been hit hard with injuries at cornerback and Prater is being viewed at a minimum as a short-term option until players like Greg Toler and Darius Butler can return.
- Through the first three weeks of the season, there have been 730 accepted penalties called. That broke the old record of 716 set back in 2005.