By Craig D. Schroepfer

The Minnesota Vikings defense is building a reputation for being tenacious. Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers found this out the hard way on Sunday.

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The Vikings defense brought constant pressure throughout the game, making Rivers feel uncomfortable whenever he dropped back in the pocket. When it was all said and done, the Vikings defense had sacked Rivers four times, forced a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown as Minnesota defeated San Diego 31-14.

“We want to hit the quarterback as many times as we can,” Coach Mike Zimmer said after the game. “We want to do it legally; we want to do it in the right target area. I think that had a toll on him (Rivers). With these great quarterbacks, with the more they’re under duress, the more difficult it is for them.”

One player who stood out on defense for the Vikings was defensive end Everson Griffin. Watching the game, it felt like Griffin spent most of his day in the San Diego backfield.

Griffin finished the day with four tackles and one and-a-half sacks. Overall he applied constant pressure, which forced Rivers to throw the ball much early than intended, hurrying him in the process.

“Our whole plan is to get after the quarterback so they are not comfortable,” Griffin said after the game. “The more you can affect the quarterback the better your defense is going to play. If you can disrupt the quarterback over and over, you are going to win more games.”

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The highlight of the defensive performance, though, took place early in the fourth quarter.

On third and 10 from the Vikings 14-yard line, Rivers threw a pass over the middle. The ball bounced off wide receiver Stevie Johnson’s hands and into the arms of Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, who returned it 91 yards for a touchdown giving Minnesota a 31-7 lead.

Greenway is the senior member on the Vikings defense, having played for Minnesota since 2006. Now playing in a reduced role on defense, Greenway made the most of his opportunity Sunday.

“When you get the ball obviously you just try to get as many yards as you can and move forward with the ball and put your offense in a better spot,” Greenway said about his interception. “Once I avoided the first tackle I just saw purple jerseys around. I couldn’t find anybody that was going to tackle me so I just kept going.”

With the victory Minnesota moves to 2-1 on the season. The defense showed  Sunday they aren’t afraid to blitz and apply pressure no matter who the quarterback is. It’s early in the season but if the Vikings defense can play like this on a consistent basis, then they might have a say in what happens going forward in the NFC North.

Next week, the Vikings defense will find a bigger challenge than they had in the previous three games when they travel to Denver to take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

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Follow Craig D. Schroepfer on Twitter at @CDSWCCO.