Vikings' strength growing weaker?

The Vikings have led the NFL in rush defense for the past three seasons, but they find themselves middle of the road after facing two non-descript rushing attacks from 2008 in the first two games this year.

Despite being 2-0, one of the Vikings' strengths from last year is being tested more. The Vikings finished with the NFL's top run defense the last three years, but two offenses that weren't exactly prolific rushing the ball last year have had some success.

In the season opener, the Browns rushed for 52 yards in the first half before eventually being held to 89 yards on the ground. Last year, Cleveland had the 26th-ranked rushing offense and 31st-ranked offense overall.

On Sunday, Detroit rushed for 94 yards in the first half before being held to 129 for the game. The Lions had the 30th-ranked rushing offense and 30th-ranked overall offense last year.

"I just thought they were getting a lot of runs back in the second level," Vikings coach Brad Childress said after the Lions game. "If somebody's going to run a ball, somebody's getting out of their gap and so just making sure we're back being gap-secure."

Last year, the Vikings lost middle linebacker E.J. Henderson in the fourth week of the season with dislocated toes. His return to the lineup in 2009 makes the relative success of Detroit and Cleveland's running game all the more surprising.

At times, the Vikings didn't have every hole plugged and at times they simply missed tackles, leaving them as the 15th-ranked run defense two games into the season (they have the fifth overall defense).

"Safeties were in the gaps that they needed to be in and then tackling when we got there. You know, we had some missed tackles and missed tackles hurt you," Childress said. "I put it off to urgency, resolve. I just expect them to play harder than that. That's been our M.O. and I thought I saw them play harder as we started the second half."

They must have, because the difference in productivity was noticeable. The Lions gained 94 rushing yards in the first half but only 35 in the second half.

"We wanted to neutralize that run game, which in the first half didn't happen. I think they had rushed for 90 yards in the first half and I want to say at the end they had 129 so, the second half," Childress said. "Just like last week, it was the tale of two halves."

The Vikings face their most explosive running back yet on Sunday in the Metrodome when the San Francisco 49ers and Frank Gore bring their 2-0 record against the Vikings' 2-0 record.

Gore had only 21 yards rushing in the 49ers' season opener, but he surpassed that in his first series against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. He finished with 207 yards rushing on 16 carries, spurred by touchdown runs of 79 and 80 yards in the 49ers' 23-10 win.

Gore's career-best single-game record is 212 yards, which is also San Francisco's franchise record, a mark he set in 2006. He is now only the second player in NFL history to have two touchdowns runs of 79 yards or more in the same game, joining former Lion Barry Sanders, who had runs of 80 and 82 yards against Tampa Bay in 1997.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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