Defense Deserves a Break

The Vikings enter their bye week with a 3-2 record and looking forward to a break. The defense has been better than anticipated, and several defenders were on the field making a difference despite being hurt.

The Vikings will head into their bye week with a respectable 3-2 record, a defense that has been a pleasant surprise and an offense that still needs plenty of work.

All in all, first-year coach Brad Childress seemed fairly pleased following a 26-17 victory over the visiting Detroit Lions on Sunday at the Metrodome.

"We're 3-2. You can make an argument what you could have been, but that's who we are," he said. "We're a 3-2 football team right now as we head into the bye and we get a chance to regroup, which if you look at it, we've been going at it for a while now. ... I think the bye falls at a great place for us to refresh and kind of regroup a little bit, obviously, with 11 games to go."

Although Childress declined to reveal publicly how much time he would give players off following Sunday's victory — he planned to disclose that information on Monday — he has mentioned that he believes in getting players and assistants a break from football.

The defense certainly will be deserving. Defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin continued to get the most out of his players Sunday as they forced four turnovers, turned two of those into touchdowns, and gave up only 16 rushing yards on 11 attempts. That tied for the third fewest yards the Vikings have surrendered on the ground in a single game.

How much faith do the Vikings have in their defense right now? Consider this situation in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game: With the Vikings trailing by one point and 9 minutes, 45 seconds remaining, kicker Ryan Longwell was set to attempt a 52-yard field goal. But instead of having Longwell kick, he was instructed to pooch punt and attempt to pin Detroit deep.

Longwell did this, putting the ball at the Lions 7-yard line, and after the Lions went three-and-out, the Vikings got the ball back, drove down the field and Longwell kicked a 20-yarder for a 19-17 lead.

"We want (the pressure) on us," said Tomlin, whose name could very well start to turn up among potential head coaching candidates if this continues. "We have a lot to give from a talent standpoint. We've got to give it. We don't mind those responsibilities. The big thing is we want to win. Whatever it takes for us to win, we are willing to do."

This includes scoring points. The defense got its first touchdown Sunday in the fourth quarter when nose tackle Pat Williams forced a fumble by Lions quarterback Jon Kitna near the goal line. Linebacker Ben Leber picked up the ball and walked into the end zone. That pulled the Vikings within one point.

The second touchdown came with Kitna under heavy pressure on fourth-and-10 late in the game. Running for his life and with rookie defensive end Ray Edwards all over him, Kitna tossed the ball away and linebacker E.J. Henderson intercepted it and returned it 45 yards for a score.

The Vikings defense now has accounted for three touchdowns this season. Not bad considering the offense has generated four TDs.

"The splash plays are a product of doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well," Tomlin said. "That's what we focused on (in practice last week). Let's do the ordinary things extraordinarily well and the splash plays will come. Sometimes you start to press, you want splash plays. You can't do that. You've just got to play football. Play within the scheme of the defense and play hard and those good things happen to you."

NOTES

  • LB Napoleon Harris' first-quarter interception against the Lions was the first of his five-year NFL career.

  • CB Antoine Winfield played the entire game Sunday despite having a partially torn quadriceps muscle just above his left knee. "Antoine, pound for pound, is as tough a guy as I've seen," coach Brad Childress said. "He backs it up with physical play and very good coverage."

  • Rookie QB Tarvaris Jackson was in uniform to serve as the Vikings' No. 3 quarterback against the Lions, two weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.

  • LB Ben Leber returned Sunday a week after missing the Vikings' loss at Buffalo because of a sprained left knee. Leber not only scored a touchdown but almost had a safety when he forced Lions quarterback Jon Kitna out of bounds near the corner of the end zone.


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