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Monday Morning Mailbag: Evaluating an Efficient Win

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What a great game. It was really fun to watch. This was the game I wanted to see on Monday Night. We had a fight and came out on top. Do you see us maintaining this level throughout the season? We had ups and downs for the last few season. Looking forward to consistency this year. -- Mike Boswell Goodwin, SD

I do believe you'll see this year's Vikings team play at a consistent level this season. But keep in mind, every team is going to have ups and downs every season. That is the nature of this great game. Look at last year's Super Bowl champions – the New England Patriots. They were 2-2 after four games and some were questioning whether QB Tom Brady was done or not. But from that point forward, the Patriots turned up the heat played very well. Then, in the AFC Divisional Playoff, they were down 14 points two separate times to the Baltimore Ravens before they eventually won the game. If you look back at the four teams who played in the two conference championship games last season – Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England and Seattle – you will see that their combined record after two games was 3-5. Ups and downs will come and go, the key is how a team can respond to adversity and whether a team can continue to improve each day. Those are the lessons Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer tries to teach his team each day.

The Vikings defense looked great against the Lions. But it seemed like our pass rush was lacking. We had just one sack that I can recall. What do they need to do to get those sacks up? -- Justin Peterson

The Vikings did have one sack on Sunday – Everson Griffen recorded one to move his season total to 1.5. When you consider QB Matthew Stafford had 53 dropbacks, one sack doesn't make it seem like the pass rush was a factor. But in watching the game on Sunday, it never looked like Stafford settled into a groove and I can remember several times when he was picking himself up off the ground following a hit. So while the sack numbers weren't high, I do think the pass rush was influential on Stafford. I give Stafford a ton of credit for hanging in the pocket and delivering throws in the face of pressure, too. Ultimately, pass rush is not about tallying up sacks. It's about working in tandem with pass coverage to form a good pass defense, and that's what the Vikings defense did on Sunday. Stafford did throw for 286 yards and two touchdowns, but he also turned it over once, had a yards per attempt average of just 5.40 and never appeared to be in any sort of rhythm.

Why wasn't the passing game effective against Detroit and what do we need to do to get more passing yards in future games? -- Bill Keech Le Center, MN

QB Teddy Bridgewater didn't have a 300-yard passing game, but that doesn't mean the passing game was ineffective. I would argue the passing game was very effective against Detroit. Bridgewater completed 77.8% of his passes for a per-pass average of 8.50 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Also, Bridgewater was exceptionally good with his 3rd down passing, where he was 7 of 8 for 112 yards with four conversions in eight attempts. One reason the passing yardage number wasn't higher was because there weren't a lot of attempts, which was due to some combination of the Vikings game plan for this particular opponent along with the fact that the Vikings were leading for most of the game and that yields more rushing attempts than passing attempts. The passing game gets an A+ rating on Sunday, don't let the yardage total fool you.

Is there another safety you would rather have than Harrison Smith? -- Kraig Wurst @kraigwurst

There are a lot of good safeties in the NFL, but Smith is among the best and he looks to me to be a perfect fit for Zimmer's defense because of his versatility. Smith can play coverage, he can blitz and he is tough against the run. This type of complete skill set is a great tool for Zimmer because of how many different things Zimmer likes to do. He was all over the field on Sunday, registering at least a handful of tackles plus adding a QB hit plus a forced fumble. On top of all that, he is a popular player in the locker room, he's a good leader and he brings an attitude to the defense that is important.

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