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Tackling a Primary Pride for Vikings Secondary

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Eight yards separated Terence Newman from Matt Forte.

Newman closed ground quickly, however, making it up-field five yards and forcing Forte to try to bounce outside. The cornerback laid out, wrapped around Forte's feet and dragged him to the ground.

It was just one of 12 total tackles (coaches' tally) by Newman in Chicago, tying the 13-year pro's career high, but was an impressive play made in space.

The kind that help defenses rise in rankings, the kind the Vikings secondary invests its pride.

"That's big-time for us. I think a lot of people, when they think of the secondary, they don't think tackling, said safety Harrison Smith, who leads the Vikings with 57 tackles. "They think of just trying to cover people.

"Some corners are not tackling and stuff like that, but we don't have corners like that, we don't have a nickel like that," Smith continued. "We don't have safeties that shy away from contact. Each guy has that pride, and as a unit we all have that pride."

Newman, 37, showed speed that defies his age, and technique so refined because of it.

"He made a lot of great plays for us," Brian Robison said. "There were a couple of plays we saw that could have gotten out the gate a little bit on us, but he was able to make some plays. He's a crafty veteran so he knows how to kind of not take those hits but still get the guys down on the ground."

Added Head Coach Mike Zimmer: "Terence is tough. He tackles well. Xavier tackles well. I don't think we have corners in there that can't tackle. That's part of their job."

The Vikings secondary accounted for 39 of the 71 tackles recorded against the Bears, including 23 of the 44 solo stops on the day.

Andrew Sendejo posted nine, and Smith had eight. Rhodes and nickel back Captain Munnerlyn had five apiece.

In addition to providing run support (the longest rush allowed was 14 yards), the Vikings nullified attempts the Bears made on quick receiver screens at the edge.

"(Newman and Rhodes are) making tackles and are physical. You see Terence taking on offensive linemen, Sendejo taking down offensive linemen, so there's a lot of physical guys on the back end," Smith said. "Fans and everybody love the big hit, and I get it, that makes everybody excited, but if you're getting penalties and stuff, that's going to hurt the team, so like I said, tackling, making solid tackles, making the one-on-one tackles in space, which I think people don't appreciate but are really hard to do and a big difference in the game."

Sendejo has 50 tackles on the season, which is tied for second on the team with rookie middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, who has been ruled out* *this week because of a ribs injury. Anthony Barr has 42, and Newman has 41.

The secondary's ability to provide run support could be tested mightily this week by Rams running back Todd Gurley, who is the first rookie in NFL history to have more than 125 yards rushing in his first four starts.

Cole into the role:Audie Cole could get the call to fill in for Kendricks. Cole is capable of playing all three linebacker positions but has the most experience manning the middle.

"I think every year you play you're going to get more comfortable, and it's just experience," Cole said. "So far, the defense is playing great, so if they need me, I'll step in and fill in like I need to.

You've got to be ready at all times. That's how you stay around and how you do something, so whenever you get the chance, you've got to go make the play."

Cole started the final game of the 2014 season at weakside linebacker in place of Chad Greenway and led the Vikings with 14 tackles. He started the first two preseason games at middle linebacker this season and has played in a goal-line package and on special teams this year.

"He's a smart guy, he's very passionate about his job," Zimmer said. "He's always looking for an opportunity to show what he can do. Most of the time when he's had those opportunities he's done well. He takes a lot of pride in his job, he's a great team guy, adds a lot of value to us regardless of what he's doing, if it's special teams, playing defense or whatever."

Margin has mattered: Mike Wobschall typically handles fan questions via the Monday Morning Mailbag (click here for this week's installment), but I received a great one this week from David Beaulieu from Woodbury.

David asked about the Vikings record when Minnesota has won or lost the turnover margin since 2011. His hunch was right that Sunday's win against the Bears, when the Vikings were minus-1 in turnover margin but won, was a departure from recent history.

Since 2011, the Vikings are 6-22-1 when they've lost the turnover margin; 18-11 when they've won it and 6-7 when teams have had the same number or zero turnovers.

Injury reports: For the Vikings, in addition to Kendricks, Sharrif Floyd and Justin Trattou have been ruled out. Barr is questionable, and Joe Berger, Stefon Diggs, Everson Griffen, Tom Johnson, Rhett Ellison, T.J. Clemmings and Smith are probable.

For the Rams, Chris Long has been ruled out. Robert Quinn, William Hayes, Tre Mason, Chase Reynolds, Rob Havenstein and T.J. McDonald are questionable for Sunday. Click here for the full injury reports for both teams.

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