Three pregame topics of note
As the Vikings continue to deal with issues at quarterback and defensive back heading into Sunday’s game at Dallas, we’ll venture off the path a bit with three areas we think you should know about. Here’s this week’s version of Three-and-Out:
1. Greenway goes for a grand.
Outside linebacker Chad Greenway will become the eighth player in Vikings history to post 1,000 tackles when he makes his second stop on Sunday.
“I was supposed to get that last week,” said Greenway, who is coming off a season-low nine tackles against the Packers. “It would mean a lot. More than people realize. To have the staying power and durability, those are important attributes to have in this league. And the names you’re around when you’re at that number are pretty cool.”
Those names include linebacker Scott Studwell, who had 1,928 tackles in 202 games; linebacker Matt Blair (1,404 in 160 games); linebacker Jeff Siemon (1,375 in 156); tackle Alan Page (1,118 in 160), safety Tommy Hannon (1,056 in 117); and linebacker Ed McDaniel (1,020 in 125 games). Greenway has played 103 games.
“The [tackle] I remember most was the NFC title game [against New Orleans following the 2009 season], when I knocked the ball loose on the fourth down and they ended up spotting it for a first down,” Greenway said. “But that’s a bad memory. Let’s not talk about that one.”
2. Look out for Lee.
Whoever plays quarterback for the Vikings on Sunday had better think twice about throwing the ball underneath coverage. Cowboys middle linebacker Sean Lee, a second-round pick out of Penn State in 2010, not only leads the Cowboys in interceptions, he’s also tied atop the league with four, including two that he’s returned for touchdowns. (And, for the record, Lee’s four picks are four more than every cornerback on the Vikings roster.)
“Sean is a great player and it doesn’t surprise me at all that he’s playing so well, especially as hard as he works and the amount of time he puts into it,” said Vikings rookie linebacker Michael Mauti, who backed up Lee at Penn State for two years. “He’s very instinctual, especially in the pass game. That’s what separates him. He’s really got a feel for what’s behind him in coverage and route combinations.”
Lee’s four interceptions match his career high and tie him for the fourth-highest single-season mark by a Cowboys linebacker. His 11 career picks are a team high since 2010 and the most by any NFL linebacker during that period.
From a tackling standpoint, Lee isn’t bad either. He has a team-high 99 stops and for the second consecutive year, he has matched the team record of 21 tackles in a game. Lee Roy Jordan originally set the mark in 1971.
3. Kiffin both good and bad.
Cowboys fans and, heck, probably the team as well aren’t quite sure what to make of new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The 73-year-old former Vikings assistant was hired this past offseason and so far the results of Kiffin’s switch from the 3-4 to the 4-3 are decidedly mixed.
“The really good part of what our defense has done is we got 19 takeaways in the first eight games of the season, and that’s three more than we got the entire season last year,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “So that’s certainly a positive and something we’ve emphasized. And those are difference-making plays in the game. They really are. We’ve had [three defensive] returns for touchdowns.”
The Cowboys also are on pace to give up what would be an NFL-record 5,062 passing yards. They’ve allowed four 400-yard passers — Eli Manning (450), Philip Rivers (401), Peyton Manning (414) and Matthew Stafford (488) — in eight games.
“We’ve faced some good quarterbacks and they’ve done a good job moving the football,” said Garrett, whose defense gave up 623 yards in last week’s last-minute, fall-from-ahead loss to Detroit. “We’ve got to do a better job affecting the quarterback and then on the back end covering guys whether we’re playing man or zone.”