Ironically, the man who started it for the Vikings in 2006, then-defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, is running the team that is closest to catching the Vikings this year in that category. Minnesota ranks first against the run with 1,095 yards surrendered on the ground, compared to the Pittsburgh Steelers' 1,178.
Minnesota couldn't have asked for any two tougher opponents to close out the season to challenge them. The Atlanta Falcons came into last Sunday's game with the top-ranked rushing offense. After the Vikings defense held them to 98 total net yards of rushing, the Falcons fell to No. 5 in the league and the New York Giants replaced them as the top-ranked rushing offense.
Guess who the Vikings play on Sunday?
"A new week, a new story, huh?" defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "We're going to do what we do and stop the run, and that gives us a chance to rush the passer. We've got to do that first and foremost and that will give us a lot of opportunities to rush the passer."
While the probability to set league history is a compliment to the defense, current coordinator Leslie Frazier said getting into the playoffs is a much bigger concern.
"We want to win this game. That supersedes us wanting to be No. 1 against the rush for the third year in a row," Frazier said.
The Vikings have been holding up against the run without their anchor in the middle of the defensive line, nose tackle Pat Williams, for the last 1½ games. Williams will also miss the Giants game on Sunday with a fractured scapula.
"We set high standards. Not having him in there makes a difference. He's an integral part in being No. 1 against the rush," Frazier said. "Without him, there's a dropoff. Other guys did a good job. Nothing against them, but Pat Williams is a Pro Bowl defensive tackle."
Williams called the injury a "freak accident" and said he should be ready to play if the Vikings beat the Giants and make the playoffs.
"That's the plan. That's what I'm hoping for," Williams said Friday. "That's why I've been here every day rehabbing. I'm on track. I'll see. Ya'll see, the fans will see. So that's the plan."
Williams said he is still forced to sleep in a chair while he recovers, and he said his replacement, Fred Evans, can't worry about playing like the starter.
"He ain't Pat Williams. I've got my own skills. Nobody's replacing me or can play like me. I can't play like no other guys," Pat said. "I can't play like Kev and Kev can't play like me. That's Fred Evans. Fred Evans has got to find his own (niche)."
GETTING OVER IT
Running back Adrian Peterson admitted that he was "a little down" after last Sunday's game, when he fumbled twice, but he said Friday that he's moved on.
"I'm not changing my style at all. Just being secure with it. … Guys are going to be hitting you until you fall all the way to the ground, so just make sure you hold it tight," Peterson said.
He also said he won't be trying to do too much to make up for last week's performance.
"I've got to stay within my element. Don't get outside my element and just play my game. Let the game come to me," he said. "… Good games are easier to put (off) to the side. Bad games, it may take me 24 hours to 72 hours to get over it, but I eventually do."
"I ain't letting nobody outside my house bring my spirit down. All smiles. All ready to go. As soon as everybody realizes that, I really don't care," he said. "I don't care what nobody says about it, nobody outside my house says about it. I'm always going to be happy, either way it goes. Because nobody controls me. Nobody controls Pat Williams. I'll be happy regardless."