The Vikings defense under Leslie Frazier appears better, not worse, than it was under Mike Tomlin. They held Atlanta’s running game to 3.4-yards-per-carry on 28 attempts, sacked Joey Harrington six times and held him to a 61.8 passer rating. Granted, they will face stronger team’s than this, but this was what they need to do against teams of this caliber.
LDE Kenechi Udeze – Started and finished with 3 official tackles, including a 6-yard sack on the game’s final play that finally gets the sack monkey off his back. Udeze whiffed on another sack opportunity early, but he did have two quarterback pressures and drew a 10-yard holding penalty as well. He also shared in one tackle-for-loss. He didn’t dominate or control the game by any means, but he was solid on run defense and gave ORT Todd Weiner more than enough trouble on the pass rush.
NT Pat Williams – Really clogged things up inside, Williams was officially credited with three tackles, including one tackle-for-loss when he dropped Warrick Dunn for a 1-yard loss in the second quarter. His ability to occupy multiple blockers helped the linebackers shine.
UT Kevin Williams – Was a force much of the game and started things out with his impressive interception and subsequent 54-yard ramble for a touchdown to open the game’s scoring. K-Will took full advantage of rookie Justin Blalock’s inexperience at times. He was in on four tackles – two for no gain, one for a 1-yard gain and another 2-yard gain. He got a steady push on the pocket inside, drew plenty of double-team blocks and will likely be credited with a half-sack on one of E.J. Henderson’s when the league reviews the game. He also deflected one pass that landed harmlessly.
RDE Ray Edwards – Faced Falcons OLT Wayne Gandy and finished with 3 tackles on the official stat sheet, but he accomplished a bit more than that. One of those tackles was chasing down Dunn 12 yards downfield to stop him short of a first-down on third-and-15. Edwards also teamed with Udeze for a 1-yard TFL on Dunn. His other tackle was crashing in down the line for no gain on Dunn. He also had a quarterback pressure, another pressure that led to a sack, he disrupted a screen pass attempt to Dunn, hurried another Harrington throw, and he drew a holding penalty from Gandy on the play in which Antoine Winfield scored on his interception return.
DE Brian Robison – Played as part of the second wave of defensive linemen and registered 2 tackles, both of them sacks (for -10). He also recorded 2 official quarterback hurries. Robison lined up on both sides during the game. His first sack came against Gandy when he beat him clean around the corner. His second sack was more of a coverage sack against Weiner from the other side where his relentless motor got him to Harrington. It should also be noted that Robison did not just play in pass-rush situations. He was on the field as a base defense defender as part of the second “wave.”
LDE Darrion Scott – Saw action at left end spelling Udeze. Did not record any official statistics, but defended the run well when he was on the field.
DT Spencer Johnson – Also played a fair amount with the second “wave” inside. He was pretty active for the number of plays he saw, including 3 tackles, 1 sack (-5) and 1 quarterback hurry.
DT Fred Evans – Saw some snaps with the second unit. Evans was stood up at the point of attack on one gash up the middle by Jerious Norwood. He saw most of his action late in must-pass situations and showed some push on one play but was otherwise quiet.
MLB E.J. Henderson – In his first start back inside, Henderson was outstanding! He did a masterful job lining up the defense and was extremely active and aggressive throughout the game. He finished with 8 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hurries and 2 tackles-for-loss. He was disruptive for much of the game. This was a Pro Bowl performance for Henderson.
SLB Ben Leber – Played well overall and was rarely out of position. Finished with just 3 official tackles but was more effective than that. On the downside, he drew a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty in the first quarter.
WLB Chad Greenway – Officially led the team with 10 tackles and also recorded a forced fumble (that went harmlessly out of bounds near the sidelines). He got caught in no-man’s land on one play-action pass, but was otherwise very visible and active. In particular, he did a nice job tackling in the open-field, particularly in bringing down the shifty Dunn on one play.
LB Dontarrious Thomas – Played sparingly late in the game when it was settled, spelling Henderson. Did not record any official statistics.
LB Heath Farwell – Played late in the game on defense and was in on 2 tackles. Farwell stood out on special teams.
LB Vinny Ciurciu – Saw action primarily on special teams.
LCB Antoine Winfield – Sealed the deal with his interception and 14-yard return for a touchdown. Also posted 5 tackles and recorded 1 pass breakup. Interestingly, 3 of his tackles were on Dunn in the running game and within 3 yards of the line of scrimmage. Winfield was solid.
RCB Cedric Griffin – Finished with 8 tackles and was effective on run support, tackled well and allowed one modest underneath completion on which he wrapped up right away.
CB Marcus McCauley – Played a lot against three-receiver sets. Allowed a couple underneath completions and missed one tackle (on Roddy White), but ran stride-for-stride with White on one deep shot down the sidelines.
CB Charles Gordon – Played late and had one tackle.
CB Ronyell Whitaker – Played mostly on special teams.
SS Darren Sharper – Collected 7 official tackles. He also disrupted one pass blitzing off the edge, forcing Harrington to throw high. Otherwise Sharper did not stand out, but he also made all the routine plays you would expect and was never out of position.
FS Dwight Smith – Recorded 4 tackles and 1 PBU. Smith made a touchdown-saving open-field tackle on Norwood in the second quarter. He also sniffed out another big play at the line of scrimmage for no gain on Dunn.
S Tank Williams – Played primarily on special teams.
S Mike Doss – Inactive with a calf injury.
Coming soon: Special Teams