ugh i remember that.
From the San Jose Mercury News;
Posted on Wed, Oct. 26, 2005
Vikings' secondary has talent, talks a good game but . . .
BY SEAN JENSEN
Knight Ridder Newspapers
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Unfazed by the locale and the context, free safety Darren Sharper casually declared the Vikings' defensive approach for the 2005 season.
"It's just kind of common sense to put the pressure of the defense on the secondary because the guys up front have done a great job of stopping the run," Sharper said. "And we really don't feel like teams can beat us throwing the football."
Such a statement would be warranted in cities such as Baltimore, Washington and Buffalo. The Ravens, Redskins and Bills have long boasted strong pass defenses. But Sharper uttered his comments standing on a purple carpet at Winter Park, home of one of the NFL's most consistently porous pass defenses.
During the past 10 seasons, the Vikings' pass defense has ranked 28th or worse six times. In fact, the Vikings have not fielded a pass defense ranked in the top five since 1990, all-pro strong safety Joey Browner's second-to-last season with the club.
"That's been the Achilles' heel of this team for a long time," said Browner, who played for the Vikings from 1983 to '91. "In crunch time, players haven't stepped up enough. Even when they nearly had the undefeated season (in 1998), they needed guys to step up, and they didn't.
"It bothers me because when I left, we were No. 1 in the NFL (in 1989). For me, it was the pride we had back there."
In Browner's final season with the Vikings, the team's pass defense was rated a respectable 13th, with emerging star Audray McMillian as the nickel cornerback. But when McMillian and cornerback Carl Lee departed after the 1993 season, the Vikings' pass defense commenced a precipitous fall to 21st in the NFL and remained, with the exception of three seasons, among the league's worst for the next decade.
Under coach Mike Tice, the Vikings' pass defense has twice ranked 29th out of 32 teams, and the group was blamed for some excruciating losses.
_In 2002, the Vikings led the Buffalo Bills 39-36 at the Metrodome with 26 seconds remaining. But Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe completed three passes for 29 yards, setting up a game-tying, 54-yard field goal by Mike Hollis. Then, on his third possession in overtime, Bledsoe completed two passes for 76 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown to Peerless Price, to win the game.
_In the 2003 season finale, the Vikings needed to protect a 17-6 lead over the Arizona Cardinals to win the NFC North. But in the final 6:42, Cardinals quarterback Josh McCown engineered two touchdown drives, converting on fourth and goal from the Vikings' 28-yard line for an 18-17 victory.
_In 2004, the Vikings lost three games on last-second field goals following lapses in the secondary.
"With the personnel we have ... we want teams to challenge us," second-year cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "You make more plays in the passing game, with tipped balls and interceptions. They brought us in here and pay us a lot of money to shut down receivers."
Through six games, the Vikings' pass defense is ranked 15th, but their most credible effort was Sunday against Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. The team is positioned to improve its ranking considering few upcoming opponents boast a dominant passing offense. Of their remaining games, the Vikings' most dangerous aerial opponent is the St. Louis Rams.
Although their run defense is ranked 30th, the Vikings have made significant strides toward improving in that area, limiting their past two opponents, the Packers and the Chicago Bears, to a combined 140 yards rushing.
"That's what we want to do," linebacker Keith Newman said of focusing on their run defense. "If we can do that, we have a good chance of winning basically every game."
Sharper said the NFC North also dictates the Vikings' defensive strategy.
"With Chicago and Detroit, they have decent receivers but they don't have anyone that's necessarily going to beat you too bad. Green Bay has a lot of injuries," Sharper said. "If we can keep teams from running the football, in our division, that will help us in November and December."
With Pro Bowl safeties in Sharper and Corey Chavous, and two respected veteran starting cornerbacks in Winfield and Fred Smoot, as well as experienced backups Ken Irvin, Ralph Brown and Brian Williams, Browner said the Vikings' 2005 secondary is the club's best since his days with the team. But Browner said this unit has much to prove.
"They're talented," Browner said. "But now they have to let their talent show and make plays. If you say it, you got to do it."
"We've made some plays," Sharper said, "but we haven't made enough. And to be a top-notch secondary, you have to make all the plays that come your way."
Sharper, though, said his unit is building cohesion, as he and Williams return from knee injuries.
"Health is the biggest thing," Sharper said. "We've got all our guys coming back, so you'll see us start to play like that."---_