Vikings Insider: Porous pass defense is nothing new here

  • Article by: KEVIN SEIFERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 3, 2007 - 2:34 PM

The Vikings have been victimized by the pass for years, but it's especially frustrating now with a defense that's great against the run and doesn't give up a ton of points.

The last time the San Diego Chargers played in the Metrodome, Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback. Some guy named Jeff Graham was their top receiver, Mike Riley was their coach and the Vikings -- sound familiar? -- couldn't stop the pass.

On Nov. 28, 1999, Harbaugh completed 25 of 39 passes for 404 yards. The week before, Chicago's Jim Miller lit up the Vikings for 422 yards. Although the Vikings' dynamic offense lifted them to victories on both occasions, the two-game stretch signified the start of an organizational epidemic that has continued into this season.

The Vikings finished 1999 with the NFL's 30th-ranked pass defense. They were 28th in 2000, followed by ranks of 18, 29, 26, 29, 21, and 31 in subsequent seasons. Entering today's game against the Chargers, the Vikings are ranked dead last.

The plague has spanned nine seasons, seven defensive coordinators, a dramatic scheme change and 100 percent personnel overhaul.

The Vikings hoped they had found the answer last season when coordinator Mike Tomlin converted to their current Tampa-2 scheme. But since they were exposed by the New England Patriots midway through the year, the Vikings have allowed some of their most gaudy passing numbers in a decade.

In their past 17 games, beginning with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's 372-yard performance, the Vikings have given up an average of 280.6 passing yards per game. Think about that for a moment. If a single quarterback posted that figure over 16 games, he would finish with a 4,500-yard season.

True, that yardage total is skewed by the Vikings' stifling run defense, which at times has given opponents little choice but to go the air. This season, however, new coordinator Leslie Frazier has been unable to slow the snowball and the Vikings' most recent opponents have rendered the run defense moot by passing on nearly three out of every four plays in the first half.

Last week, the Philadelphia Eagles passed on 22 of their first 35 plays. The Dallas Cowboys threw on 32 of their first 41, while the Green Bay Packers went to the air on 20 of their first 26 plays.

Overall, Frazier's defense is giving up a respectable 17.6 points per game (discounting two special teams scores) and has converted four touchdowns of its own, but the pass defense still has played a prominent role in recent defeats.

Dallas, for example, converted its downfield passing attack into a glorified running game. Quarterback Tony Romo completed 31 passes for a relatively modest 277 yards, enabling the Cowboys to keep possession for 36 minutes, 35 seconds of the game.

The Eagles burned them with four passes of more than 30 yards, each setting up a score. The Vikings held them to field goals on two of those drives, but ultimately their offense couldn't close the gap.

Most discouraging about those four plays was that each Eagles receiver simply beat his Vikings counterpart for the ball. Kevin Curtis jumped over cornerback Cedric Griffin for a 33-yard catch, for example. Greg Lewis outran middle linebacker E.J. Henderson and safety Tank Williams down the middle of the field for a 50-yard play.

It's difficult to saddle a defense with a high degree of blame when it is holding opponents to fewer than 20 points per game. Yet frustration has mounted with each passing week (pun intended, sorry), as a soft pass rush and reliable holes in the secondary continue to be exploited.

"We haven't made plays," safety Darren Sharper said. "We've had opportunities. [But] we're allowing guys to catch the ball, run after the catch, go up over us to make plays. We haven't played as well as we need to play."

Sharper has pleaded with Frazier to use him more aggressively and get him into more game-changing positions. Frazier, however, has remained true to a scheme that calls on safeties to be insurance policies in deep coverage than to roam the passing lanes as playmakers.

"This defense has been successful in other places and it will be successful here," Frazier said.

Now that would be historic.

Kevin Seifert • kseifert@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto - LP: A. Loup 4 FINAL
Cleveland - WP: J. Outman 6
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 1 FINAL
Detroit - WP: R. Porcello 2
Atlanta - LP: G. Schlosser 3 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. Valverde 4
Seattle - LP: T. Wilhelmsen 2 FINAL
Miami - WP: M. Dunn 3
St. Louis - LP: S. Maness 2 FINAL
Washington - WP: R. Soriano 3
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Gomez 2
NY Yankees - WP: P. Claiborne 5 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: H. Bell 1
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 8 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: Y. Ventura 3
Cincinnati - WP: H. Bailey 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: C. Villanueva 2
Chicago WSox - WP: E. Johnson 16 FINAL
Texas - LP: R. Ross Jr. 2
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Chavez 4
Philadelphia - WP: J. Diekman 10 FINAL
Colorado - LP: M. Belisle 9
San Francisco - WP: T. Lincecum 4 FINAL
San Diego - LP: R. Erlin 3
Arizona - LP: J. Collmenter 1 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: J. Wright 4
Baltimore - LP: B. Matusz 5 FINAL
Boston - WP: E. Mujica 6
Dallas 85 FINAL
San Antonio 90
Charlotte 88 FINAL
Miami 99
Washington 102 FINAL
Chicago 93
Portland 122 FINAL
Houston 120
Philadelphia 4 FINAL
NY Rangers 2
Detroit 1 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
San Jose 7
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2013 preseason     
Aug 9 - vs. Houston 7 pmX27-13
Aug 16 - at Buffalo 6 pmX20-16
Aug 25 - at San Francisco 7 pmX34-14
Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee 7 pmX24-23
2013 regular season     
Sep 8 - at Detroit NoonX34-24
Sep 15 - at Chicago NoonX31-30
Sep 22 - vs. Cleveland NoonX31-27
Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London) NoonX34-27
Oct 6 - Bye
Oct 13 - vs. Carolina NoonX35-10
Oct 21 - at. NY Giants 7:40 pmX23-7
Oct 27 - vs. Green Bay 7:30 pmX44-31
Nov 3 - at Dallas NoonX27-23
Nov 7 - vs. Washington 7:25 pmX34-27
Nov 17 - at Seattle 3:25 pmX41-20
Nov. 24 - at Green Bay Noon26-26
Dec 1 - vs. Chicago NoonX23-20
Dec 8 - at Baltimore NoonX29-26
Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia NoonX48-30
Dec 22 - at Cincinnati NoonX42-14
Dec 29 - vs. Detroit NoonX14-13

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which quarterback is best in the NFL draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close