Vikings 2011: No heroes required on D, so remain calm

  • Updated: September 9, 2011 - 1:09 AM

The Vikings have a one-gap, zone-based, do-your-job defense that frowns on free-lancers.

"If one piece of the puzzle isn't gap conscious, you got big issues," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "So it's about making sure nobody gets outside of his job and tries to do something out of the ordinary."

The Vikings have run basically the same defense since 2006. It's called a Tampa 2 because of its reliance on a deep Cover 2 scheme that is designed to take away big plays while betting that the other team's offense can't sustain long drives.

The Vikings also use other defensive alignments based on down and distance. And, yes, they do blitz a little more under new defensive coordinator Fred Pagac than his predecessors Leslie Frazier and Mike Tomlin.

But the key to any success for this defense is a simple philosophy that requires a well-coordinated effort. No heroes or wild blitz packages required.

"If every guy up front controls his one gap, all the gaps will be filled and you can stop the run," left defensive end Brian Robison said. "That's the No. 1 priority. If you do that, you put teams in situations where they have to pass the ball.

"Then," Robison continued, "the guys on the back side of the defense pretty much keep everybody in front of them. Then it's just like when you're a kid playing, 'Kill the Man with the Ball.' "

Quickly diagnosing a play, making an even quicker tackle in one's area and trying to pry the ball loose are vital components to what can be, for lack of a better description, a bend-but-don't-break defense.

"You do give up some yards so you don't give up big plays," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "As a corner, it's mandatory that you tackle, which isn't always the case in the NFL. With a one-gap philosophy, you got ballcarriers bouncing things outside all the time. That's why me and [Cedric Griffin] get 80, 90 tackles a year."

When the Vikings miss tackles and fall short of their takeaway goals, as they did last year, well, it can contribute to a disappointing season.

That's why Pagac has three things he's looking for in 2011.

"Easy," Pagac said when asked what he's looking for in this defense. "I want linemen that like to eat gaps; linebackers who are quick and smart; and DBs that can cover and tackle."

MARK CRAIG

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