Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears could arguably be the most dominating performance the Minnesota Vikings defensive line has had all season. They were able to shut down their opponents running game early and held the Bears to just 94 rushing yards (leading rusher had 47 yards).
Once they were able to make the Bears one-dimensional, the defensive line got after quarterback Jay Cutler. They brought him to the ground five times but also hit and hurried him throughout the game.
The most impressive part is that it wasn’t really one player who had a dominating performance, but the entire line. Five different Vikings players recorded sacks in Sunday’s game, and four of them were defensive linemen. But when you ask them, they know that the rest of the defense and even the offense played a huge role in their success.
“They came in with a game plan wanting to run the ball on us and we were able to stop them,” defensive tackle Tom Johnson said. “Our offense, also, was able to put up points and put them in a bad situation. And as a D-line we were able to get pressure on him and capitalize on it.
“The secondary was able to put some pressure on the wide receivers so they couldn’t get open as fast and it gave us time to get back there.”
The defensive line was also able to create big momentum swings by creating turnovers. Brian Robison recorded a strip sack and recovered the fumble and Justin Trattou picked off Cutler on an attempted screen.
Robison’s fumble came at a perfect time to help out the team because the Bears just recovered an onside kick to give them the ball at the start of the half. The Vikings were up 17-7 at that point and if the Bears were able to put points on the board they would have been right back in the game. But the veteran defensive end was able to give his team the ball back, and all the momentum.
“Well, it was definitely a momentum-changer because we’re beating them pretty decently at that time and they get the onside kick and it’s like, ‘What the heck is going on here?” said head coach Mike Zimmer on the importance of Robison’s fumble. “I think they had a couple first downs or something and for him to get that, that was big, very big.”
One of the most impressive things about the defensive line’s performance was the fact that they were able to do everything they did while missing key players. Nose tackle Linval Joseph was forced to sit out for the third game in a row with a toe injury, and before the injury he was one of the most dominating defensive linemen in the NFL.
The Vikings also had to deal with their sack leader, Everson Griffen, being limited as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury. Young and inexperienced players have had to step up multiple times this season and it just shows the kind of depth the team has along their defensive front.
“That’s just the thing about our unit,” Robison said. “We have so many guys that I think can play some good ball. You see a guy like Trattou, who really hasn’t seen a lot of playing time this season, but when he does he has been making some splash plays for us. I think that really just speaks volumes about our unit.”
Even though this was arguably the defensive line’s best performance of the season they know that they cannot enjoy it for very long. They need to be able to put this game behind them and focus on preparing for next week’s game against the New York Giants.
Their performance against the Bears showed what they are capable of when everyone does their job, and now they just want to carry this momentum over.
“That was our best game as a unit,” said Sharrif Floyd. “We can’t really think about it. We have to move on and we have to work just as hard as this week to prepare for the next.”