The good: The Vikings defense was a rock against Larry Johnson and the Chiefs’ running attack, holding L.J. to just 42 yards on 24 carries (a mere 1.8-yard-per-carry average), with a longest run of just 10 yards. Overall, the Chiefs gained just 50 yards on 31 carries (1.6 avg.) rushing. On the scoreboard, they allowed just 13 points, which should normally be good enough.
The bad: They were not able to generate much pass rush with their front four in this game, recording just one sack. The pass coverage wasn’t bad and there weren’t a lot of big plays allowed, but the Chiefs did convert 40% of their third-down attempts. Tight end Tony Gonzalez was their primary nemesis, catching 7 passes for 96 yards as he was able to find the soft spots in the Cover-2 between the linebackers and the safeties.
LDE Kenechi Udeze was solid against the run and led the defensive linemen with 8 tackles, including one for a 5-yard loss. Interestingly, all of his official tackles were of running back Larry Johnson, with all but one being either behind the line-of-scrimmage or within 3 yards. Udeze was often at the heart of stacking the running game. While he wasn’t able to generate much pass rush going against Kyle Turley, it should be noted that he often came out in obvious passing situations.
RDE Ray Edwards was credited with 3 tackles and had 2 quarterback hurries. He was tough, tenacious and disruptive against the run but was pretty well held (pun intended) in check by Damien McIntosh on the pass rush for most of the game.
NT Pat Williams didn’t show up a lot on the stat sheet, but he was virtually unmovable and very disruptive against the inside running game. His one official tackle was 4 yards into the Chiefs backfield on a play in which he simply blew by the Kansas City offensive line to drop Johnson for a loss. On the downside, he jumped offsides once.
UT Kevin Williams was a key part of the team’s run defense but did not record an official tackle. However, he often forced the action to his teammates and frequently occupied one or more blockers. He was not much of a factor on the pass rush.
Reserve DT Spencer Johnson recorded 2 tackles and both resulted in losses for the Chiefs. One was a 5-yard sack and forced fumble on Huard for the team’s only turnover in the second quarter; the other a 2-yard tackle-for-loss on Johnson in the third quarter. The Vikings have been getting some quality reps from the unheralded Johnson thus far this season.
Jayme Mitchell gave the team some quality snaps at left end. He recorded 1 TFL (-2) on one of many stops in the backfield on Johnson. He also generated pressure on the sack/forced fumble and one other play.
Darrion Scott recorded one tackle, stopping former Viking Michael Bennett near the line of scrimmage for a one-yard gain. He also provided an inside push from left tackle that led to an incompletion.
Rookie Brian Robison got some snaps at both end spots. He was steady and tenacious but was unable to generate anything eye-catching.
Weakside linebacker Chad Greenway tied for the team lead with 8 total tackles on defense. He also recorded 1 quarterback hurry and 1 fumble recovery. Greenway made one knockout hit that stopped H-Back Kris Wilson a full yard short of a first down, but a generous spot by the officials gave Kansas City an unwarranted first down early in the second quarter.
Strongside linebacker Ben Leber was also very active, recording 8 official tackles, including 3 tackles-for-losses (-1, -3, -1) on Johnson. Leber is quietly and consistently one of the most steady and consistent strongside linebackers in the game. He is very strong against the run, rarely caught out of position and not at all a liability on pass defense.
Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson was credited with 6 tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss (-3 on an end-around by Eddie Drummond, -5 on a screen pass to Johnson) and 1 pass breakup. He also forced an incompletion on the blitz with pressure on Huard. It’s still early, but Henderson has played at or near a Pro Bowl level this season since moving back inside.
LCB Antoine Winfield has a very strong game, with very little passing game activity occurring in his vicinity. He also showed once again that pound-for-pound he is one of the finest open-field tacklers in the game. On defense, he made 3 tackles with 2 tackles-for-loss (-2 on a run by Bennett, -1 on a pass to Bennett). The first TFL was an incredible play for a 5-9, 180-pound cornerback as he flew up on run support to submarine a lead block attempt by Kyle Turley and immediately sprung up to drop Bennett for a loss. Winfield is having a very solid season thus far.
With Winfield blanketing receivers for the most part, it appears opponents are trying their luck against RCB Cedric Griffin more often. He had his ups and downs once again. He finished with 6 tackles, but it was a couple that he missed that stood out the most – one in which he missed a tackle-for-loss opportunity on Bennett that resulted in a 6-yard gain, the other a pass to Sammie Parker that turned into a 22-yard gain on a short pass completion on third-and-15 that should have resulted in a punting situation. Chiefs rookie WR Dwayne Bowe also got the better of the matchup with three key receptions on Griffin – one for 17 yards, one for 15 yards and the other a 16-yard touchdown catch as he out-jumped Griffin on tight coverage in the endzone. Griffin did make one nice play in coverage to disrupt a throw inside on a quick slant, but overall might have earned the Dewayne Washington award for his performance this week for often being close to making the play but just missing.
SS Darren Sharper finished with 4 tackles and 1 pass breakups. He was solid but unspectacular. He was where he was supposed to be, made tackles when he was supposed to make tackles, and most importantly did not allow any throws for completions that were over his head.
FS Dwight Smith was similarly steady but unspectacular as he recorded 2 official tackles, one of them near the line of scrimmage for a short gain against the run.
Nickel corner Marcus McCauley was solid on pass coverage as he played a bit less frequently than usual with the Chiefs trying their best to stay out of three-receiver situations.
The Vikings defense was absolutely dominant against the run. They recorded 11 tackles-for-losses in this game. In fact, there was one stretch in which Larry Johnson lost yardage on six consecutive touches. Any kind of help from the offense, or a couple calls in their favor, and the Vikings should have won this game.
Coming Soon: Offense
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