They've held the No. 1 spot the last three years, an NFL record streak since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
"For the last three to four years, we have a goal sheet every week and that is No. 1 each week. We already know it's number one, and in the back of our minds we know it's there, and we just try to go out and accomplish it every week," said defensive tackle Kevin Williams, a key cog in that effort. "We've been picking it up the last few weeks, and we've been chopping (the ranking) down, chopping it down – we're trying to get that No. 1 run defense back."
They're currently No. 2, but they will need some big efforts to catch the leader in the next week or two. The Pittsburgh Steelers currently claim the top rushing defense, yielding an average of 74.9 yards per game. The Vikings are at 81.6. In total yards through 11 games, that translates to 824 for the Steelers and 898 for the Vikings, a difference of 74 yards.
"They're playing swarming defense. They're getting a bunch of guys to the ball. They were able to start the game with a three-and-out, which kind of sets the whole tempo," said Vikings coach Brad Childress, who was amazed to find out that the Bears only ran 38 offensive plays (only 11 of those were rushes). "… I'm like, ‘Are you kidding me. Do we need to go out (Monday) and do some individual work on the defensive side?' They're all playing off each other, they're all feeding off each other. That's what you want. You want guys that are playing for each other."
Bears running back Matt Forte essentially confirmed what had irked middle linebacker Brian Urlacher in a column on Yahoo.com, where he said the Bears have lost their identity as a running team.
"We didn't really even try to establish a running game," said Forte, who had only eight carries. "We were passing a lot and we were moving the ball. In the second half we had a few three-and-outs, which you know you can't get anything started off of that, but it was difficult. They were a good defense."
It's unlikely the Vikings will make up the 74-yard deficit on the Steelers in one week, but the Vikings do play one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. The Arizona Cardinals are 27th in the league, averaging 92.4 net yards rushing per game. The Steelers appear to have an easy game against the Oakland Raiders, but the Raiders are averaging 104.3 yards rushing per game while their passing game has sputtered. The Vikings will also look to extend their streak to 35 games without allowing an individual 100-yard rusher, but Childress said they still approach games with a balanced defensive philosophy.
"We're all just worried about winning games. That's a nice thing to be able to say that you're the best at something, but we're not going to ransack everything else so we can be the best run defense," Childress said. "Play an 11-man front so they throw it down the field. It's nice that it's been able to work there, but those are just numbers."
Said Wiliams: "A lot of people say they remember December and January for what you do – they don't remember September and October. We're trying to get it rolling at the right time, and keep it hot and rolling and keep adding these wins on so we can roll into the playoffs, hopefully."
TWEAKING THE ERRORS
Turns out, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe isn't the only one joking about offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie being in the end zone and penalized for being an ineligible man downfield on a touchdown toss to Shiancoe that was called back.
"McKinnie's big 6-foot-8 butt was down in the end zone. It's kind of hard to crouch down and hide when you're 6-foot-8," Childress said on Sirius NFL radio Tuesday.
Childress also addressed Adrian Peterson's fumbles during his weekly segment on the satellite station.
"Some of that is just churning for extra yards. You don't want to take a guy's spirit. You don't want to take away what makes him special because that makes him special, but at the same time you want to bring the rock along with you," Childress said. "You've just got to be able to squeeze it at the end or get to the dirt a little quicker, but I don't want to curtail that aggressive nature that he has."
STATS TO CHEW ON
Some statistics from the Vikings' public relations department to consider …
"Each week the 40-year old version plays like the 30-year old version and posts statistics that don't seem possible. The Vikings are now 10-1 this season, and it's all because of Favre," Steuber wrote. "… What Favre is doing in Minnesota this year far exceeds any expectations, and when February 2010 comes along, his status among legendary figures in NFL history has a chance to shine brighter than any bust in Canton."