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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings D-line proves again it welcomes runs up the middle in key spots

By Matthew Coller

MINNEAPOLIS — Here’s a riddle for you: How many stuffed runs on third or fourth-and-short will it take for Minnesota Vikings opponents to stop handing off up the middle in those situations?

Sorry, it’s a trick question. We’ll never know because teams simply keep trying it and keep getting shut down week after week. The latest team foolish enough to test the interior of the Vikings’ defensive line: The Green Bay Packers.

With 7:28 remaining in the third quarter of the Vikings’ 24-17 win over the Packers, Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy decided it was time to be aggressive. The two teams were knotted at 14 apiece and the Packers had the ball at their own 44-yard line. On third-and-2 and then fourth-and-1, quarterback Aaron Rodgers handed the ball off to running back Aaron Jones, who was taken down immediately.

While the Vikings only turned the miscue into a field goal, the run stuff turned out to be a tide-turning play in the key NFC North victory.

Going forward, the Vikings D-linemen certainly hope opponents continue to make the same mistake that Green Bay made on Sunday Night Football.

”We laugh,” defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said of his reaction to teams running up the middle. “Seriously, we laugh. Run the ball up here, OK. We get mad when they run the ball outside.”

Richardson proved again against the Packers that he was a huge signing for the Vikings’ defense this offseason. He picked up two of the Vikings’ four sacks.

Veteran Tom Johnson explained said he is taken aback that teams still attempt to pound the ball with Pro Bowler Linval Joseph at nose tackle.

“It definitely surprises me when we have a guy like Linval in the middle,” Johnson said. “He killed number 64 today when they tried the fourth-and-1. It’s been one of our strong suits, red zone, third down. It’s a surprise your still see teams trying it or whatever but if they do, we’re up the challenge.”

Joseph has been the centerpiece of key run stops in Minnesota since joining Mike Zimmer’s club in 2014. Johnson explained how Joseph’s approach separates him from other nose tackles.

“I think it’s his mentality,” Johnson said. “Everybody has tools, everybody is big in this league, but Linval brings a whole different level when you talk about intensity and quick twitch, you don’t see that many guys be that explosive and that accurate and be that consistent. When he’s on point, when he’s doing that, it’s hard to stop.”

Stephen Weatherly, who has become an important rotational defensive end this season, said the team’s ability to stop plowing runs up the middle comes from the top.

”It’s definitely something coach Zim stresses, ever since I got here,” he said. “On third-and-short and fourth-and-short, we change our mindset completely to: We will not give up that yard or two yards. We are extremely stingy.”

On whether he was stunned that opponents still run up the middle on third or fourth-and-1.

“Nope. And I hope they keep doing it,” Weatherly said.

Joseph’s play was one of several outstanding performances by the Vikings’ D-line. Johnson and Everson Griffen both picked up sacks and Danielle Hunter pressured Rodgers consistently.

”We had to get pressure up the middle and get our defensive ends on the outside,” Hunter said. “We had to contain Aaron Rodgers’s because we know he can make plays with his legs.”

The post Vikings D-line proves again it welcomes runs up the middle in key spots appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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