Vikings defense holds itself accountable

While the offense is fielding blame for four turnovers on Sunday, two defenders said the defense needs to improve in certain areas. The evidence suggests they're right.

Despite being put in some difficult circumstances Sunday in Tennessee following turnovers by the Vikings offense, Minnesota's defense remains accountable. The evidence (read: stats) suggest they're right.

The Titans scored three touchdowns against the Vikings and all three came after Vikings turnovers that set up Kerry Collins and the Tennessee offense on Minnesota's 33-, 11- and 6-yard lines.

Doesn't matter, defensive tackle Ellis Wyms insisted.

"Coming from Tampa, we made no excuses on defense. If you've got 10 yards to defend, you defend 10 yards. If you've got 5 yards to defend, you defend 5 yards," Wyms said. "I think we've got one of the better front sevens in the NFL. Our record doesn't reflect that right now, but we've got Pro Bowlers across that front line and I think our second group is just as good as anybody's in the league."

So far, the Vikings are ranked 26th in the league in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on seven of the opponents' 11 trips inside the red zone.

While much of the blame for the 30-17 loss to the Titans can be placed on the offense turning the ball over four times, which led to 21 Tennessee points, Vikings safety Darren Sharper said the defense is falling short when it comes to creating their own turnovers. The Vikings are currently minus-2 in the takeaway/giveaway ratio.

"A lot of times you'll get on a streak and you'll get hot and you'll just start to get turnovers and things of that nature. But right now the ball hasn't been bouncing our way in that area," he said.

Much of that is the defense's fault, said Wyms. The Vikings aren't getting the pressure they need, but the Titans have been at the top of their game protecting the quarterback. In four games now, Tennessee's quarterbacks have only been sacked an impressive two times.

"Kerry Collins has really good timing. A lot of times (Sunday) he threw the ball before the receivers were anywhere close to coming out of their breaks and that's hard to defend," said Wyms, who admitted that the Vikings still have to find a way to put more pressure on the quarterback despite a Titans offense that he said did a lot of maximum protection packages and sliding of their blocking schemes.

Sharper said pressure on the quarterback and turnovers go hand in hand.

"That's an area I think we need to improve on, besides other areas, and just trying to be totally a dominating defense. But trying to create more turnovers, because you saw with the Carolina game how that affected the outcome of the game and how we are built," Sharper said. "I think how the season has gone thus far, if you use that as a standard on how the season will go, we have to create turnovers on defense to help ourselves to win."

The Vikings have only two interceptions this year and Sharper, one of the league's best at it over the last decade, is without one through four games this season. He had an opportunity at his first interception of 2008 on Sunday, but another defender collided with him and each was unable to maintain possession.

One way to generate more pressure would be more blitzing, and Sharper said he always likes it when a defense is aggressive.

"I don't any game that we blitzed a lot that it wasn't a good outcome," he said. "… Sometimes you're not going to be as productive just having the front four rush and sometimes you have to add a guy here or there. And (defensive coordinator Leslie) Frazier does a good job of deciding when we need to do that. But my attitude is I always like being aggressive."

But the task doesn't get any easier Sunday against the New Orleans Saints and quarterback Drew Brees, who already has 1,343 yards passing despite missing dangerous receiving options Jeremy Shockey and Marques Colston for much of the first four games.

The Saints have the top-ranked passing offense in the league, and Wyms, who played with Tampa Bay as an NFC South opponent of the Saints, knows Brees' abilities.

"The guy that makes them go is Drew Brees. And Drew Brees is a guy (like Kerry Collins) that's on time. He's not going to sit back there and hold the ball and pump it and look around to different options. He's going to get the ball out of his hands and he's going to take shots down the field quick. That means up front we've got to win quicker. Coverage-wise, we've got to take away routes quicker and we've got to be able to jump routes," Wyms said, adding that the defenders need to have confidence in each other.

"We've got to have confidence that if I jump this route and this guy double-moves me, Jared (Allen) is going to get there, Ellis is going to get there, Kevin (Williams) is going to get there. He doesn't have time to pump me off and then go back up field on me with the pump-and-go. That's what we've got to develop."

Four games and seven sacks into the season, that's still a work in progress.


  • Sharper echoed a sentiment of disbelief that the Vikings weren't awarded the ball on a fourth-down play Sunday in which Titans receiver Justin Gage appeared to be stopped short of the first-down marker and then fumble. The play was reviewed, but the official upheld the call on the field. "It's tough when they get a call on that fourth down that we really don't think that they got it. But (Titans coach Jeff) Fisher is on the committee so that helps out," Sharper said.

  • The Saints have the league's third-ranked offense (tied for 25th rushing, first in passing) and 27th-ranked defense (20 against the run, 29th against the pass). The Saints are third in the league in yards per play and first in passing yards per play. They are also first in punt return average.

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