With 23 tackles (17 solo), two for loss and 1.0 sack through three games, Anthony Barr has picked up where his impressive rookie campaign left off in 2014.
Barr's versatility enables Head Coach Mike Zimmer to have him do multiple tasks that the second-year pro continues to refine. Barr was part of the barrage that Matthew Stafford and Philip Rivers have encountered the past two weeks with 20 quarterback hurries tallied for the Vikings on the press box stat sheet.
Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com took note of a clean hit on Rivers that took the wind out of his sails and forced a Chargers time out so the QB could catch his breath.
"I think he felt us all game," Barr said. "And that kind of topped it off."
Krammer wrote: Barr has continued to grow into one of the *canine teeth of Mike Zimmer's aggressive defense. His natural abilities: range, speed and length, not to mention size (6'5", 247), have allowed him to make an early impact as he settles in on the nuances of his position, being only in the fourth year at linebacker. *
But coaches, offensive coordinators and quarterbacks are taking notice.
"Teams are accounting for him more often. I see that," Zimmer said. "I know they're trying to account for him a lot more than they did last year."
*Barr's continued development, since being drafted ninth overall in 2014, has been overshadowed by his seamless transition of his college success in one area — beating up quarterbacks. Barr put together a string of highlight hits while at UCLA, including the one that ended former USC quarterback Matt Barkley's college career, the hit he says he still hears most about. *
Low profile OK with Kalil
Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune featured the play of Matt Kalil, who is healthy and has shown it in three games. Vensel wrote:
*He isn't showing up on the wrong end of "SportsCenter" highlights. He hasn't yet been trending on Twitter during Vikings games. Fans have put away the torches and pitchforks and, at least for the moment, appear to be comfortable with this giant man remaining in their community. *
Yes, Matt Kalil has kept a *low profile throughout the first month of the season. For an offensive tackle, especially one who has been scrutinized as much as he has over the past two years, that is a good thing. *
Vensel reported Kalil is yet to allow a sack and has had one quarterback hit assessed to him and wants to keep stacking those performances.
"Last year, I didn't start off well and you start losing confidence in your ability," Kalil said. "And other things came into play. It's only three games, but it's definitely a confidence-builder coming into this game."
Mad men making a difference
The Vikings performance at defending the run against the 49ers has been documented ad nauseum, but Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press credited a meeting between defensive linemen during the aftermath as part of the reason Minnesota has been stingy since. Everson Griffen, one of four season-long captains, did most of the talking, or at least the loudest, at the meeting.
"Everson was ticked off," defensive end Scott Crichton told Tomasson. "He was just shouting at everybody: 'We worked too hard for this!' And he definitely was right. All of the veteran guys, they were really just mad because that was the No. 1 thing we wanted to fix in the offseason was the run defense."
*Another angry lineman that day was defensive tackle Linval Joseph, a six-year veteran. *
*Joseph said he can't yell as loud as Griffen but got his point across. *
"Everybody was mad because we practiced really, really hard this offseason and in training camp," Joseph told Tomasson. "Then we went out there and we didn't do anything that we were coached to do."
Since the meeting, the Vikings have allowed a total of 128 yards on 44 carries (2.9-yard average).
Third-down defense fuels Denver's defensive climb
The Broncos rank first in total yards and passing yards allowed and sixth in rushing yards allowed, prompting John Holler of Viking Update to designate Denver as "one of the league's most-formidable defenses."
Through three games, Denver has allowed teams to convert on just 6 of 32 third-down situations – an impressive 18.8 percent. The Vikings have seen film on the Broncos and know that third down is the time when Denver *shines the brightest. *
"When they've had people in third-down situations, they've been getting off the field," wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "It's our job to change that by getting good gains on first and second down and, if we need to convert on third down, it will be manageable."
That has been a problem for Denver opponents and nobody has converted better than 33 percent of their third-down opportunities. The Broncos have been able to get opponents into third-and-long situations – commonly viewed as 6 yards or more and almost always passes. Not only are the Broncos forcing teams into third-down situations, the majority of them are third-and-long plays.
Broncos weigh-in on Adrian Peterson, "the best in the business"; Peyton Manning on facing "The Zimmer defense"
Flashback Friday: Randy Moss' lateral to Moe Williams for an incredible touchdown