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Vikings Look to Stiffen Run Defense Against Seahawks

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer wasn't too pleased with his team's run defense in Friday's preseason opening win over Cincinnati.

Zimmer said Tuesday that the performance against the ground game wasn't as bad as it initially seemed, but added his team has plenty to fix heading into Thursday night's tilt against Seattle.

"My expectation level is pretty high," Zimmer said. "After going back and watching the tape, there were a lot of things that were correctable.

"We gave them some plays that we shouldn't be giving them, and that's what bothered me," he added. "Like I said before, I thought we were soft in the running game with our linebackers, not so much with the first group but the seconds mostly."

The Vikings gave up 90 yards on 28 carries for an average of 3.2 yards per carry. That's a better average than the 4.25 yards per carry the defense allowed in 2015 when the unit ranked 17th in the NFL and gave up 109.3 rushing yards per game.

Defensive end Brian Robison is entering his 10th season in the league. The veteran Viking said he and his teammates simply need to improve their run defense in various situations.

"Preseason is preseason, and a lot of times, you can't exactly get a gauge of what's going on in the preseason because the stuff is kind of dumbed down and things like that, but at the end of the day, we've got to go out and make plays," Robison said. "We've got to do a better job of when we get offenses in second and long of not giving them those third-and-1s, third-and-2s, third-and-3s.

"If we can keep them backed up behind the chains, it allows us to kind of pin our ears back and go after the passer and really wreak some havoc on their offense," he added. "We've got to do a better job of that on second-and-longs."

The Bengals faced third-and-1 on four consecutive third-down attempts during their second possession Thursday, converting all of them by rushing for a total of nine yards.

The Vikings now turn their attention to the Seahawks, who ranked third in the NFL last season with 141.8 rushing yards per game.

Seattle doesn't have running back Marshawn Lynch anymore. "Beast Mode" retired this offseason. And with Thomas Rawls on the mend from an ankle injury, Christine Michael took the bulk of the carries in Seattle's preseason opener Saturday in Kansas City.

Michael carried seven times for 44 yards, primarily working with quarterback Russell Wilson out of the shotgun on Seattle's first drive before lining up in the backfield the next possession.

Michael, who had four runs of eight yards or more against the Chiefs, could provide another test for a Minnesota defense looking to be better than they were last week. An additional element could be the mobility of quarterbacks. Wilson didn't have a rush attempt in limited action, but rookie QB Trevone Boykin rushed three times for 21 yards in Kansas City.

"We were giving up too many yards on first down and getting ourselves in a bad situation," said Vikings linebacker Audie Cole. "It's something we've got to work on.

"I'm not worried at the moment," he added. "I think we're going to be fine. We've just got to clean some things up."

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