The Vikings have been one of the few teams that has never deviated from the 4-3 defense. From the days of the Purple People Eaters to the glory days of Henry Thomas, Keith Millard and Chris Doleman to the present day, while many teams have gone back and forth from 4-3 to 3-4 alignments, the Vikings have never wavered.
Ever since Ted Cottrell was hired as the defensive coordinator two years ago, VU has persistently asked the question -- and been told "no" -- that the Vikings would go to a 3-4 defense. The questions were legit, because Cottrell had spent the last decade-plus in a 3-4 alignment -- first with the Bills and then with the Jets. That, compounded with the offseason signing of Pat Williams -- one of the best pure nose tackles in the NFL -- seemed to kick in the notion that a 3-4 was coming. But the team didn't draft any linebackers to make the system work and played their first four games in the standard Vikings 4-3.
But further review of the Bears game shows a defense that has been overhauled on the fly and, for that game anyway, used the 3-4 as the base defense. We present the evidence, keeping in mind that some snaps were negated by penalties in the official stats, but were still showing the formations used on the plays.
FIRST QUARTER -- The Bears ran 13 offensive plays in the first quarter. On 10 of those, the Vikes lined up in the 3-4, and on six of the 10 plays in the 3-4 the team blitzed multiple linebackers and defensive backs. All three snaps with a 4-3 alignment came on third-down situations.
SECOND QUARTER -- The Bears ran 12 offensive plays and the Vikings lined up with three down linemen on nine of them -- blitzing four times. But this time, they mixed up their four-man sets, using one on a third down, one on second down with Lance Johnstone reverting to a standing position and another on a first down following the 2-minute warning.
THIRD QUARTER -- After making halftime adjustments, the Vikings ratcheted up the pressure on bringing multiple linebackers vs. Kyle Orton. Of the 19 plays run by the Bears, the Vikings lined up with three down linemen -- bringing two or more blitzers on 11 of those plays. The team used a four-man front twice (getting a sack on one of them) and a five-man front twice in goal-line situations.
FOURTH QUARTER -- With the Bears running more, the Vikings didn't blitz nearly as much from the 3-4, but it remained the mainstay. Of the 19 plays run by the Bears, 15 saw the Vikings in a 3-4 alignment and they blitzed multiple players on just five of those. They used the four-man front three times and succeeded -- one was a sack that was negated by a holding call in the secondary and the second was an interception by Corey Chavous -- and had one five-man front at the 1-yard line.
The scorecard came back as follows: 63 snaps for the Bears and 49 of those saw the Vikings in a 3-4. All but two of the 4-3 snaps came on third-down passing situations.
Is this a trend or a one-time thing? We'll have to wait and see on that, but the Vikings know they will need to pressure Brett Favre a lot to win Sunday and, using Upon Further Review as our guide, expect to see a lot of 3-4 alignments and blitzers coming from every direction.
Upon Further Review
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