Maligned defenders leave coach satisfied

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 11, 2012 - 11:40 PM

After taking heat from coordinator Alan Williams, the Vikings stuffed the run, generated takeaways and won third downs.

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Vikings defensive end Brian Robison grabbed Lions running back Mikel Leshoure during the third-quarter Sunday.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams might want to keep using the word "loafs" to describe plays he's not happy with.

Three days after he used it in assessing some of the performances he saw the previous Sunday in Seattle, the Vikings did all the things they've only talked about the past month in a 34-24 victory over the Lions at Mall of America Field.

"Stop the run, get off the field on third downs and create turnovers," linebacker Chad Greenway said.

The Vikings had two takeaways, ending a streak of nine quarters without one, held the Lions to 60 yards rushing and extinguished quarterback Matthew Stafford's scorching success on third downs the previous two weeks.

Not bad for a bunch of loafers, eh, Brian Robison?

"I think a lot of us were upset with that because we didn't see the 'loafs,' " said Robison, the team's left end. "And I think we've all kind of shown our frustrations with him a little bit about that comment because the bottom line for us is we were playing hard, we were playing physical, we were playing fast and we were just missing tackles and not making the plays we needed to make. For him to call us out on loafs, it kind of ticked off a lot of people. But we came out today and gave him what he wanted."

Especially on third down.

The Lions had won back-to-back games against Seattle and Jacksonville in part because Stafford had gone 23-for-27 for 277 yards, two touchdowns and 18 first downs on third down. Against the Vikings, he had no chance because the Lions' average distance needed on nine third downs was 10.2 yards.

"It's kind of what we always talk about," Greenway said. "Make them one-dimensional."

The Lions failed to convert on their first eight third-down situations before converting on third-and-2 with less than four minutes left in the game. Stafford completed two of six third-down passes for 11 yards and was victimized by two sacks -- including one by Kevin Williams in the red zone -- and Greenway's first interception since the 2009 season.

"I caught this one," said Greenway, who made the pick in man coverage against tight end Brandon Pettigrew. "Finally."

Greenway's interception gave the Vikings the ball at the Detroit 25-yard line and led to a 48-yard field goal and a 10-0 first-quarter lead. In the fourth quarter, safety Jamarca Sanford's strip of receiver Calvin Johnson led to cornerback Antoine Winfield's recovery and another field goal.

Despite the absence of nose tackle Letroy Guion (turf toe injury), the Vikings head into the bye feeling a lot better about their run defense -- the same run defense that had too many "loafs" while giving up an average of 165.8 yards per game the previous four games.

"We're so competitive so if [Williams] says something, it ticks us off and we want to play better for him," Robison said. "At the same time, we might say something about him that might tick him off. So it's a love-hate relationship."

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