Grounded Jets look to run over Vikings
MINNEAPOLIS - The Vikings have been grousing this week about missed tackles, poor gap discipline, easy yards after contact and lost contain. Serious jargon for the football faithful is blasphemy in Minnesota, where run defense once reigned mighty...
MINNEAPOLIS – The Vikings have been grousing this week about missed tackles, poor gap discipline, easy yards after contact and lost contain.
Serious jargon for the football faithful is blasphemy in Minnesota, where run defense once reigned mighty.
Opponents have been stomping on, over and around the Vikings with relative ease in recent weeks, raising alarms within a unit accustomed to stuffing the run.
It’s enough to make the woeful New York Jets (2-10) look menacing after eight ball carriers ran a whopping 49 times for 277 yards in Monday night’s 16-13 loss to Miami, including 210 by halftime.
A feeble passing attack behind quarterback Geno Smith has made New York one dimensional.
The Jets average 148.2 rushing yards a game, second most in the NFL, and Minnesota (5-7) is banking on a heavy dose of running backs Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory, who rushed for 105 and 62 yards, respectively, against the Dolphins.
“If you get 200 yards rushing in the first half, you’re probably going to stick to it until (we) stop it,” said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. “That will be a good test for us. We haven’t played the run as well as I would like to, and I’m sure that they see that as well.”
Not since their Week 8 victory at Tampa Bay have the Vikings held an opponent to fewer than 100 yards rushing. Carolina put up 178 yards on 33 carries, including 49 by read-option quarterback Cam Newton.
The three previous opposing quarterbacks – Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay, Jay Cutler of Chicago and Washington’s Robert Griffin III – averaged 23 yards on the ground.
Defensive end Everson Griffen, the Vikings’ sack leader with 11, said the front seven needs to take ownership of its run-stopping responsibilities and halt the regression.
“Our running game (defense) needs to improve a lot,” he said. “We’ve just got to attack the player we swarm. We tackle good, but then we let them fall forward for three or four yards. Now it’s second-and-three (or) four and that’s hard for a defensive coordinator to call in that situation so the offense has a lot of options on a short field.”
Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd missed the second half against Carolina because of a knee injury that has limited him this week in practice. Rookie tackle Shamar Stephen filled in and finished with a career-high 10 tackles.
The Vikings are confident the fundamentally sound Stephen can hold his own in the run game.
“It’s kind of his specialty,” said Zimmer.
So much strategy pivots off the ground game that coaches continually harp about establishing the run and stopping the run.
When the Williams Wall of Kevin and Pat clogged rushing lanes and the Vikings were dominant against the run, becoming the first team since the 1970 merger to rank No. 1 three straight seasons (2006-08).
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