Notebook: Aggressive ‘D,' sporadic results

The Vikings turned up the heat on Houston's quarterbacks several times, which led to turnovers, sacks and several intermediate gains. Sometimes the risk paid off; others times the Texans capitalized. See what players had to say about that, the Berrian effect, Rice's quick score and Kluwe's recovery.

Several times throughout the Vikings' 28-21 win against the Houston Texans, the Vikings blitzed both Chad Greenway and Ben Leber. It was a game in which the Vikings were determined to apply the pressure. See what several players had to say about that,

Leber said he didn't view it as a high-risk, high-reward play, but much of the defensive statistics seemed to indicate that was the kind of day it was for the Vikings.

In one instance, Greenway got the sack and forced a fumble that Leber recovered when both of them were in the offensive backfield.

"It was a man-to-man situation," Leber said. "Chad did a great job of knowing the situation and knowing that he could trust his athleticism. He had coverage on the back and he just went and made a play. That's what we love to see out of him. I was just there to pick up the fumble."

The Vikings ended the game with five sacks, one from Greenway, two from Jared Allen and one each for Kevin Williams and Ray Edwards. But the aggressiveness didn't always pay off.

The Texans had five receivers with receptions of more than 20 yards. While the Vikings limited Andre Johnson to only four catches – he had three straight games with at least 10 receptions each entering Sunday – but he also had catches of 23 and 21 yards.

Johnson and some other Texans said the Vikings' Cover-2 defensive concepts kept them from getting too far over the top, and the Vikings also had a physical game plan.

"They had a guy over top with the defense back. I guess the coach told him, ‘Just beat him up.' I got thrown down a couple of times, and things like that. They came up with a great game plan and that was basically it," Johnson said. "Nothing is outside of the rules in the game of football. It is part of the game as sometimes those things happen. When you are coming out and making plays, guys are not going to let them beat you. Like I said, they came out with a great game plan and it worked for them."

The Vikings' concentration on Johnson left tight end Owen Daniels open for four receptions that went more than 15 yards. The third-year tight end finished the game with 11 catches for 133 yards. In all, the Vikings defense surrendered 389 yards of offense to the Texans.

"We take a look at the film and find the weaknesses and try to improve it. We just want to win football games; we don't care if we give up 800 yards. If we win we're fine," Greenway said.

Safety Darren Sharper said they may have been more aggressive with their blitzes because they had two veteran safeties, with Madieu Williams making his Vikings debut. Confidence is the key, Leber said.

"We're pretty confident we can get pressure on the quarterback in those situations," Leber said. "A lot of those situations were man-to-man defenses. We've got the guys that can go man-to-man. Sometimes they do hit plays on us, but for the most part we're going to get there and get pressure on them."

LIMPING TO HALFTIME

Minnesota's pressure resulted in Texans QB Matt Schaub injuring his left knee in the first half and visibly limping for the final several series before being replaced by Sage Rosenfels in the second half of the game.

"I think there is a little bit of blood in the water when you see someone hopping and injured, especially a quarterback who has got his hands on the ball pretty much all the time. You want to constantly get pressure on him and make him move around and move his feet," Leber said.

Allen, who registered two sacks for the second consecutive game, said they never want to injure a player, but Allen felt fortunate that the Vikings had studied some film of Rosenfels, who got the ball out quicker than Schaub and had 224 yards passing in the second half and a 103.2 rating. The Vikings defense gave up only two touchdowns, but surrendered 363 yards passing to the two Houston quarterbacks.

"To be honest, we're pissed about that. We expect greatness every time we step out onto the field. We expect to go out there and dominate, expect to go out there and stop the run and not give up points," Allen said. "…Hats off to the Texans, they played a great game, but we are a better team than the Houston Texans."

BERRIAN'S UNEVEN RIDE

Bernard Berrian had quite the first seven minutes of the game. He opened with a 55-yard catch on the first play from scrimmage to set up the Vikings' opening touchdown. His second series wouldn't be as good.

On the second play of the second series, Berrian had a slant pass go through his hands, bounce off his back shoulder and right into the waiting arms of cornerback Jacques Reeves, who returned the interception for a touchdown.

"Every ball can't be caught," Berrian said. "You would like it to be that way, but it just doesn't happen that way."

Berrian had only two catches, but they covered 104 yards, and his downfield presence continues to help the Vikings' passing game and running game.

"Any time you can get big plays down the field, it's going to help out the running game, especially when you can get them early. … If you want to back people out of the box, you've got to hit downfield plays," he said.

RELATIVELY FLAGLESS

The Texans entered the game as one of the least penalized teams in the league with 23 – only the Patriots had fewer with 22 – but it was the Vikings who won that battle. Minnesota had more than double (49) Houston's penalty total entering the game, but the Vikings had only three penalties for 20 yards Sunday while the Texans had five for 35.

KLUWE KICKS BACK

Two out of three October games surveyed said the Vikings were brutal on special teams, but the coverage units were nearly flawless on Sunday.

Ryan Longwell wasn't the issue earlier this season and he didn't even attempt a field goal against Houston, but Chris Kluwe, who had come under fire in two October games for not kicking it out of bounds when instructed to do so and dropping a snap that led to a blocked punt for a touchdown, rebounded nicely.

Kluwe punted six times for a 44-yard average and actually had a better net average than gross. With four of his six punts being downed or going out of bounds inside the 20-yard line, Texans punt returner Jacoby Jones, who was second in punt return average in the NFL, returned only two punts for a minus-1-yard net.

While Minnesota's return units were once again uninspiring, the coverage units also limited Houston on kickoff returns. The Texans averaged only 20.2 yards on five kickoff returns.

INSTANT RICE

Receiver Sidney Rice's opportunities have been limited as he works his way back from a knee injury, but he has made the most of his chances this year. He has only four catches, but two of them have been touchdowns. His only catch Sunday was an 8-yard touchdown.

"I pushed up the field vertical for about 7 yards. The defender was on the inside of me, so I broke under him and I was able to get in front of him," Rice said. "Bobby (Wade) and (Visanthe) Shiancoe had cleared the middle out and Gus put it right on my hip."

Rice said he only played about 15 to 20 snaps, but he is just happy to contribute anything to a win.

"I think it's going to take me a little time to get back in the rotation. Bobby and Bernard are doing a great job, so I'm not making no argument or anything. I'm a team player. As long as they're doing a great job, I have no problem with it," he said.


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