Battle For Position

Defensive backs and receivers often tussle for position, and safety Corey Chavous explains why he thinks officials call it far more often on the defender. … Plus, the Vikings' players and coaches are maintaining their focus for the final three games.

Vikings safety Corey Chavous knows the deck is stacked against him before the ball is even snapped. In fact, the odds are against practically all NFL defensive backs when it comes to covering wide receivers.

The NFL has made it clear in recent years that it wants high-scoring games. Points pay. Scoring sells. Fans want to see touchdowns, so touchdowns are what the fans are going to get. One obvious area where the league has assisted its marketing department is by giving the benefit of the doubt to receivers and placing a burden on defensive backs when pass interference is called.

"I'm probably the wrong person to ask because I probably have more penalties than anyone else this year," Chavous told VU. "My opinion about it really doesn't matter because those guys are paid to do their job and I'm paid to do mine."

But it's tough for Chavous to continuously bite his lip, especially when receivers push off arguably as much as defensive backs interfere.

"Receivers should get called a lot more," Chavous said. "A receiver has a vision for the ball, so it's tougher for referees to see them interfere, whereas opposed to a defensive back who is trying to get his head back around to find the ball. So I think that's why defensive backs get called a lot more than receivers, even though the push-offs are extreme in this league."

The high number of uncalled push-offs support his theory.

"It keeps the fans coming to the game every week," Chavous said. "It's an offensive league. A lot of the things we see week to week put points on the board. That's the bottom line.

"But for me as a corner or a safety, the only thing I can do is try to stay aggressive. I have to stay away from worrying about calls and stuff like that. I can't let what they do take away from my game, because I know my game frustrates wide receivers."

Maintaining focus
Three games are all that stand between the Vikings and a second consecutive losing season. The last time the Vikings suffered two consecutive losing seasons was Les Steckel's 3-13 year in 1984, then Bud Grant's 7-9 season in 1985.

But despite finishing near the bottom of the pack, the Vikings insist there is much to play for in the final weeks of December.

"Our team is fired up. You guys are around them a lot. You can see how they're carrying themselves," head coach Mike Tice said. "I don't think you see them with their heads between their legs. I think you see a bunch of guys who want to finish well for each other and for the coaching staff and for the fans.

"It's been a long, grueling, tough season — a season of some poor play, a season of some surprising play by some young guys that you weren't counting on, i.e. the Jack Brewers of the world. There is a lot of encouragement there for our program. We'd like to finish this thing with some dog-gone victories, because really in this business that's all that counts is winning. You don't really give a crap if somebody improves or not, you want to win. That's the bottom line."

Defensive tackle Fred Robbins sees the glass half full.

"You always (have) got to look at things on a positive note," Robbins said. "We've done some good things on defense. I know our record doesn't show it. … We still have to look at the positives. We're still trying to win. We're not going to give up or quit anything. We're always going to look for positive ways to end up this year, so that's how we're going to do it."

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