Notebook: Rushing up the rankings

The Vikings have steadily climbed up the league's rankings for rush defense since a relatively poor (by their standards) start to the season. See the progress they've made and what one defender and head coach Brad Childress had to say about it.

After 2008, the Vikings' run defense set an NFL record for the most consecutive seasons leading the league since the AFL-NFL merger. After three seasons as kings of rush defense, more of the same was expected in 2009.

Then came what had to be a blip on radar, right? The Vikings had averaged allowing only 74.1 yards rushing per game in 2007. In 2008, that went to 76.9 yards per game.

Not only were the Vikings no longer No. 1 in the league at the start of this season, they were downright average, ranking 19th after the first week and 15th after the second.

"(We) missed a couple of tackles, but really before the missed tackles even occurred, they were just executing before they even got to the open field," safety Tyrell Johnson said of the defensive issues early in the season. "Some of the passes they might actually catch because we were out of position, not in the hook or not on your landmark as a safety or just everybody on total defense. That's where it starts right there and then the missed tackles is just from you being out of position at times."

Brad Childress wasn't interested in focusing on the run defense Monday, despite an improvement in that area in recent weeks.

"Everybody gets centered on numbers in the rush defense and what has been done in the past. I just worry more about us going forward, because every year there is different issues," he said. "Just really solidifying the whole defense and the whole offense and people on special teams. It's not about just that one area. I see continued growth on both sides, running the football and playing run defense."

It's true. The Vikings have steadily moved up the rankings in run defense since the beginning of the year. After three weeks, they had improved to 12th, then ninth and 10th over the next three weeks. Now, after eight games for the Vikings and nine weeks in the NFL books, they are sixth in the league in run defense.

"To me, every season you kind of start off slow and as you start understanding your roles and responsibilities within the scheme of things, you get better as you go. To me, we're right on time. We were making mistakes early on, but we're fixing them now. It's all timed up good," Johnson said.

"It's coming together. Football is a team sport. If one or two people are out of position, everybody is out of position. It makes everybody's jobs harder when one or two people are out of position. Before, it was like we were taking turns being out of position. One time the corner would be out and then one time the safety would be out and then one time the linebacker would be out of position and now we're starting to sync up and everybody will be in position."

The Vikings are currently allowing 94.8 yards per game on the ground. Despite about a 20-yard per-game increase over last year's numbers, the defense still hasn't allowed an individual to rush for 100 yards or more over the past 31 consecutive games, the league's longest active streak.

Things are coming around on defense, and Johnson said they could be even better without a couple of a second-half letdowns in a few of their games.

"The total defense got better the last couple of games. The first half we killed them. The second half is where they got a few of their yards," he said. "We ended up real good actually on defense the last few games."

NOTES

  • Through nine full weeks of the NFL, the Vikings have the 11th-ranked offense (12th in rushing, 14th passing) and 18th-ranked defense (sixth against the rush and 21st against the pass).

  • The Vikings have fewer than 1,000 tickets remaining for their next two games against Detroit and Seattle, but they were expecting 300-400 tickets to be returned by the Lions on Wednesday afternoon.

  • After issuing a warning to Vikings fans about counterfeit tickets being issued on the street and by non-official ticket outlets, the issue seems to have dissipated. "We had very few problems with the last home game (Baltimore), but continuing to educate our fans and monitor the situation," said Steve LaCroix, vice president of sales and marketing.

  • The Vikings worked out free-agent CB Josh Bell, according to what a league source told Scout.com's Adam Caplan.

  • The Vikings are one of only two teams that won their division last year and are in sole possession of first place again this year. The other is the Arizona Cardinals. The Pittsburgh Steelers are tied for first place in the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals.

  • TE Jeff Dugan, C John Sullivan and FB Naufahu Tahi visited the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis on Tuesday, the day before Veterans Day. The players visited the Physical Therapy Clinic and donated memorabilia to help begin a permanent Vikings-themed area. The players greeted patients in the hospital.

  • Former Vikings receiver Randy Moss, now with New England, had six catches for 147 yards with one touchdown in the Patriots' 27-17 win over Miami Sunday. Moss now has 140 career touchdown receptions, tying Terrell Owens for second-most all-time. Jerry Rice holds the NFL record with 197 career touchdown receptions.


    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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