EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings are in a tense, tight spot, trying to make the playoffs after starting 3-6.
They’d much rather put the pressure on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
If the visiting Packers (6-3) lose to the Vikings on Sunday, Minnesota will still be alive in the NFC North race. But the Vikings hope — and need — to bring some heat in the form of a pass rush that’s been nonexistent this season except for a late flurry two weeks ago during a comeback victory over Arizona.
“This team and this defense, we’ve got to get it going now,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Thursday. “This is the time to figure it out.”
After sacking Rodgers 14 times in two inspired victories over the Packers last season, the Vikings didn’t take him down once in a 28-24 loss at Lambeau Field last month. It was the third time in nine games the Packers have kept Rodgers sack-free.
“We want to build on the momentum we’ve started,” Rodgers said, “and hopefully keep on rolling.”
The first task for the Packers is to avoid being distracted by the crowd the Vikings defense has long fed off of in their noisy domed home.
“You’ve just got to be on the same page communication-wise, and if that’s right on it shouldn’t be an issue,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said.
All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen faced mostly one-on-one matchups with Packers left tackle Chad Clifton in their last meeting, but Allen wasn’t able to take advantage.
“Hopefully they’ll do the same again, because I’m hoping to get better results,” Frazier said. “And I know Jared is looking forward to the rematch.”
The Vikings led the NFL in sacks last season, but they’re tied for 24th this year with just 14. Six of those came two weeks ago against the Cardinals. Allen leads the Vikings with 5 1/2 and had their only two sacks in last week’s loss to Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears — the team that has yielded more sacks this year than any other.
“There were a few opportunities, and we didn’t get it done,” Frazier said, adding: “Once again, we weren’t consistent in getting it done across the board.”
Cutler was able to elude the pressure and ran five times for 24 yards. Rodgers is even more nimble than Cutler, so the other part of this week’s challenge for Allen and the rest of the underperforming front four will be making sure the quarterback doesn’t get loose.
“Rodgers, got to keep him in the pocket and give him different looks on the back end,” said defensive end Ray Edwards, who has 3 1/2 sacks this season. “Put pressure on him up front and don’t let him have his feet set or he’ll make those great throws he can make.”
Yes, the pressure is already on the Vikings. It’s up to them to spread it around this weekend.
“You’ve got to keep playing. A lot of teams’ blocking is different, and you’ve just got to continue to rush,” Edwards said. “You’ve got to work on how they’re blocking and how to beat it.”
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