There is only one thing on Vikings fans’ minds in Week 15: hoping for a rebound performance from the Vikings’ defense. The Vikings host the Indianapolis Colts in another potential division title-clinching opportunity on Saturday, and their defense needs to show they have made adjustments.
Vikings Need To Hold Colts To Under 400 Yards
I’ll start by saying that the sky is not, nor should it be, falling in Minnesota. The Vikings are still 10-3 on the season and have proven they can beat good teams in close games. However, the defense of the Vikings has put together a bad pattern of statically cringe-worthy performances.
They have allowed more than 400 yards of total offense to each of their last five opponents (in four of those games the yardage was close to 500), and their opponents ran for well over 100 yards in four of those games. The yardage allowed is not the only factor in wins, as this Vikings team has proven they can compensate with a great offense and with being opportunistic on defense. But for this team to regain its defensive confidence and calm down the fanbase, they will need to make a statement on Saturday by posting a more respectable yards-allowed number.
Rush The Passer, Rush The Passer
Rush. The. Passer. Rush. The. Passer. Ok, I’m done, sorry. I just need to see this team get to the quarterback. We have the talent to do so, or so it appears, but opposing quarterbacks are getting way too much time to think and get comfortable in the pocket. Last week, the Vikings only mustered three QB hits on Jared Goff. So, who or what’s the culprit?
At first, I thought we just needed to blitz more, but this was proven wrong in the game against the Jets. Though stats aren’t everything, I still want the Vikings to rush more than four with a higher frequency. Our secondary can only cover for so long. I also blame the fact that perhaps too often Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter are being dropped back into coverage when we should be focusing on getting them to meet at the quarterback. Regardless of what’s to blame, this team has to get better at rushing the passer, as we have been exposed when we match up with above-average offensive lines.
Rush The Pa- (just kidding) Ball
I have decided I do not care about how I have become a broken record here, but we have to get a consistent run game going with Dalvin Cook. Our offense has done amazing things this season, and I can only imagine how many points we’d have scored if we had continued some more drives.
The game against Detroit last week was a good mirror for the Vikings. We saw both Kirk Cousins and Jared Goff have great games through the air, and of course, Justin Jefferson went off. But the Lions edged us in the rushing category. They ran for 134 yards to our 22, which is a little skewed because 42 of those yards for the Lions were on C.J. Moore’s fake punt conversion. So they didn’t exactly dominate on the ground, but their line was constantly getting a push, and it helped their offense. The Vikings, on the other hand, were one-dimensional, and this played a role in Kirk getting sacked four times.
Alright, Back To Defense
I know I said the only key to Saturday’s game was the play of the Vikings’ defense, but I just had to mention our running game as well. Because aside from that, our offense is explosive, intelligent, and relatively consistent, and also should get the services of left tackle Christian Darrisaw back this week.
So, the other thing I’m watching this week is defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. More and more fans are calling for a change at DC, and while I’m not there yet, he is getting harder to defend. Regardless of plays lost due to poor player execution, this alarming trend of the Vikings’ defense has to fall on his shoulders. I want to see him break out of his “shell” a little bit on Saturday. I want to see more variety, and as I mentioned earlier, I want the Vikings’ D to make a statement. Donatell has an opportunity to help Vikings fans relax this weekend, and I hope he accomplishes this.
How About An X-Factor?
We need all defensive hands on deck to rebound against the Colts, so I’m going to pick a defensive X-factor. I like D.J. Wonnum to make a momentum-shifting play this week. Wonnum is a guy who I’ve always liked as a complementary pass-rushing player, but I don’t feel like I’ve seen him enough this season.
Now, he has played around 50% of the defensive snaps in most games this season, so I know I’m literally seeing him on the field. But, I want to see him after a big play. I want to hear the commentators call him out after a strip sack or a key tackle-for-loss. This is also assuming our bigger-name players show out as well, but as I said, I think every player on this defense needs to make their presence known so they can have that statement performance we Vikings fans would love to see.
The bad news initially is that Blake Brandel was sent to the IR, but the good news is that Christian Darrisaw will return to start on Saturday. The final injury report listed five Vikings as questionable, but of these five, Cameron Dantzler, Harrison Phillips, and Danielle Hunter, are all likely to play.
On the Indianapolis side of the ball, they look to be a bit depleted in the secondary with Kenny Moore II ruled out and Brandon Facyson doubtful, but had a relatively small list of designations.
While our defense has indeed begun to scare me, I trust this coaching staff, and I trust our offense’s ability to score on anyone. I think the Vikings take this one 31-17 and clinch the NFC North title.
I expect the same greatness from Justin Jefferson, and maybe even a Jalen Reagor sighting in this one. The Colts will linger longer than we want them to, but then D.J. Wonnum’s first sack since Week Nine will set up the Vikings’ offense for a scoring drive that will put the game out of reach late in the third.
One More Thing
The Vikings can win the NFC North this week with a win or a Lions’ loss, but I want to go on record saying that I want us to win to clinch the division. It may seem trivial, but this team needs a rebound performance, and I would be pumped for SKOLnation to see our guys take the division crown in Week 15.