Numbers Need Improving On Defense, Special Teams

The Vikings were at or near the top of the league last year in many offensive categories, but their rankings on defense and special teams show their deficiencies from 2003.

There has been a lot of discussion of what the Vikings need to do to become one of the NFC's top teams again. Much of that has been pinned on improving the defense – for good reason.

While the Vikings led the NFL in interceptions last year, that was one of the few real positives the team could take away — at least on defense — from last year. Offensively, the Vikings ranked fourth in both rushing and passing yards to finish first in the league for total offense. Defense, unfortunately, was another story.

The Vikings ranked 23rd in total defense last year and some of the other numbers were pretty disturbing. Among them were the 31st rank in average yards per carry (only the Chiefs were worse), 26th in passing yards per game, 23rd in average yards per pass play, 23rd in first downs allowed and 28th in average yards per defensive play (only the Falcons were worse in the NFC).

The special teams didn't fare much better. The Vikings were 28th in punt return average, 26th in kickoff return average, 29th in gross punting average, 31st in net punting average and 25th in field goal percentage.

The Vikings hope they've already addressed these needs. But Ted Cottrell and Rusty Tillman have a lot of work ahead of them. If those numbers can even rise into the mid-teens across the board, the Vikings will likely win the NFC North. But until they do, that's a tough call for anyone to predict the Vikings to unseat the Packers.

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