Hartman: Vikings pass defense has been a problem

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 13, 2013 - 12:30 AM
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Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway and defensive end Jared Allen teamed up to bring down 49ers running back LaMichael James during the preseason. The Vikings defense has had a tough time this regular season compared to last year, and Greenway and Allen said the defense needs to simply become better at closing out when it has to.

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All the headlines, radio talk shows and TV newscasts this week have focused on the Vikings quarterback situation, with the signing of Josh Freeman and questions surrounding Christian Ponder’s status with the club.

But the real problem the Vikings have had in all four games this year, and the reason they don’t have a better record, is that their defense hasn’t had any answers in the passing game. They were burned by the pass in losses to the Lions, Bears and Browns and almost were again in the victory over the Steelers.

Linebacker Chad Greenway and defensive end Jared Allen were asked what can be done to tighten up the defense, especially late in the game, where the Vikings have been run over by opposing two-minute offenses.

“I think the biggest thing is just not putting yourself in that situation to start,” Greenway said. “You get into that situation at the end of the game, it’s a tough two-minute situation, and a lot of NFL games do come down to that. We just have to continue to improve in that aspect and get off the field with some wins.”

Asked if the pressure changes in those two-minute situations, Greenway said: “I don’t think the pressure is necessarily doing anything to you. You’re in the moment of the game you’re playing, and if the play comes your way you have to make the play. That’s how it has to go.”

Greenway said that the Vikings work often on improving the pass defense.

“It’s an integral part of what we do and we know it’s a critical situation, so we have to get better at it,” he said.

Through four games in 2012, the Vikings were 3-1. The defense was giving up 228.3 passing yards per game, 14th-best in the league, and 313.5 total yards per game, eighth in the NFL. Compare that to this year, when they are 29th in pass defense at 326.0 yards per game and 30th in overall defense at 430.8 yards per game.

That means the team is giving up 97.7 more passing yards per game and 104.8 more total yards per game this year.

“We’ve given up a lot of yards, but the yards aren’t always indicative of how we’re playing,” Greenway said. “We just have to continue to get off the field in critical situations.”

With the release of Antoine Winfield, the secondary has been without its most experienced defensive back. And the Vikings no doubt miss him.

Greenway said the young players in the secondary have to just keep working. “Experience is going to come to those guys as they play more games,” he said. “We just have to continue to get better.”

Allen: Defense is lacking consistency

Allen, who has 3½ sacks through four games, said the defense has to not only improve every week but become a lot more consistent.

“We have times where we play really well,” Allen said. “That first half of the Pittsburgh game I thought was great. We had a 17-point lead at one time, and I don’t know if we rest on our laurels or what it is, but we just need to be more consistent and close people out.”

Given his track record as a pass-rusher, Allen always finds himself a marked man against opposing offensive lines.

“It is what it is,” he said. “You have to deal with it. You’re going to deal with double-teams. That’s why it’s a team game.”

Taylor on Whalen’s influence

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