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Terence Newman: Vikings Defense Needs To Stop Pressing

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — At 38 years old, cornerback Terence Newman is the elder statesman of the Vikings locker room.

Now in his 14th season, Newman knows as well as anyone that a 16-game season is a marathon and not a sprint.

But with the Vikings having tripped and fallen of late with a four-game losing streak, the 2003 first-round pick knows this isn't the time to panic. Newman said Monday that each Vikings defensive player needs to focus on his own assignment.

"We had some games where we had a bunch a takeaways, a bunch of sacks (and) a bunch of stops," Newman said. "Then guys start trying to do that and keeping doing that, and you start to press and do too much. You start to do things that create gaps and create seams and whatnot.

"We just have to get back to doing technical things and be confident in what we're doing on defense," he added. "Just play our part and let the guys next to us do their part, and hopefully we all come together at the end of the play, and everyone has done their job, and we win."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer agreed with Newman's notion that some players are trying to make a game-breaking play every down. Zimmer said that mindset is a byproduct of a strong desire to win.

"When you're struggling and you've got a bunch of really good guys, guys that really care, guys tend to try to do too much, including myself," Zimmer said. "Instead of allowing guys to make plays, you try to make plays for them.

"We just need to settle down," he added. "We need to do what we do. Get back to being the Vikings defense again."

Minnesota's defense has especially struggled to get off the field on third downs during the four-game skid.

The Vikings allowed opponents to convert on 23 of 68 (33.8 percent) third-down tries during the season-opening five-game win streak. Over the past four games, Minnesota has allowed first downs on 23 of 51 third-down tries, good for a 45.1 percent mark.

"Oftentimes when you have a slump, guys try to make some plays and that's when things really go bad," Newman said. "You turn on the tape and you can see that."

Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn didn't play Sunday because of an ankle injury. Even from his spot on the couch, however, Munnerlyn sensed the frustration.

"Defensively, I can speak for the defense, we feel like we're trying to make every play," Munnerlyn said. "We're going out there, we're trying to do entirely too much and trying to make every play.

"One guy who has a job and his job is to stay outside, he has to stay outside so the other guy can come and make the play," he added. "We just have to go back to that, go back to the drawing board and get back to playing Vikings-style defense."

In the locker room Monday, an honest Newman pointed out that the Vikings have problems they're trying to correct.

But as the veteran knows, all it takes is a single win to turn things around.

"Everybody believes we can still do the things we want to do. We're not going to go undefeated, obviously, and we're not going to win every game at home," Newman said. "But we still have a chance to possibly win the division, make it to the playoffs and see what happens.

"At the end of the day, I think guys have all gone through something throughout their lives, growing up and whatnot, that has not been in their favor," he added. "We've all had to fight and we're all in this together so we're going to fight together. That's all we can do."

Thielen, offense want to replicate second-quarter success

The Vikings offense was red-hot Sunday in the second quarter. Minnesota scored all of its points and racked up 200 yards of total offense on four drives, three of which ended with touchdowns.

So, what worked?

"Just execution," said Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. "All 11 guys doing their job, when the ball's in the air making plays, converting third downs, third-and-shorts, just keeping drives going.

"When we keep drives going, good things happen for this team," he added.

Thielen capped off the first half with a 2-yard touchdown catch that gave Minnesota its first lead of the game. But the Vikings were shutout in the second half as they fell 26-20 in Washington.

Thielen said Minnesota's offense can build off of what worked in the second quarter.

"I think that's kind of where our confidence is from," Thielen said. "We have a lot of guys that can make plays, and we just need to kind of let that happen. 

"When you have one guy make a bad play there and one guy make a bad play here, that's when drives stop," he added.

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