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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings defense should now be considered NFL’s best

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings have lost their starting quarterback, starting running back and starting left tackle and they have still beaten Marcus Mariota, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton thanks to terrific defensive performances in all three games. The Vikings’ victory against Carolina on Sunday was a Mike Zimmer masterpiece.

Newton started the day on fire, giving the Panthers a 10-0 lead on a rushing touchdown after a seven-play, 57-yard drive. It appeared Minnesota could be in for a much stiffer challenge with Newton than they faced with the previous two quarterbacks. But the Vikings’ defense came around, mirroring the Denver Broncos’ Week 1 approach against Newton, attacking last year’s MVP, sacking him eight times for 64 yards lost and intercepting him three times.

An injury to his ankle may have played a role. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who dominated the middle for a third straight game, fell on Newton’s leg, causing him to miss one play. After he returned, the star quarterback lacked his usual unshakable confidence in the pocket and was non-existent in the rushing game, gaining just 26 yards on the ground.

In the first two games of the season, Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin appeared to be rising toward superstardom. The Vikings made sure fantasy players with Benjamin went home sad on Sunday. The first time Newton was able to target his No. 1 wide receiver was with under two minutes remaining. It’s nice to have Xavier Rhodes back, huh.

Like the Titans and Packers before them, the Panthers were unable to run the ball effectively. They totaled 105 yards on 28 carries, but received only 79 yards on 3.8 Yards Per Carry from their running backs.

The Vikings came into the game ranking third in the NFL in Yards Per Play, giving up just 4.5 per snap. Their performance against the Panthers was even better as Carolina managed just 4.2 per play.

The Week 3 win over the Panthers made one thing clear (with no disrespect to the great Seattle and Denver defenses): Zimmer’s defense deserves to be considered the best in the NFL. Yes, it’s only been three weeks, but they have played tougher opponents than the other top defending teams and these are sustainable results.

Hot take or nah: Vikings should be considered the best defense in the NFL

— Matthew Coller (@MatthewColler) September 25, 2016

It isn’t just that the Vikings have a head coach with proven results (fifth in the NFL last year), it’s the pure talent and depth they have amassed on the defensive side. Everson Griffen, Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr and Linval Joseph are proven Pro Bowl-level talents and in their primes. Up front, the depth has allowed Zimmer to use his personnel to the situation. He has brought in Tom Johnson for pass-rushing situations and Shamar Stephen to shut down the run.

If Xavier Rhodes is healthy, the one potential weakness of having to play Trae Waynes 1-on-1 with some of the league’s top receivers will not be an issue. With his size and skill, Rhodes matches up well against some of the bigger receivers in the league like Kelvin Benjamin, Jordy Nelson, Alshon Jeffery and so on. He will have a serious challenge next week against Odell Beckham Jr.

And match-ups against great offenses and offensive players certainly don’t end in Week 3. Eli Manning has two Super Bowls, Carson Wentz may end up being the next big thing and DeSean Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant are still on the way.

But the Vikings have the coach and players to keep leading wins. And they may need more Broncos-esque performances now when their offense has first halfs like they did against the Panthers.

The post Vikings defense should now be considered NFL’s best appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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