EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Ask the newest generation of Minnesota Vikings fans to recount the glory days of their beloved purple and they will no doubt spin tales of deep balls to Randy Moss.
The proudest days of Vikings lore, however, took place long before Moss' electrifying rookie season in 1998 ended one game shy of the Super Bowl.
Some four decades ago, the franchise built a tradition of excellence on defense.
The famed Purple People Eaters - Jim Marshall, Alan Page, Gary Larsen and Carl Eller - struck fear into opposing offenses and carried the Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances between 1969 and 1976.
Defense was a four-letter word for most of Moss's tenure here, with the glitz and glamour of a vertical offense serving as the calling card for a team that once held the NFL record for points scored in a season.
Those Vikings only had two NFC championship game appearances to show for it, though, and so the franchise is trying to return to its purple-collar roots, when 14 points was often more than enough to win a game.
Don't look now, but your father's Vikings might be back this season. Coach Brad Childress and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier have built a stout defense from the front line on back.
The acquisition of reigning sack champ Jared Allen from Kansas City once again gives the team one of the best defensive lines in football, with Pro Bowlers Kevin Williams and Pat Williams (no relation) and third-year pro Ray Edwards rounding out the unit.
``All the pieces are in place,'' Kevin Williams said.
That hasn't been the case for years, especially on a defense that has boasted dominant names like Browner, Millard and Studwell in the '80s and Krause, Blair and those big, bad Purple People Eaters up front in the '70s.
Minnesota spent years trying to fill the shoes of Chris Doleman, the last great pass rusher to play here. First-round draft picks, free-agent signings, you name it, they tried it.
The void resulted in an unbalanced unit that last year allowed the second-fewest rushing yards since the NFL merger in 1970, but also was dead last against the pass.
``Teams were just throwing it 40 times a game. They're going to complete some balls,'' Kevin Williams said. ``You can't just look at the numbers and say our pass defense was bad. Like I said, the pieces are in place to shore that up and tighten up things and hopefully it will take place.''
Finally, owner Zygi Wilf decided enough was enough. Never hesitant to open his wallet, Wilf made his biggest move yet when he signed off on a trade with the Chiefs that brought Allen to Minnesota.
Allen then signed a contract that made him the highest-paid defensive player in the league with a six-year deal that could be worth more than $74 million.
``I think some want to say that's the final piece of the puzzle; this is what makes us complete,'' Childress said. ``There's never a final piece to the puzzle. He's a good football player added to a good defense, and our defense appreciates the fact that we added good football players.''
The Vikings also added safety Madieu Williams to replace Dwight Smith, but he has been bothered by a neck injury in camp and will likely miss the first few weeks of the season.
The defense still appears to be in good shape, thanks to the drafting of safety Tyrell Johnson in the second round.
``They're doing what it takes to get better,'' Allen said of the front office. ``They're constantly moving forward, never dwelling on what they did last year. Last year is just another bar that's set that you have to get over.''
For the first time in a long time, the Vikings' defense seems ready to show it is worthy of that tradition-rich name.
``I think the biggest problem we're going to have is who is going to hit the quarterback first,'' Allen has said on more than one occasion this summer.
And it couldn't come at a better time.
When the Vikings will walk into Lambeau Field on Sept. 8 for the season opener against Green Bay, Tarvaris Jackson should be at quarterback, a 25-year-old just three years removed from Division I-AA Alabama State.
Jackson is entering his second full season as a starter and is still trying to prove that he can stay healthy for a full 16 games. He sprained his right knee in the second week of the preseason against Baltimore, and the Vikings signed 15-year veteran Gus Frerotte as an insurance policy.
With a defense like this one, free-agent addition Bernard Berrian upgrading the receiver corps and reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Adrian Peterson behind him to take handoffs, Jackson doesn't have to be Brett Favre for the Vikings to be successful.
``He's clearly way ahead of where he was a year ago at this time,'' quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers said as the Vikings closed training camp at Minnesota State, Mankato. ``But that's got to translate into how he plays under real guns.''

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