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Vikings Pass Defense Stopping QBs in Preseason


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings have squared off against three of the better quarterbacks in the NFL so far this preseason.

Cincinnati's Andy Dalton was up first, followed by Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and then San Diego's Philip Rivers.

Yet, as Minnesota has faced the challenges presented by each signal-caller, the Vikings pass defense has risen to the occasion and gotten better each game.

Dalton compiled a passer rating of 93.3 in limited work (4-of-5 passing for 32 yards) while the Vikings held Wilson to a 69.1 rating and 77 yards on a 5-for-11 night in Seattle. Minnesota saved its best the most recent game, limiting Rivers to a passing rating of just 33.8. Rivers, whose career passer rating is 95.5 over 12 seasons, played most of the first half Sunday inside U.S. Bank Stadium and finished 5-for-9 with 54 yards and an interception.

"We feel like we've been hitting on all cylinders for a while," said Vikings defensive end Brian Robison. "We did a lot of great things in OTAs and we picked it right back up when we got to training camp.

"I think we've been headed in the right direction for the last few weeks," he added. "We've just got to keep moving forward."

The Vikings have also seen their opponents overall passer ratings decrease in each of the last three games.

Cincinnati's group compiled a group rating of 67.7, followed by Seattle's quarterbacks managing a 54.5 rating. San Diego's unit put together a combined passer rating of 31.9.

Opposing starting quarterbacks are a combined 14-of-25 passing for 163 yards with no touchdowns and a pick for a combined rating of 59.3. All quarterbacks combined are 55-for-106 with 673 yards and a combined rating of 51.3.

The success of Minnesota's pass defense includes all three levels, whether it's a consistent rush by linemen and linebackers, or sturdy coverage by linebackers and defensive backs.

The Vikings defense finished fifth in the NFL last season with 18.9 points allowed per game and were fourth in red zone defense by allowing a touchdown just 44.2 percent of the time.

Minnesota returned every starter from last season's defense and has a bevy of depth, two factors that have produced a successful preseason so far.

The Vikings have allowed just one passing touchdown and have intercepted opposing quarterbacks six times.

Cornerback Mackensie Alexander and safety Jayron Kearse each have two interceptions. Safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Marcus Sherels each have one.

Defensive end Justin Trattou also had a sack-strip against the Chargers as defensive end Stephen Weatherly recovered the fumble. The Vikings defense has 10 sacks in three games, with Trattou recording 4.5 of those sacks.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said strong pass defense can lead to takeaways, which can then translate into wins.

"The thing about turnovers is, if you can get them and you're doing things right, you have a chance to — I don't know if 'blowout' the team is the right word — you have the chance to get bigger leads because you're going to have more opportunities with the football," Zimmer said Sunday. "That was a good example of the things we did today."

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