Personnel Analysis: Defense (Week #5)

The defense bent and broke in the team's 34-31 victory at Chicago this past weekend. But other than the critical big plays allowed, they were more or less as effective as they have been. Here's a position-by-position analysis:


It was easily the worst performance of the season for the Vikings defense, but they still held the Chicago rushing game to 83 yards on the ground and a mere 3.5 yards-per-carry average, with a longest run of just 12 yards.  Big plays in the passing game killed them, however, and almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  But if they could clean up the three big-play touchdown passes (for 39, 33 and 81 yards) the numbers would be much different.  Bears quarterback Brian Griese would have had a modest 228 yards passing except for those three plays.  But close doesn’t count in the NFL.  The Vikings have be concerned with their inability to provide a more consistent pass rush and the lapses in coverage.

Defensive Line:

LDE Kenechi Udeze did a nice job at the point of attack against the run, recorded three tackles and was also credited with three quarterback hurries, two of which put Griese on the ground.  One of his pressures came on the 39-yard touchdown pass to Bernard Berrian, the other two forced incompletions.

Statistically, NT Pat Williams was credited with just one tackle, but he also recovered a fumble and was his usual force at the point of attack.  Going against Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz, he was quieter than normal, however, in terms of penetration and big plays in the backfield.

UT Kevin Williams was in on two tackles, drew a lot of double-team blocking, was strong at the point of attack and had a couple quarterback hurries.

RDE Ray Edwards led all defensive linemen with five tackles, one tackle-for-loss and also forced a fumble.  Edwards wasn’t able to generate much pass rush against John Tait, but did create one pressure and showed a non-stop motor hustling in pursuit all over the field throughout the game.  It’s interesting because the rap on Edwards coming out of Purdue was that he lacked consistent intensity.  But defensive line coach Karl Dunbar has pushed the right buttons with him and intensity is no longer a weakness, instead a strength of his game.  Edwards plays with much the same passion that John Randle used to show.  He made one tackle on the opposite side of the field 12 yards downfield on running back Cedric Benson.

DE Brian Robison, DT Spencer Johnson, DT Fred Evans and DE Erasmus James all got limited reps, played hard but were unable to generate anything significant.  James still looks a bit tentative.

DE Jayme Mitchell was inactive.


MLB E.J. Henderson continued what has been a very strong season for him.  He finished with 10 tackles to lead the team.  He forced a fumble with a vicious hit on fullback Jason McKie to end the half.  Four of his stops (-1, -1, -2, -1) were for losses in the running game.  He also was in on one knockdown of Griese on the blitz.  He was flagged for a petty illegal contact penalty on pass defense.  In five games this season, he has now recorded 10 tackles-for-loss.

SLB Ben Leber turned in a solid effort with three tackles, one tackle-for-loss, one sack, one quarterback hurry and one interception.  He dropped Devin Hester for a 3-yard loss on a reverse attempt.  His 6-yard sack of Griese came on a play in which he was unblocked.  His interception was a leaping grab as he trailed in coverage.  After his performance this week, the coaches want to figure out ways to keep him on the field more, even in nickel situations, so look for him and Greenway to alternate coming off.

WLB Chad Greenway finished with six tackles but struggled in pass coverage a couple times in particular as tight end Greg Olsen got behind him for big gainers.

Dontarrious Thomas filled in briefly at middle linebacker when Henderson went out with a stinger.

Heath Farwell and Vinny Ciurciu played exclusively on special teams.  Ciurciu suffered a high ankle sprain that could keep him out a few weeks.

Defensive Back:

LCB Antoine Winfield jumped the wrong route then fell down backpedaling to get back into the play on the 39-yard TD to Berrian.  He also had one rare missed tackle in the open field.  But he also made several other sound, wrap-up tackles and also sniffed out the Hester reverse early that led to the Leber TFL.  Winfield finished with three tackles and recovered the fumbled forced by Henderson.

RCB Cedric Griffin might have had his strongest performance of the season thus far.  He finished with six tackles, including dropping Benson for a 6-yard loss on one play.  He allowed a couple modest completions but provided immediate tackles and played virtually mistake-free the entire game.

Nickel corner Marcus McCauley bounced back after struggling against Green Bay a couple weeks ago.  The Bears tried to go after him but he rose to the occasion.  He finished with six tackles, one tackle-for-loss (when he pushed the other Adrian Peterson out of bounds for a 2-yard loss), one pass breakup and another that was actually a dropped interception late in the game.

FS Dwight Smith recorded five tackles, one interception and one pass breakup, but he missed an open-field tackle on Muhsin Muhammad on his 33-yard catch-and-run and was also the victim on Hester’s 81-yard touchdown catch as he allowed the Bears’ speedster to get behind him.

SS Darren Sharper recorded four tackles and broke up one pass over the middle.  Otherwise, he was not a big part of the action, meaning there weren’t a lot of completions in his area.

Charles Gordon, Mike Doss and Tank Williams saw action on special teams.  Ronyell Whitaker was inactive.


The Vikings struggled to generate a consistent pass rush on the soggy Soldier Field turf.  Two critical mistakes by proven veterans on pass coverage led to key big plays, but it isn’t like the defense has dramatically regressed.

Coming Soon:  Special Teams

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