As the Vikings prepare to host the Texans on Sunday and hope to enter the bye week 5-0, ESPN's Matt Bowen feels that Minnesota's defense could be dominant enough to take the team all the way to the Super Bowl.
Throughout the first four games of the season, the Vikings have allowed an average of only 12.5 points per game and lead the league in forced turnovers with 11. Bowen wrote:
The Vikings trade for Sam Bradford before the season signaled to the rest of the league that they were ready to win a Super Bowl now. And after watching the tape, it's clear they have the defense to carry them all the way.
Bowen said the Vikings have depth and skill at all three levels of defense, making them ideal for defending "modern-day NFL offenses."
Think about it: If you're an offensive coordinator, which Vikings defender do you scheme against? Is it safety Harrison Smith? […] The Vikings have multiple players like that. Scheme around one guy, and you still have a handful of others who can destroy the call sheet.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has spent the past two-plus seasons building up his defense, and Bowen called the Double-A gap blitz Zimmer's "calling card." Bowen walked readers through a number of film screen shots to illustrate Minnesota's dynamic defense.
As a coach, it's one thing to be creative on defense. A lot of guys can draw stuff up. But it's quite another to teach the proper techniques and find schemes that cater to the talent. Zimmer has built a monster striking the exact right balance.
Finally, Bowen said the Vikings defense stands out because they're able to put pressure on the quarterback throughout the entire game, even though it doesn't always show up in the sacks stat line.
When you turn on the film you can see the straight panic the Vikings are creating versus opposing quarterbacks. The confusion at the line of scrimmage, the back-foot throws and quarterbacks – especially [Aaron] Rodgers and [Cam] Newton – looking for emergency exits in the pocket.
The defenses that can get to the quarterback and challenge routes advance. Seattle showed us that. So did the Broncos. And the Vikings have the right combination of personnel and coaching to do the same.
Rhodes anchoring Vikings shut-down secondary
The Vikings secondary has done an exceptional job of containing talented receivers over the past four weeks. Most recently, Xavier Rhodes frequently matched up against the Giants Odell Beckham, Jr., and was key to holding him to just three catches for 23 yards on Monday Night Football. Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune wrote about Rhodes' impact and the Vikings overall effectiveness against receivers.
*Rhodes is the most visible portion of a defensive blanket that lately has smothered many No. 1 receivers, including Beckham, Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin, Chicago's Alshon Jeffery and Atlanta's Julio Jones, dating to Week 12 of last season. *
According to Krammer, Rhodes was responsible for all but Benjamin, and in those four games – all Vikings wins – the receivers combined for only nine catches, 89 yards and a touchdown.
*That's a mediocre game for one star, let alone as a collective effort against one defense. *
*Rhodes is not demanding to be named a "shutdown corner." He said he doesn't even ask coaches to follow an opponent's top receiver, as he could with Houston's DeAndre Hopkins on Sunday, but instead trusts a system featuring a potent mixture of talent and a head coach seen around the league as a defensive trendsetter. *
"It's the unit," Rhodes told Krammer. "It's not just shutting down a receiver. Once you stop the run, you make them one-dimensional. You make them have to pass the ball, then you can rush the passer and can [force] quicker throws and predict that to happen, then you call the right plays."
Zach Line visits Concordia Academy football team
On Tuesday, fullback Zach Line took some time out of his day to hang out with the Concordia Academy football team and share some insight with the players. The high school posted the following on its Facebook page Wednesday:
Yesterday, our football players (including members of our BEAMS 7th and 8th grade team) welcomed a very special guest. Minnesota Viking Zach Line spent time here at CA, giving players (and coaches) a practice that will no doubt be one of the highlights of their year!