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Ticketmaster Hot Matchup: Vikings Air Defense vs. Buffalo's Air Attack

View images from the Wednesday, October 15 practice at Winter Park.

The Vikings pass defense has been markedly improved under first-year head coach Mike Zimmer.

While there is room for more improvement yet this season, the numbers are clearly trending in the right direction and represent significant improvement, particularly considering the caliber of opponent the Vikings have seen early in the 2014 season (Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford).

But the Buffalo Bills represent another tough challenge for the Vikings air defense. Their air attack features plenty of explosive playmakers at the disposal of QB Kyle Orton. The matchup between the Vikings suddenly improving air defense and the Bills air attack is the subject of this week's Ticketmaster Hot Matchup.

Key to the Vikings improvement against the pass has been the play of the top three cornerbacks – Captain Munnerlyn, Xavier Rhodes and Josh Robinson. All three have played in each game this season and they've combined for 15 pass breakups (PBUs). Last week against Detroit, this trio was part of an effort that allowed just 10 receptions on 20 targets to Lions wide receivers, with a modest per-catch average of 6.4 yards.

"That's kind of always been my mantra with the corners, and people don't realize this and everybody wants to get interceptions, I got that, but there's something to be said about your guy not catching the ball and them having to go somewhere else," Zimmer said. "To me, that's a big value if my guy isn't catching the ball because I can worry about other things and maybe I'm the only one that thinks that way but I do."

Buffalo's pass catchers have been doing just that – catching the ball – of late. Since Orton took over as starter in Week 5, the Bills are completing 66.7% of their passes. In the past two weeks, leading receiver Sammy Watkins has hauled in 60% of his targets, TE Scott Chandler has emerged with 10 receptions for 126 yards on 15 targets, and running backs Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller have combined for 14 catches.

"We're very aware of what they do," Zimmer said, "and then obviously [Sammy] Watkins is a tremendous receiver and [Robert] Woods I think has come a long way, he looks good, he's very competitive. [Scott] Chandler, the tight end, and then obviously the two backs. We've got to get better at what we do."

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