Two weeks ago, San Francisco's Vernon Davis caught seven passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead touchdown that was nearly the winning touchdown, save for the last-minute heroics of Brett Favre.
In response to that last week, Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said some of the defenders were just slightly out of position. After another big game by an opposing tight end, Green Bay's Jermichael Finley on Monday night, there were more questions this week for Frazier.
"I think it will become a concern, a major concern, if we're not doing the things that we go in saying that we want to be able to do. In this case we wanted to do a great job in their run game and not allow that to be a factor in our being able to play defense and rush the passer," Frazier said.
"We didn't want Donald Driver and Greg Jennings to get the explosive plays down the field that really help their offense make big plays. If Finley or (tight end Donald) Lee catch some balls, what you want to be able to do is make a tackle. You don't want those to become 34-yard gains or 25-yard gains. That's when it becomes a problem."
Missed tackles was an issue Monday night. Among Finley's catches were receptions of 62 yards, 37 yards and 18 yards – accounting for the two longest plays by the Packers.
Second-year safety Tyrell Johnson knows that some observers are pointing at the safeties as a problem, but he had a similar explanation for the tight ends' success as Frazier.
"We're playing to where they couldn't get the deep ball on us, so they hit on a lot of underneath stuff. So it's nobody's fault or anything. I know people want to speculate that it's somebody's fault or mine or Madieu's (Williams). It's just that they're making big plays," Johnson said.
Finley finished the game with six catches for 128 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Johnson said the Vikings were in the wrong coverage for that play.
"They do a lot of shifting and motioning and you've really got to be on your game plan or you'll get the wrong coverage sometimes. We were just in the wrong coverage on that play and they busted a big one on us," he said.
Still, the Vikings' focus in the game was to shut down the running game (Ryan Grant had 51 yards on 11 carries) and the outside receivers (Driver had four catches for 55 yards and Jennings had three catches for 31 yards).
"If the tight ends catch some balls and (big plays) aren't happening at the other positions, we'll be all right," Frazier said. "And you like to believe in our league if you give up 16 points, you've got a great chance of winning. Our goal is 17 or less. We'd like to be better in every situation. But you really believe that if you can hold a team to 17 or less, you've got a great chance of winning in the National Football League."
Frazier said the defense isn't where he'd like it to be by December, but Johnson said there isn't going to be more emphasis put on the tight ends this week. Instead, the Vikings will continue to work on improving their overall defense.
"It's just more just being fundamentally sound on defense," Johnson said.
Johnson said he came out of Monday night's game in the fourth quarter because of cramps from dehydration, not because of performance issues. With him out to the game, wide receiver Jordy Nelson broke free for a 33-yard touchdown. Johnson figures he played about 70 snaps between defense and special teams and needs to do a better job of drinking water before the game.
As far as his comfort level in the defense, that's improving, but he said he's still ascending.
"I'm comfortable now. I'm not to the point where I'm playing my best football yet, but I think it's coming," he said. "I'm not one to give a time frame or make excuses. I'm more of, it comes when it comes. You can't rush anything. The best thing to me is you have to be patient and wait your turn and I know it will come. Once I get that first interception or that first big hit, everything is going to start going uphill from there."
PLAYING TO BE THE BEST
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson isn't shy about sharing his goals, and he told the St. Louis press this week that he wants to be the best player in the game, not just the best running back.
"I play this game to be the best. Not only the best back but the best player and that's how I look at it," he said. "If I looked at it any other way, I'd be cheating myself. Not only to narrow it down to running backs, but I feel like I'm the best player."