With much being made about the Denver Broncos’ top-ranked defense, it’s almost unthinkable that the Broncos offense, given its recent history, is being pushed to a secondary story as the Minnesota Vikings prepare to travel to the Mile High City.
However, the prevailing storyline for the Vikings this week has been handling the pressure the Broncos bring with their defense.
The Vikings haven’t been too shabby at that aspect of defense, either.
Over the last two games, the Vikings have been credited with 20 quarterback hits and eight sacks against a couple of accomplished quarterbacks – Matthew Stafford of the Lions and Philip Rivers of the Chargers. Stafford finished that game with bruised ribs and receiver Golden Tate accusing the Vikings of playing dirty with their hits on the quarterback. Rivers had to take a timeout in the second half of last Sunday’s game after taking a shot to the ribs as he released the ball so he had time to get his wind back.
Peyton Manning isn’t known for his running skills, either, so the Vikings would like to rough him up or at least pressure him to get rid of the ball earlier than he’d like. The two likely candidates to do that more often than others are Everson Griffen and Anthony Barr.
Griffen leads the Vikings with three sacks – the same number as Von Miller for the Broncos – and Barr has been the most-used blitzer for the Vikings, coming as an extra rusher 11 times against the Chargers on Sunday.
There’s little question where the Broncos like to go with the ball in the passing game. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas have a combined 507 yards receiving, just over two-thirds of the yards that Manning has generated in the passing game.
While the Vikings have had Xavier Rhodes shadow receivers like Calvin Johnson, he might not be asked to do that Sunday given the relatively even distribution of balls between Thomas (24 catches for 268 yards) and Sanders (22 catches for 239 yards). No other Bronco has more than 10 catches on the team.
The Vikings likely will be without backup cornerback Jabari Price, but that’s been the case for the first three games, anyway. The more significant injury to keep an eye on in the secondary is safety Andrew Sendejo, who hasn’t practiced at all, leaving Robert Blanton to start. Head coach Mike Zimmer has been preaching consistency for Blanton all year, but he lost his starting job to Sendejo and could be put on the hot seat by Manning.