Vikings D gets its scoring mojo back, vaults team back into playoff picture Print
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Monday, 26 November 2007 14:46
NFL Headline News

 EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -It takes a lot to get Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier riled up during the week.
Frazier patterns himself after Tony Dungy, preferring an understated, calm demeanor to yelling and screaming all the time.
Veteran safety Darren Sharper, however, knows just how to get Frazier going.
``During practice, whenever you get an interception in a drill, you have to run and take it all the way and score, no matter if you're 10 yards away or 100 yards away,'' Sharper said. ``I've been got on a little bit because sometimes I don't go all the way. I figure if I get to the 10-yard line and no one is around me, I'm pretty sure I'm going to score. But it gets you in that mind-set and it's worked for us.''
Never more than on Sunday against Eli Manning and the New York Giants. The Vikings returned three interceptions for touchdowns - one off the NFL record - in a stunningly easy 41-17 victory at the Meadowlands.
The jaw-dropping performance restored the unit's reputation as an offensive defense and thrust the Vikings (5-6) back into the muddled playoff picture in the abysmal NFC.
``We do talk about scoring on defense,'' said coach Brad Childress, adding later that, ``Whether it's scooping and scoring because the ball is on the ground or picking it off and scoring and kind of riding that wave. It's practiced.''
No defense does it better than the Vikings these days. They lead the league with seven defensive touchdowns this season and 12 in the previous 25 games. That number jumps to 16 if you factor in the four times the defense reached the end zone in the preseason this year.
That kind of production dwarfs the rest of the league. New England has scored five defensive TDs this season and over the previous two years, Green Bay is second with eight defensive scores.
Sharper, Dwight Smith and Chad Greenway scored against the Giants on Sunday, turning the game into a parade into the end zone that made life miserable for Manning.
The turnovers just kept coming and coming. Sharper went for 20 yards, Smith took one 93 yards and Greenway capped the binge in the fourth quarter with a 37-yarder. Smith nearly had a second score, but he was knocked out at the 8-yard line to set up a touchdown run from Chester Taylor.
``It was raining picks out there,'' defensive tackle Pat Williams said after the game.
More importantly, it was raining points. It's no secret the Vikings' offense has struggled at times this season to put the ball in the end zone. So they will take all the help they can get from a defense that undeniably has a nose for the big play, sometimes to its own detriment.
Greenway, who leads the league with four fumble recoveries, intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter two weeks ago against Oakland with under two minutes to play. He got up and headed for the end zone, but fumbled the ball back to the Raiders.
``Chad Greenway said that is all he was thinking about when he got up off the ground in the 2-minute drill was score, score, score, score,'' Childress recalled Monday. ``But you have got to play a little situational football with that, where we win the game if you don't score and just lay there with it.''
The Vikings won that game anyway, thanks in large part to a defense that held ground after the offense turned over the ball four times in the first half. The defense put two more points on the board with a safety.
For the season, the defense has been responsible for more than 30 percent of the team's 20 total touchdowns. The unit scored two in the first game against Atlanta, got one in Week 2 against Detroit and another against the Cowboys on Oct. 21 before taking a little midseason hiatus.
The defenders came back in a big way against the Giants, using an array of exotic blitz packages and an aggressive game plan with plenty of man-to-man coverage to confuse and ultimately overwhelm Manning.
``Coach Frazier's done a great job of understanding us and what's going to allow us to be more effective,'' Sharper said. ``You've seen that as of late, just having that disguise and that mix of the zone blitzes sometimes, man (coverage). It allows us to keep the offense pretty much off-balance.''
 

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