The Vikings may have held the Kansas City Chiefs, last season's No. 1-ranked offense in the league, to three first-half points in the preseason opener, but the Vikings defense left plenty of room for improvement, according to coaches and players.
"I though we got a little tired, actually," head coach Mike Tice said after last Friday's win. "As hard as we've worked, I find that a little hard to believe, but I felt we got tired. I felt we got tired up front on defense. We'll just look at if we need to do some extra conditioning or what that is, but we didn't do a very good job getting off blocks up front. We've got some work to do."
The unit referenced by Tice, the defensive line, didn't disagree with his post-game assessment.
"Darrion, were we getting tired?" defensive end Kenechi Udeze asked fellow end Darrion Scott. Scott replied with a comment that confirmed it.
"The funny thing is," Udeze said, "there are all kinds of ways to get in shape, but there is no way to really prepare yourself for football shape."
"Game shape," Scott interjected.
"There is no way to get in shape for the two-minute drill because you're consistently rushing the passer and exerting so much energy running after the ball," Udeze said. "We all know that we need to get in a little better shape."
The Chiefs' only score against the Vikings' first-team defense came late in the first quarter. After a 29-yard punt by Darren Bennett, Kansas City had great field position on its own 45-yard line, and Priest Holmes opened the drive with a 15-yard run after opening KC's initial drive of the game with a 21-yard run.
"We did a good job in the red zone keeping them out of the end zone, but we need to be a lot better between the 30s," middle linebacker Sam Cowart said.
"It was everybody," Cowart said when asked about the defensive line being slow to get off blocks. "It was linebackers. You can't just blame it on the defensive line. We've all got to play better."
One carry later, the Chiefs saw enough of Holmes and pulled him from the game. After seven plays on their second drive, Kansas City was at the 1-yard line, where the defensive line finally did make a stand.
On third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, backup running back Larry Johnson took the handoff and headed left, where he was met by Udeze for no gain. It forced a field goal for the Chiefs and may have been the Vikings' first-team defensive line's best play of the night.
"They kind of gave it away in their run stance, and once I saw that there were two tight ends to my side I figured the ball was coming to my side," Udeze said. "So what I did was I got a good jump on the ball and pushed Tony Gonzalez in the backfield and made the tackle. I was very happy that I made that kind of play very early in the season."
Still, that didn't stop Udeze from giving an honest appraisal of the defense's overall play in the preseason opener.
"We still have a long way to go and we still have a lot of plays to make that we left out on the field," he said.
They will get that chance tonight against a Jets offensive line that features two inexperienced starters on the right side.
Defensive Line Looking For Improvement
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