EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –The Vikings defense hopes to stay on a roll this Sunday when they host the Texans at U.S. Bank Stadium.
One key to shutting down Houston's offense will be containing quarterback Brock Osweiler, who signed a four-year contract with the team last spring.
"He's got a heck of an arm," defensive end Brian Robison said. "So he's definitely a deep threat in the passing game.
"When we get him in those passing situations, what we need to do is make sure we get around him, making him nervous in the pocket, and get some hits on him – not allow him to take those shots with those wide receivers out there," Robison added.
Over the first four weeks of the season, Osweiler is 90-of-146 passing (61.6 percent) for 949 yards, five touchdowns and a passer rating of 74.8. He's also thrown six interceptions.
"From what we've seen on tape, if you can get around his feet a little bit, he'll throw the DBs some balls," Robison said.
Against the Giants last week, the Vikings had no sacks and only two quarterback hits of Eli Manning. They put plenty of pressure on the two-time-Super-Bowl quarterback, however, forcing him to make a number of quick throws and finishing with a completion rate of only 55 percent. In addition to Xavier Rhodes picking off Manning, Minnesota's defense also held New York's three starting receivers to 103 yards, collectively.
"It just shows our versatility," linebacker Anthony Barr said after Monday's game. "We can press you. We can play coverage, stop the run. On any given day, I think we're able to do it."
While the Vikings certainly would have liked to get Manning on the ground a few more times, the defenders understand that the proof is in the pudding – and the recipe doesn't always include sacks.
Robison said it's not always about the number of sacks a team can get – it's more about making the quarterback nervous. In fact, he views sacks as a bit of a skewed stat. According to Robison, continuously putting pressure on or hitting a quarterback can actually prove more unsettling to him than a sack here and there.
"I mean, you can go into a game and you can get five sacks, but if that's the only time you get to a quarterback, he might throw for 350 yards," Robison explained. "But if you're in there and only get 2-3 sacks, but you're hitting the guy another 15 times and you're around him another 20 times, then he's under duress the whole game.
"He doesn't know what to do," Robison added. "Instead of being able to look downfield and look for his deep threats, he's looking up front to see where the guys are coming."
Robison and his comrades on the line maintain this mentality each week, and they're hoping to spend a lot of time around Osweiler on Sunday – and hopefully put a couple of smacks on him, too.
Game planning for the Texans, whom the Vikings last played in 2012, is a bit tricky, however. Robison explained that Houston has been tailoring itself so specifically for each opponent that it's difficult to know exactly which Texans team you'll be facing.
Like a chameleon, the Texans change from week to week as they adapt to their opposition.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said it creates a unique challenge for Minnesota defensively.
"When you look at them through the course of the season, offensively, it's kind of been a different schematic for each defense that they've faced," Edwards told Twin Cities media members Thursday. "It's a culmination of different concepts that they've shown each week in the passing game, selective runs from week to week.
"They are very flexible, present a lot of problems offensively, as far as matchups and leverage and those types of deals," Edwards continued. "They're a good offensive unit."
The Vikings are expecting Houston to game plan for their defense, which has six interceptions, five forced fumbles and ranks second in the league for sacks (15.0). Robison said they understand that the Texans will attempt to quiet their unit's best players and get through the front lines.
"So we have to do what we have to do in order to be successful," Robison said. "We know that every week from here on out, teams are going to try to take our d-line out of the game, and they're going to try to hit some screen passes and things like that. So what we have to do is, we have to be able to tackle very well, and we have to keep causing those turnovers."