Vikings’ defense 18 pts. from infamy

Published 10:57 am Thursday, December 26, 2013

By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS — You’ve heard of the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500.

But the Minnesota 500?

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If the Vikings allow 33 points to Detroit in Sunday’s finale, they will have given up 500 points in a season for the first time in the franchise’s 53-year history.

Even if the Vikings can avoid that ugly number, it seems unlikely they will be able to stave off finishing the season with their worst defense ever. The 1984 team, which gave up 30.3 points per game, currently holds that dubious distinction.

Minnesota (4-10-1) has allowed 467 points this season for a 31.1 average, last in the 32-team NFL. If the Vikings give up more than 17 against the Lions, they will knock the 1984 gang out of the record books.

“Obviously, you don’t want to be associated with that,” Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said.

So now the Vikings have a battle cry for the final game at the Metrodome.

“Kind of put some emphasis on that. Don’t want to give up over 17 this week,” safety Jamarca Sanford said.

“We’d like not to give up 17 or more points, but, more import- antly, we want to win this game,” coach Leslie Frazier said.

Vikings fans often cringe when the 1984 season is mentioned. Les Steckel took over as coach from the legendary Bud Grant, and the Vikings went 3-13. It got so bad that Grant was lured out of retirement to return in 1985.

Few expected Minnesota to have a Steckel-like defensive season in 2013. Last year, the Vikings gave up a respectable 348 points (a 21.8 average) to rank 14th in the NFL.

But the Vikings elected not to bring back veteran defensive back Antoine Winfield, and a young secondary struggled. There have been injuries. And Frazier noted the pass rush has not been what it was before.

The Vikings had 44 sacks last season, an average of 2.8 per game. They’ve had 36 this season, an average of 2.4.

“We haven’t been as consistent rushing the passer as we have been in the past,” Frazier said. “That definitely affects what we’re trying to do schematically, without question. A lot of what we do revolves around being able to rush with four. And we haven’t had that consistent rush that we’ve had in years past, and it definitely affects what we’re trying to do.”

Frazier didn’t name any players. But, obviously, defensive end Jared Allen, who has 9.5 sacks this season after 22 in 2012 and 12 in 2013, has not been the same player.

Allen is 31. Age also looks to have caught up with defensive tackle Kevin Williams, 33, who is three years removed from his last of six career Pro Bowl berths.

“We just didn’t make plays,” Robison said. “Didn’t get as many turnovers as we need to get. Too many missed tackles.”