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Get Used To It: Screens and Quick Slants

Posted Sep 11, 2013

No team in the NFC has more sacks than the Vikings since 2011. The Vikings have 95 dating back to the beginning of 2011, and of all NFL teams only Denver (97) and Cincinnati (96) have more. With that being the case, when opponents game plan for the Vikings defense they prioritize neutralizing this pass rush.

An effective way of doing this is by using the screen pass and the quick passing game, a tactic the Vikings see frequently and a strategy the Lions employed with great success in last week’s season opener. In fact, the Lions threw 23 passes that traveled in the air for under 10 yards last week against the Vikings, and 73.9% of those passes were completed for a total of 147 yards, nine 1st downs and one touchdown.

Vikings

As a result, expect to see more of this style of attack from opposing offenses.

"We’ve got to do some things a little bit differently when people take the approach that Detroit took," Frazier said. "They weren’t going to hold the football, they were going to throw the ball down to the running backs or quick routes, slants, to the wide receivers.
 
"I’m sure Chicago’s going to look at the tape and we’ll see something similar. We’ve got to do a better job in what we’re doing from a coaching standpoint and give our players a chance to make those plays a little bit better. We’ve got some things that we’ve got to correct because we’re going to see those screens and short passes. When you have a pass rush like ours, we’re going to repeatedly see that until we show we can defend screen passes and short passes over the middle."

Two techniques the Vikings could employ to thwart this style of attack are: A) Get arms and hands up in passing lanes to disrupt the passer and the receiver; and B) Tackle better. One Vikings defender who is excellent at Technique A is defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who has 59 pass breakups in his career. The good news there is that Williams is expected back at practice on Wednesday, which bodes well for his chances of playing on Sunday.

If Technique A is ineffective on any given play, Technique B is a necessary fallback plan. Even if the Bears are able to complete a high percentage of their passes that travel through the air under 10 yards, sure tackling should more times than not prevent a 1st down and present the Bears with longer down-and-distance scenarios. That’s where the Vikings defense can feast – when an opponent faces a 3rd and long and must go away from the quick passing game. This means deep drops for the quarterback, which means more time for Jared Allen and Co. to collect sacks.