Numbers Say Defense Still Bad

The numbers seem to tell the painful truth so far this season: Willie Shaw's defense still has a very long way to go to respectability, as it ranks close to the bottom in many defensive categories and has allowed pedestrian players to have big days against it.

Vikings fans may be witness to history this year, but not the kind of history anyone had hoped or envisioned. When he took over as coach, Mike Tice went into the free agent market looking for difference makers. Having to replace as many as nine starters from one of the league's worst defenses, it was hoped the Petrie dish chemistry would pay off.

It hasn't.

Through four games, the Vikings defense has been abused, as a combination of game planning and sloppy tackling has led to a bevy of bad news. In the opener, Chicago's Jim Miller — a pedestrian QB at best — scorched the Vikings for almost 300 yards in the air. Of that, 198 of those yards went to Marty Booker. Since then, he hasn't even thrown for 190 yards in two of three games.

In the second game, Buffalo's Drew Bledsoe scalded the Vikings for 463 passing yards, including 185 to Peerless Price, 110 to rookie Josh Reed and 86 to Eric Moulds. In comes Carolina with 39-year-old Rodney Peete and RB Lamar Smith, who many say is over the hill. Smith rolls over the Vikings defense for 154 yards and two touchdowns. To put that in perspective, in his other three games combined, he has 60 carries for 206 yards — a 3-yard average. Against the Vikings, he averaged 5 yards a carry and now leads the NFC in rushing.

Finally, in comes Seattle. In three games vs. Oakland, Arizona and the Giants, Shaun Alexander has rushed 44 times for 110 yards with no rushing touchdowns. Against the Vikings, he not only rushes 24 times for 159 yards and four TDs, he catches three passes for 92 yards and another score.

It seems the Vikings defense can pick its own poison this season — get burned through the air by 300-yard passers or get burned on the ground by letting a running back rumble for 150 yards.

The numbers bear it out. Of the 32 teams in the NFL, the Vikings are 30th in yards allowed per game, 31st in passing yards allowed, dead last in the average gain per pass play, 31st in average yardage per play overall, dead last in points allowed and dead last in turnover ratio.

What may be the scariest part of this is that the pre-bye week opponents were supposed to be the easy part of the Vikings schedule. With Chicago, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Green Bay twice, the Giants, New England, New Orleans and Miami making up nine of the final 12 games this year, the Vikings could find themselves hard pressed to win more than four or five games this year. Until the team addresses its awful defense, the losses will keep coming and the offensive talent will go wasted.

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