Vikings defense limiting production of (most) rival stars

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 24, 2012 - 6:58 AM

The Vikings have stopped opponents' big-play threats in the games they've won. They'll face another on Thursday night.

Frank Gore, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson have amassed 15 Pro Bowls, 10 All-Pro selections and exactly zero touchdowns against a Vikings defense that has spent the past seven weeks extinguishing all superstars not named Robert Griffin III.

"The essence of game-planning is knowing what makes the engine go," linebacker Erin Henderson said. "You identify the player who is their big-play threat. Then you figure out a way to somehow, some way take him out of the game."

On the ground, Jones-Drew, Gore and Chris Johnson each were held to fewer than 78 yards. Heck, the latter two combined for only 87.

Meanwhile, through the air, Calvin Johnson and Fitzgerald each were limited to fewer than 55 yards and six catches. Neither was their team's leading receiver against the Vikings.

"Each game is unique," defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "What I take joy in is seeing the coaching staff say, 'OK, we're going to shut down Gore or Johnson' and then guys buy into the plan and take pride in what the coaching staff has asked them to do. We're seeing that."

Williams might give up more yards to a team's weaker area so that he can limit big plays from a team's strength. That partly explains how Arizona's former No. 3 running back, LaRod Stephens-Howling, ended up with 104 yards rushing while Fitzgerald, a four-time All-Pro, finished with four catches for 29 yards.

"You're always trying to ... make a team go somewhere they don't want to go," coach Leslie Frazier said. "We've done some good things when we've had to do that."

Two weeks after Jones-Drew ran for 77 yards against the Vikings, he went for 177 and a touchdown in a victory at Indianapolis. Two weeks before Gore was held to 63 yards at Mall of America Field, he ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries (7.0) in a victory at Lambeau Field. And two weeks after Chris Johnson mustered a mere 24 yards on 15 carries, he exploded for 185 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in a win at Buffalo.

In the two weeks before he played the Vikings, Fitzgerald had a combined 14 catches for 185 yards and a touchdown. And a week before the Vikings held Calvin Johnson to 54 yards on five catches, he caught 10 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown at Tennessee.

"When we played Calvin in Detroit, obviously that was a week where you looked at one guy and said, 'If we can stop this guy, we're going to limit what they'll be able to do,' " linebacker Chad Greenway said. "It was pretty clear-cut."

Thursday night at Mall of America Field, the Vikings play the 2-4 Buccaneers and yet another superstar performer, Vincent Jackson. The 6-5, 230-pound receiver, signed as a free agent from San Diego this past offseason, caught seven passes for 216 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's loss to the Saints. The yardage total is the second-highest recorded in the league this season.

"We have a short week, but we're going to need sound 83 awareness,' " said middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, referring to Jackson's jersey number. "By the time we get to kickoff, we must know all the plays he likes, the formations he likes. We have to know everything about him."

Complicating matters is the fact Jackson isn't the Bucs' only deep threat. He's third in the NFL is average yards per catch (21.7), but the receiver on the other side, Mike Williams, is fourth (19.4). Jackson ranks second in the league with 10 catches of 20 yards or more. Williams is tied for 12th with six.

"They do as good a job as anyone in terms of going up and getting the football when your back is to the ball or when you're in good position," said Alan Williams, whose defense ranks ninth overall and sixth in points allowed. "We just have to play good sound football and limit the number of big plays they get. They've gotten them on everybody."

Jackson doesn't sound as though he's worried if the Vikings' game plan is centered on him.

"We're very balanced," he said. "We're not out there worrying about one guy's statistics. Whoever gets the best matchup, or whatever they do, that's what we're going to do."

Or at least try to.

  • VIKINGS WEEK 8

    7:20 p.m. Thursday vs. Tampa Bay • 

    Mall of America Field • TV: NFL Network, Ch. 11 (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Fla Southern 2 FINAL
Detroit 12
FIU 2 FINAL
Miami 7
Toronto 114 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Golden State 108 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
Phoenix 98 FINAL
Miami 115
LA Clippers 110 FINAL
Minnesota 105
New Orleans 93 FINAL
Dallas 102
Nashville 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Carolina 2 FINAL
Chicago 5
Montreal 0 FINAL
San Jose 4
Virginia 59 FINAL
Syracuse 47
Baylor 59 FINAL
Texas 61
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
Northwestern St 92
Central Arkansas 49 FINAL
Sam Houston St 76
Norfolk State 59 FINAL
Howard 61
Bethune-Cookman 50 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 75 FINAL
Delaware State 85
Lamar 69 FINAL
McNeese State 70
Nicholls 89 FINAL
New Orleans 79
Incarnate Word 62 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 83
NC Central 62 FINAL
Savannah State 49
Texas Southern 77 FINAL
Alabama A&M 75
Prairie View 67 FINAL
Alabama State 65
Oklahoma 70 FINAL
Iowa State 77
Grambling St 62 FINAL
Miss Valley St 66
Boston College 66 FINAL
Virginia Tech 59
Jackson State 62 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 64
Bethune-Cookman 55 FINAL
NC A&T 58
Hampton 78 FINAL
Delaware State 63
Norfolk State 63 FINAL
Howard 60
NC Central 54 FINAL
Savannah State 65
Texas Southern 83 FINAL
Alabama A&M 46
Prairie View 42 FINAL
Alabama State 60
Jackson State 78 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 74
Grambling 56 FINAL
Miss Valley St 61
Tulsa 71 FINAL
Cincinnati 58
(1) Connecticut 88 FINAL
South Florida 65
UCF 57 FINAL
East Carolina 67
Central Conn St 53 FINAL
Bryant 55
Wagner 66 FINAL
Robert Morris 60
Sacred Heart 75 FINAL
Fairleigh Dickinson 84
St Francis-NY 73 FINAL
Long Island 49
Mount St Marys 87 FINAL
St Francis-PA 90
Temple 56 FINAL
Houston 45
Texas Tech 65 FINAL
(6) Baylor 75
Iowa State 64 FINAL
Kansas 68
SMU 60 FINAL
Memphis 53
Oklahoma 66 FINAL
Oklahoma St 56
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
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: With Adrian Peterson's suspension overturned, what should the Vikings do?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close