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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Defense comes alive in second half and saves Vikings’ season

By Matthew Coller

Tom Johnson may have still been in a state of confusion as to why he was flagged for a hit to the chest of Carson Palmer on a play that would have ended the game, but it didn’t matter. Johnson and the Minnesota Vikings defense just chased Palmer down again, hitting him three times in the final four plays, and put a bow on a masterful second half performance – one that kept their chances of a special season alive.

Just like that, the Vikings defense announced that it’s back. Terence Newman had said, “we’re not the ’85 Bears” earlier this week. Sure aren’t, but in the last two quarters, they did a good impression in Minnesota’s 30-24 win at US Bank Stadum.

Over the final 30 minutes they sacked Palmer four times, allowed just 14 yards to star running back David Johnson and gave up 10 measly receiving yards to future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

“We went back to the basics and the things we do well,” Johnson said. “The four-man rush allowed our secondary to be aggressive and stop the receivers from getting the ball. Us four in the front were able to work together and coach came with a simple gameplan to just beat our man.”

The defense’s pass rush and run stuffing ability had been Ameilia Earhart during the Vikings’ four-game losing streak. They came into Sunday’s game with a grand total of three sacks since the bye week and had allowed 121 yards rushing per game over that stretch. Then the front four came alive like Frankenstein and caused havoc like him too.

“There were a lot of times where I wanted to blitz and they kept telling me ‘just do what you’re doing,’” head coach Mike Zimmer said.

Edge rusher Danielle Hunter had two sacks and Everson Griffen was responsible for pressure and several hits on Palmer.

“They didn’t max protect very much today,” Zimmer said. “They let us rush. I think that’s why a lot of teams don’t let us rush because we can rush the passer…once we got up by 13 then it was a lot easier to lay our ears back and go.”

“Our ends was able to attack their tight end and make him have to bubble out and he doesn’t want to do that because he’s a downhill runner, so we had them doing things they really didn’t want to do and they capitalized on it,” Johnson said.

The Vikings’ offense should brush off the defense’s cars off for a week this winter after they did everything possible to let the game slip a way.

The fourth quarter drives for Minnesota’s offense went as follows: Fumble, punt, punt, kneel down.

Arizona strip-sacked Sam Bradford with 9:16 remaining in the game as Chandler Jones treated left tackle TJ Clemmings like a road cone. That was on one of the few pass plays of the fourth quarter. Interim offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur went ultra conservative and it nearly cost the Vikings.

Bradford and the offense were already greatly in debt to the rest of the squad, going into the fourth with a 30-17 lead, which was largely created by a 100-yard interception return for touchdown by Xavier Rhodes and a kick return for TD by Cordarrelle Patterson. The kicker even made a 27-yard field goal – which has occasionally been a challenge for Vikings kickers in the past.

Anyway.

This is how it’s going to have to be for the Vikings the rest of the way.

While Bradford played another strong game going 20-for-28 through the air with a touchdown and zero interceptions, the run game averaged just 3.0 yards per carry – which is an improvement over their season average. The offensive line’s issues are only mitigated by Shurmur’s quick-passing scheme, which has shown great progress but is far from enough to put the Vikings’ offense in the top half of the league.

So there is only one way the Vikings are going to win the NFC North: If their defense plays like it did in the second half. And after Sunday’s win, that notion doesn’t seem far fetched.

The post Defense comes alive in second half and saves Vikings’ season appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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