Ralph Brown gets bumped up to the nickel, and rookie free agents Dovonte Edwards and Laroni Gallishaw get that much closer to playing. Edwards will be used in the dime package.
It doesn't help matters that the Vikings released veteran DB Ken Irvin on Tuesday in order to sign J.T. O'Sullivan off Chicago's practice squad to serve as a third quarterback. Irvin, however, had been used exclusively at safety.
The news isn't great on the front end either, as versatile DL Spencer Johnson aggravated an injury to his right knee in Sunday's victory over Detroit. Johnson is listed doubtful on the injury report.
Even without Johnson, odds are the Vikings will stay with the 4-3 base defense they switched to against the Lions following three games in the 3-4.
After getting only one sack and failing to force a turnover in their previous two games, the Vikings got to Lions QB Joey Harrington four times and also forced a fumble and made two interceptions as they applied far more pressure.
A couple of disclaimers about that performance: Harrington looked completely overmatched, the Lions were without WR Charles Rogers, and Detroit WR Roy Williams saw limited action because of an injury.
Nonetheless, the Vikings were encouraged because of a season-low total of mental mistakes on defense. Rookie Erasmus James, one of the team's two first-round picks, got his first career start at right end and played extensively in the first half. A right hamstring strain that isn't thought to be serious sidelined him for much of the final two quarters.
Pass-rush specialist Lance Johnstone was a key contributor with two sacks.
Kevin Williams also appeared far more comfortable at the three-technique than he did playing on the end in the 3-4. The only thing with Williams is the 2004 Pro Bowl selection continues to look winded throughout games, despite the fact the Vikings are at the halfway point of their season. Williams underwent off-season knee surgery that caused him to miss key conditioning time and ended up with him showing up to camp overweight.
One drawback in the 4-3 appears to be the fact that NT Pat Williams isn't as dominant. In the three games the Vikings played a 3-4, Williams arguably was the best nose tackle in the NFL.
Credit must be given to Winfield, who complained about the Vikings' game plan after the Oct. 30 loss at Carolina. Winfield didn't just run his mouth, he also did something about his frustrations, recording a team-high 11 tackles against the Lions. He also broke up two passes and grabbed an interception.
Offensively, the line played it best game of the season against the Lions, and C Melvin Fowler drew praise from coach Mike Tice for his performance. Fowler, making his fourth start, appears to be getting comfortable with the scheme and is playing faster because of it.
Having a veteran quarterback like Brad Johnson step in for the injured Daunte Culpepper probably doesn't hurt. While Culpepper is expected to make things happen, Johnson gives the Vikings more of a game manager at that position and appears to be a calming presence.
With Johnson starting, Minnesota will need a consistent performance from its ground game. That happened against the Lions as Michael Bennett, a forgotten man for much of the season and a guy the Vikings couldn't get rid of at the trade deadline, rushed for a season-high 106 yards on 18 carries and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass.
Bennett could be asked to play a big role again Sunday, depending on how running back Mewelde Moore's sprained right wrist feels.
BY THE NUMBERS: 9 - Touchdown catches against the Vikings this season by tight ends, an NFL high. That isn't good news considering the Vikings will face Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey on Sunday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I want to be here, I love it here." - Cornerback Antoine Winfield, who was upset about the game plan after the Vikings' 38-13 loss at Carolina on Oct. 30, when asked if he was happy in Minnesota.