The Vikings are one of three NFL defenses without a takeaway through two weeks, but don’t count defensive end and team captain Everson Griffen among those concerned.
“You guys always try to find something. It’s two games, man,” Griffen said Wednesday. “Takeaways are going to come. First and foremost, if we eliminate the penalties it’s most likely a closer game [in Pittsburgh]. Takeaways [are] going to come when they come.”
Griffen, the Vikings’ defensive leader with three sacks, was more concerned about the Vikings’ 11 accepted penalties against the Steelers. Four flags were thrown on the defense; three directly helped push along Steelers scoring drives that led to 17 points.
“I think [eliminating] penalties will help us win the game more than takeaways,” Griffen said.
Still the Vikings defense, which tied for seventh in the NFL last season with 27 takeaways, is on somewhat of a dry spell. Mike Zimmer’s defense has gone without a takeaway in five of the past six games dating to the final quarter of last year’s regular season.
This season, only the Vikings and Saints defenses are without a takeaway after playing two games. The Dolphins, whose season was interrupted because of Hurricane Irma, also didn’t have one in their season opener. The Ravens lead the NFL with 10 takeaways.
Drawing the one-on-one assignment on Steelers star Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh on Sunday, cornerback Xavier Rhodes helped limit the receiver to five catches for 62 yards. But Rhodes said he believed he could have made even more of a difference if he’d have been able to pick off a pass.
“Certain plays I could’ve stopped him,” Rhodes said. “Probably could’ve been a game-changer if I was able to intercept that ball.”
Rhodes was in his final college season at Florida State in 2012 when a redshirt freshman named Jameis Winston was bold enough to challenge him.
“He always wanted to race,” Rhodes said with a smirk. “He thought he was the fastest person on the team. He was the slowest. He always wanted to compete at anything. He thought he had the best hands. He thought he could cover anyone at DB. I’m like, ‘Bro, you just an all-around athlete, huh? Running a 4.8, huh?’ ”
Now the two former Seminoles will face each other in their first meaningful NFL matchup Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Winston, now in his third season, has thrown 51 career TDs with 33 interceptions.
“Jameis was pretty funny when he was at Florida State, that’s one thing I can tell you,” Rhodes said. “He always had confidence. He always believed in himself and his talent. It shows in the NFL.”
Quarterback Sam Bradford left the Winter Park fields before the end of practice and was officially listed as “limited” because of his injured left knee. Backup Case Keenum is preparing to start Sunday in the event Bradford again can’t go.
A lingering hamstring injury also limited linebacker Anthony Barr in practice after he played 73 snaps in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
The good news, however, is the entire active roster practiced in some capacity. Center Pat Elflein (ankle), cornerback Mackensie Alexander (wrist) and Rhodes (hip) are dealing with injuries, but all three were able to practice in full Wednesday.
The Vikings re-signed safety Jack Tocho to the practice squad, filling the open spot created by quarterback Kyle Sloter’s promotion last week. Sloter remains on the active roster in case Bradford remains unavailable.
Tocho, a converted CB from North Carolina State, was the team’s last draft pick this spring.