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Vikings Defense On Mend, But Still Harping on 2-Minute Drills

EAGAN, Minn. — It appears the Vikings will get some defensive reinforcements for Thursday night's game against the Steelers.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson was activated off the Reserve/COVID-19 list and fully participated in practice Tuesday, meaning the veteran is in line to play after missing Sunday's game against the Lions.

Linebackers Anthony Barr (knee/hamstring) and Eric Kendricks (biceps) also did not play against Detroit.

Barr made it clear about his game status on Tuesday.

"Yeah, I'll be playing," said Barr, who then expanded on the frustration of playing in just six games this season.

"It sucks, to put it simply," Barr said. "I feel like I was playing pretty good up until I tweaked [my hamstring] against the 49ers.

"So, it's one of those things where I have to figure out how to stay healthy and get back on the field," Barr added.

Both Barr and Kendricks were full participants in Tuesday's practice, lending confidence for the latter's progress.

"He's a playmaker, a baller," Vikings safety Xavier Woods said of Kendricks. "I'm pretty sure he leads the team in tackles, so we know what his job is going to be, he's going to do his job and we can rely on him. Hopefully we can do the same.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said having Barr (and potentially Kendricks) back in the lineup against the Steelers would be a boost for the whole unit.

"Well, it's just different players when you've got two really good linebackers in there," Zimmer said. "Now you find out the day before the game that some guys have got to play different spots, so it's tough on them."

Minnesota also added defensive tackles Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson back into the mix last week, meaning the defense could only be without its starting defensive ends (Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen) on Thursday Night Football.

That might be a best-case scenario given the fact that it's early December.

"It's good to get [almost] all of the gang back," Woods said. "It's a blessing to be able to have, at this point of the league, have most of all your guys back.

"It's tough to have all 11 from start to finish, but to have the majority of your guys at this point and to be in the position we're in to continue in the playoff push is a blessing," Woods added.

But no matter who is in Thursday night for the Vikings defense, it's clear Minnesota needs to focus on finding success in the final two minutes of either half.

The lowlight of that area came Sunday when the Vikings allowed a game-winning drive that ended with a Lions touchdown on the final play of regulation.

"We just didn't execute that play," Woods said. "That's how we usually align; we just didn't execute."

The final two minutes of both halves have been a bugaboo for Minnesota in 2021.

The Vikings have allowed 101 total points in the final two minutes of a half this season, with 72 of them being allowed just before halftime.

Minnesota's opponents have totaled 308 points on the season, so roughly one-third of all scoring has occurred in 48 of a possible 720 minutes of games.

Zimmer said a few weeks ago that he condensed the playbook to allow for less confusion, but Minnesota has still allowed points in such situations in the past five games.

Safety Harrison Smith called the issue the team's "Achilles heel" after the recent loss to the Lions, while cornerback Bashaud Breeland emphasized the importance of making plays last week.

"We got to stop the offense," Breeland said. "We stop the offense, and you win.

"Really try to not give up points before half, field goals or position to get anything going," Breeland added. "But our defense we had our ups and downs in two minutes, and sometimes we win. But we're going to fix it."

The Vikings have five regular-season games left, meaning they have 10 chances for better results in 2-minute situations the rest of the way.

"You just have to come out Thursday and perform," Woods said.