EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The past two weeks — a 34-7 win against the Bengals and a 16-0 blanking of the Packers — have vaulted the Vikings defense to the tops of the NFL in yards allowed and points allowed.
Minnesota recorded its first shutout since 1993 (against Detroit), its second ever against Green Bay and first at Lambeau Field on Saturday.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said the rare shutout is a “credit to our guys.”
“They really worked their butts off in preparation for that game,” Edwards said. “Dealt with the elements, dealt with the adjustments that we had to make and went out and executed. I’m happy for those guys to be able to go out and do it.”
The Vikings rank first in the NFL in total yards allowed (280.9) and points allowed (16.1) per game.
A strong finish against the Bears, who are averaging 293.2 yards and 16.9 points per game, on Sunday could help Minnesota lead the league in both categories for the first time since 1970.
“We’ve heard, but our focus and concentration right now is solely on getting ready for Chicago because we know we’ve got to go get this running game stopped and be able to contain them in the passing game,” Edwards said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us this week.”
Here are other topics discussed by Edwards, Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer on Thursday:
Edwards on Smith’s consistent play
Vikings safety Harrison Smith notched his first career multi-interception game last week at Green Bay, bringing his season total to five and giving him 17 career picks.
In addition to twice last week, when Smith was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week, Smith intercepted Hundley in Week 6.
Smith’s second interception of the season occurred at Chicago the previous week when he swiped an offering from Mitchell Trubisky in the rookie quarterback’s first start.
In addition to the key takeaways, which may or may not happen for various reasons, Edwards said the Vikings can consistently count on Smith’s consistency.
“I think Harrison Smith is one of the most consistent players that we have,” Edwards said. “The one thing you can count on, you know what you’re getting every day with him.
“His preparation going into a football game is going to allow him to line up and decipher what they’re doing and also be able to communicate with other guys what to anticipate and what is going on,” Edwards continued. “I think he is one of the best safeties around. What he brings to the table is definitely a benefit for us.”
Shurmur on Keenum’s mobility
On a night when conditions for throwing and catching the ball were less than ideal, Case Keenum completed 14 of 25 passes for a season-low 139 yards. Beyond a well-placed touchdown to Stefon Diggs, one of the most memorable plays was a scramble that ended with him finding David Morgan for a gain of 23, the longest pass gain of the night for either team.
Shurmur said Keenum’s mobility has helped the Vikings offense.
“Number one, people think first of his ability to extend plays, which he’s been able to do,” Shurmur said. “I think it’s super important that you move the pocket for the quarterback. There’s various ways to do that, we try to employ many of them. I think he moves in the pocket well, where he clears his sight lines so he can make a throw. Those are all the elements of mobility.
“At some point, when it breaks down and he has to take off and run, he does a good job of getting positive yardage. Typically, if you’re going to drive the ball against these good defenses, somewhere in a long scoring drive, the quarterback has to do something with his feet. He’s been able to do that.”
Shurmur on Diggs’ game at Green Bay
Diggs led the Vikings with five catches for 60 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown on a frigid night in Green Bay.
Diggs did the brunt of his damage early, delivering a 17-yard reception on Minnesota’s first pass and putting the Vikings up 10-0 in the first quarter with impressive footwork on a 4-yard touchdown catch.
Shurmur was asked about getting Diggs involved early.
“It’s important; he needs to be involved in the game plan, he needs to get his touches. We were fortunate to get him the ball early,” Shurmur said. “Certainly, he did a nice job on the touchdown catch as well. A very competitive, energetic guy. He certainly has meant a lot to us this season. So, we need to get him involved early and keep him involved throughout the game.”
Priefer on long snappers
Morgan had to step in and relieve Kevin McDermott after the long snapper suffered an injury late in the first half. Priefer said Morgan “did a great job.”
“I’m real proud of him and really a lot of guys stepped up,” Priefer said. “The guards on punt team had to help David in protection and guards on the field goal protection team had to help him in the field goal protection. The holder and kicker did a great job, and obviously [Ryan] Quigley did a great job as the punter, too. A lot of people had to step up for us to help us be successful.”
McDermott is rehabbing the shoulder injury, and the Vikings signed Jeff Overbaugh this week.
“They’ve told me [McDermott] has a chance [to return in the playoffs], and other than that we’re going to go business as usual with a new snapper and go as long as we need to go with Jeff, and he’ll do a great job for us.”
Priefer said he and Assistant General Manager George Paton met for about 45 minutes to review potential replacements.
The Vikings assessed Overbaugh at the 2016 Reese’s Senior Bowl and noticed he had been invited to workouts with other teams.
Priefer said the Alaska native was “a little bit more consistent” than other candidates during a workout with the Vikings this week.
Priefer on Forbath’s 49-yard kick
The temperature last Saturday was 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and it only dropped from there.
Kai Forbath was able, however, to give Minnesota an early lead with a 49-yard blast that had room to spare.
Forbath added field goals of 20 and 27 yards in the second half on snaps by Morgan after the Vikings offense moved the ball within a range that Minnesota believed was close enough.
“Yes, I think a 49-yarder with David would not have been attempted,” Priefer said. “We may have either punted or gone for it on fourth down, but depending on situation.
“If we needed one at the end of the game, of course,” Priefer said. “But I told Kai, in front of the whole group when we had our field goal meeting and showed that tape from Saturday night, that there’s not many kickers in the NFL, in NFL history, that have gone into Lambeau and kicked a 49-yarder in those conditions. I mean that was a heck of a kick and a huge kick for us in that game.”