Third Down Defense Is Killing The Minnesota Vikings
By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings defense cannot get off the field. They cannot stop anyone.
The Vikings rank last in the NFL in opponent’s third down conversion percent, and it is not close. Opponents have converted 53-of-104 third down opportunities (51 percent, 4.6 points higher than the next highest percent) against the Vikings.
“We are so bad right now on third down on defense,” head coach Leslie Frazier said. “You have to look at how we’re doing it, what we’re doing schematically and also the people that you’re asking to do certain things, can they get it done? Do we need to be doing something different based on the people that we’re asking to execute the defense? This is a time, without question, to try to go back and look at some things. Any time a team gets 72 percent conversion rate, that’s a time to really do some re-evaluation.”
Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers at Mall of America Field highlighted the third down ineffectiveness. The Packers converted 13-of-18 opportunities and did not punt once during the game.
Frazier pointed to Aaron Rodgers as a big part of the reason for the third down ineptitude.
“The quarterback had a lot to do with it,” he said. “I’ve had to be honest with myself in watching some of the things he did on tape. Some of the throws he made, that first touchdown against Josh Robinson, Josh had great coverage. When that ball was thrown and the catch that (Jordy) Nelson made, was pretty impressive. I told Josh, ‘I don’t know if myself or any of the other coaches could tell you to do anything different than what you did with the position he was in.’
“(Rodgers’) mobility definitely creates some problems for your defense. Even when we were in position to get some sacks, and I think we were able to get a couple, but his escapability creates problems when you’re trying to play man or zone. You have to give him some credit, give their offense some credit, but then we still have to find ways to keep them out of many manageable third downs. He’s too good of a quarterback to get the number of third-and-twos, third-and-threes they had (on Sunday). That’s what we have to get turned around. I think I know what needs to happen to get that turned around.”
The Vikings were highly criticized for the way they handled their secondary in the offseason. The team released highly-respected cornerback Antoine Winfield and were relying on several unproven veterans, second-year starters and rookies.
Robinson has struggled to fill Winfield’s role. Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson and Harrison Smith have not been able to stay healthy. Xavier Rhodes has gone through growing pains as a rookie.
“I don’t know what you can do personnel-wise,” Frazier said. “Our guys are doing the very best that they can. We have some young guys on the back end that are battling, they’re making some headway, so I don’t know if there’s very much you can do there. We have to look at what we’re asking them to do and how can we help them to be better at what we’re asking them to do. There are some things that we can try that should help us and that’s the approach we’ll take this week.”
The Vikings do not get a break in Week 9. The team faces the Dallas Cowboys, who are one of the best passing offenses in the NFL.
For more Vikings news and updates, visit Vikings Central.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.