Vikings-Saints game plan

The Vikings' pass defense is statistically improved, but it will be tested by one of the game's best quarterbacks on Monday night. But, could the Saints still want to come out running the ball? Get that analysis and the key matchups to watch when the Vikings travel to New Orleans.


The Vikings pass defense will be in for a big test against the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees.

New Orleans has the top-rated passing attack in the NFL, averaging 327.2 yards per game. Minnesota had the league's worst pass defense last season and is currently 17th, giving up 207.5 yards per game.

While there has been a statistical improvement, opponents have had success picking on Vikings right cornerback Cedric Griffin and Brees is sure to go in Griffin's direction early Monday night.

How this plays out will be crucial because running the ball against the Vikings is extremely difficult - Minnesota is third in the league in run defense.

The Vikings are 1-1 since switching from Tarvaris Jackson to Gus Frerotte at quarterback. Minnesota's offense has the opportunity to gain some confidence going against the NFL's 27th-ranked defense. The Saints are fourth from the last in the NFL against the pass, meaning the Vikings should be able to have some success through the air.

Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson has been held under 100 yards rushing in the past two games but will be facing the No. 20 run defense and will have the added motivation of playing in prime time.


Even though the Vikings rank third in the NFL in allowing just 71.8 rushing yards per game, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Saints take a few early shots with Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush in the hopes of loosening things up a little bit. If they can do that, it makes Drew Brees and the NFL's No. 1-ranked passing team even more dangerous. On defense, the key will be in containing powerful running back Adrian Peterson after they had some success in keeping the 49ers' Frank Gore under control in their win over the 49ers last week. That would allow a newfound pass rush, which had six sacks against the Niners, to get after 37-year-old quarterback Gus Frerotte.


Vikings RT Ryan Cook vs. Saints DE Charles Grant – Cook has had his ups-and-downs this season and will face a tough test in Grant. Grant leads New Orleans with three sacks and will be looking to increase that total going against a Vikings team that is led by 37-year-old quarterback Gus Frerotte. Frerotte has veteran savvy but doesn't have much mobility. That was in evidence last Sunday as he took several big hits against the Tennessee Titans.

Vikings LBs Chad Greenway and Ben Leber vs. Saints RB Reggie Bush – Greenway and Leber are going to need to be very aware of Bush, who has a team-leading 31 receptions this season. Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson dislocated two toes on his left foot last Sunday against Tennessee, and it's doubtful he will be able to play against the Saints. But even if Henderson does play, the middle linebacker in the Vikings Tampa 2 system often drops into coverage. Bush could become a threat on shorter routes, and Greenway and Leber will have to be aware of this.

Saints' front seven vs. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson – Peterson has rushed for 420 yards, which ranks second in the NFL so far, and is averaging 5.1 yards a carry. The Saints simply can't afford to let Peterson, who is effective as an inside and outside runner, get loose or else they'll be in for a long night. The key will be to getting enough tacklers to the ball and making sure they wrap him up to limit his yards after contact.

Saints QB Drew Brees vs. Vikings secondary – Brees plays no favorites when it comes to torching secondaries and should be up to the challenge against a defense that's given up 207.5 yards a game and ranks 17th in the league. Brees' receivers have averaged 12.6 yards a catch this season with six receptions of 40 yards or more — including 81- and 84-yarders by speedster Devery Henderson and a 74-yarder by Robert Meachem. All Brees has done the last two weeks is hit on 62 of 83 passes for 784 yards with four TDs and one interception and a passer rating of 114.7.

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