For a change, defense is leading Vikings to wins
From the Pioneer Press
Posted on Mon, Nov. 28, 2005
[size=18px]For a change, defense is leading Vikings to wins[/size]
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Time was, fantasy footballers across the nation would simply start whoever was playing the Minnesota Vikings, knowing their porous defense guaranteed a big day from the opposing offense.
But the times, they are a changin' in Bob Dylan's home state.
The Vikings' four-game winning streak can be directly attributed to a stingy and play-making defense that is finally coming together.
"I didn't want it to be as long as it was," defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said.
Nevertheless, it has happened.
In the last four games, during which the Vikings have climbed out of a 1-4 hole and are now 6-5, the defense has forced 15 turnovers and sacked the quarterback 13 times.
That's a big turnaround from the previous four games, when they had just three turnovers and five sacks.
Cottrell said the unit just needed time to learn how to play with each other after adding a bevy of new faces in the offseason.
The Vikings spent a lot of money on nose tackle Pat Williams, cornerback Fred Smoot, free safety Darren Sharper, first-round defensive end Erasmus James and linebackers Sam Cowart and Napoleon Harris in hopes that what has been the team's major weakness for the better part of a decade would finally start pulling its own weight.
Injuries to All Pro defensive tackle Kevin Williams (knee), Smoot (collarbone) and Sharper (knee) slowed the progress, and it culminated with an embarrassing 38-13 loss at Carolina in Week 7.
"We kept getting these lineup changes," Cottrell said, shaking his head. "Coming out of training camp, we were clicking pretty good."
Coach Mike Tice started to devote more attention to the defense after the loss to the Panthers, sitting in on meetings and spending more time on that side of the field during practice.
Tice said he tried to use his background as an offensive coach to play devil's advocate, but gives all the credit for the improved play to Cottrell and the defensive assistants.
"We're just jelling," linebacker Dontarrious Thomas said. "We had a lot of new guys on the defensive side of the football. It was going to take some time for us to get some cohesion."
It appears to be there now.
Led by Pat Williams and Sharper, the Vikings have been downright potent on defense while a sluggish offense still tries to find its identity without injured quarterback Daunte Culpepper and the traded Randy Moss.
With Williams stuffing the run and Sharper tied for the NFL lead with seven interceptions, including two he has returned for touchdowns, the offense hasn't had to be its usual explosive self.
It all culminated last week with a dominant performance against Cleveland. The Vikings forced five turnovers and sacked Trent Dilfer a season-high five times, blitzing less often because their four down linemen were having so much success on the pass rush.
"The four guys are getting there, and they're whacking the quarterback pretty good," Tice said. "I wouldn't want to be that guy waking up this morning. I bet he was pretty sore."
Dilfer was. He hobbled around Cleveland's practice facility on Monday with ice bags on both knees and his status for this week is uncertain.
All three of Minnesota's touchdowns were set up by Cleveland turnovers inside their own 35-yard line, and Pat Williams says the new production is all about attitude.
"We're just hungry right now. We don't care no more," Williams said. "We're just going out there and playing all out."
And they are getting contributions from unlikely sources. When Kevin Williams went down with a knee injury in the first quarter, sixth-round draft pick C.J. Mosley came in and had seven tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Undrafted rookie Dovonte Edwards returned an interception for a touchdown in a win over the Packers two weeks ago and unheralded linebacker Keith Newman would be the defensive MVP were it not for Pat Williams' outstanding play this season.
Tice and Cottrell credited the assistant coaches with developing the young talent like Mosley and Edwards, but both made it clear that the defense can get even better.
Pat Williams agrees, and he'll have to be right if the Vikings are to rebound from a disastrous start to contend for a playoff spot.
"We started off slow. It was already bad. We couldn't go backwards," Williams said. "We just have to go out there and let it go now. That's what we're doing."
Re: For a change, defense is leading Vikings to wins
offensive wins games. defensive wins championships.
everyone has heard that before and how true is that?
our win streak is all credit to the defensieve for shizzle dizzle