After a 44-31 loss in week 8, the Vikings head to Lambeau Field to face a Green Bay team plagued by injury for their second match-up of the season.
These four numbers represent four of the most important defensive statistics in regards to overall team success, and correlate strongly to the lack of success seen by the Minnesota Vikings this season.
22 sacks by the Minnesota Vikings place them tied for 24th (out of 32) in the NFL so far this season, and the final four teams on bye this week are all ahead of the Vikings in this regard. The complete lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks has been well-documented this season. Jared Allen, once a fearsome pass-rusher, has slowed in his 10th season as a professional, and has recorded only five sacks in 10 games. The rest of the defensive line has demonstrated inconsistent play as well.
The two victories the Vikings have this season, against the Steelers in London week 4, and against the Redskins week 10, have been the Vikings most active on the defensive front by far, recording six and four sacks in those games, respectively. This means in the Vikings eight losses, they have sacked the opposing quarterbacks 12 times. For a team with a slow linebacking core and a secondary comprised of guys on the wrong end of Sports Center's weekly top 10, this lack of pressure has set the defense up to fail.
8 interceptions by the Vikings defense this season places them in a tie for 20th in the NFL. This is not an anomaly; the Vikings defense routinely ranks toward the bottom of the NFL in interceptions each season. 10 (27th), 8 (last), 15 (17th), 11 (26th), and 12 (21st) are the Vikings defense interception totals from their past five completed seasons, along with their respective ranking in the NFL. The Vikings have been in the bottom half of the NFL for the past half-decade (at least, I only checked back 5 seasons) in term of forcing interceptions, and are looking to continue that streak this year.
8 fumbles forced again places the Vikings low in the NFL defensive rankings. However, there is some good news here for you Vikings fans out there: the Vikings have recovered an astonishing (and unsustainable; all good news comes with some bad in Viking land) 75% of the fumbles they have forced.
The most frustrating part of the fact the Vikings force so few fumbles, and by extension provide so few opportunities to provide extra offensive possessions, is that both the Packers and the Bears do such a great job forcing fumbles. The Bears revolutionized the art of forcing fumbles, with one defender standing up the ball carrier, and others flocking in trying to tear it away. Seeing the teams the Vikings compete with for a playoff spot each season (well, maybe not so much this season) dominate this category as the Vikings flounder provides decent insight into where the Vikings need to improve to become competitive again.
1 defensive touchdown, kickoff and punt returns not included, is the final statistic to denote futility by the Vikings defensive unit. This season, the Vikings are one of only 5 teams without a TAINT (Touchdown after interception, also known as a pick-six). A fumble recovery and 61-yard scamper by Brian Robison against the Bears in week 2 is the Vikings only defensive touchdown this season, which puts them in a tie with 11 other teams for 19th in the NFL. Only the Saints and Steelers have been shut out defensively so far this season.
This extensive preamble was to highlight the points of emphasis for the Vikings this weekend in Green Bay. Scott Tolzien is most likely getting the start for the Packers at quarterback as Aaron Rodgers continues recover from a shoulder injury, and this should provide the Vikings defense with as good an opportunity as any to improve upon those previous four numbers.
Pressure by the four guys up front, and the decision-making by Tolzien will determine this game. Tolzien threw for over 300 yards last week against the Giants, but also threw 3 interceptions. Should he be so careless again, and provide the Vikings with 3 extra possessions, the boys in purple could surprise everyone this weekend.