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Lunchbreak: How the Vikings Defense Could Improve on Already Strong Numbers

Halfway through the season, the Vikings defense ranks fourth overall in yards allowed per game (282.1) and is third in points allowed per game (16.9).

Some believe those numbers could be even better.

John Holler of Viking Update recently wrote that while Minnesota's defense has been stellar through eight games, the unit could actually rank higher in certain categories if not for chunks of yards and touchdowns by opponents that have come late in games.

Holler pointed to games against the Saints, Buccaneers, Packers and Ravens as examples of where the Vikings defense dominated for most of the game, only to see the opponent rack up late yards or a last-minute score that made the game appear closer than it was.

Holler wrote:

The Vikings haven't allowed more than two touchdowns in any game this season and have held seven of their eight opponents to 19 points or fewer. **

In and of itself, those numbers alone are reason for optimism that the Vikings have what it takes to make a legitimate Super Bowl run despite numerous offensive injuries. **

But what makes their defensive effort so impressive is that, if not for having big leads in so many games and dropping into prevent defenses, the Vikings would be even more dominating than their current numbers suggest. **

The Vikings are allowing 282 yards a game, but that figure doesn't accurately reflect just how oppressive they have been. … **

When you consider how hard it is to limit teams to 282 yards a game, what the Vikings have done in non- garbage time has been even more impressive. **

The Vikings have twice had a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter and seen an opponent score in the final two minutes of regulation.

Cronin: Vikings offensive line was 1st-half MVP

The first and most pressing priority for the Vikings this past offseason was shoring up an offensive line that struggled with injuries and inconsistent play in 2016.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman did just that, adding Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers in free agency and later drafting center Pat Elflein in the third round. 

The improved unit has played a crucial role in Minnesota's 6-2 start, which is why ESPN writer Courtney Cronin tabbed the entire group as the midseason MVP.

Cronin wrote:

Minnesota saw big payouts after rebuilding its offensive line through free agency and the 2017 draft. The offense's success is a direct correlation to this unit, which featured new starters at every position, including a rookie at center. A year ago, the Vikings struggled to run the ball more than 75 yards per game.

Case Keenum's mobility is one of his most underappreciated skills, but he has been pressured on only 28 percent of his dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Info, thanks in part to an O-line that has allowed him to be one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in the league.

Minnesota's offensive line has allowed just 10 sacks, which is the second-fewest in the NFL.

The Vikings currently rank 13th overall with 358.5 yards per game. Minnesota ranked 28th in 2016 with 315.1 yards per game. 

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