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.


    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


New Orleans 7:25 PM
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 6:00 PM
Detroit 7:00 PM
New York 7:00 PM
Utah 7:30 PM
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Boston 6:00 PM
Winnipeg 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Los Angeles 6:00 PM
Chicago 6:30 PM
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Arizona 6:30 PM
San Jose 7:00 PM
Anaheim 7:00 PM
St. Louis
NY Islanders 8:00 PM
Montreal 9:00 PM
(2) Florida State 6:30 PM
Troy 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:02 PM
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Sporting Kansas City 7:00 PM
Red Bull New York
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters



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 Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question