Cardinals face enigma in Vikings

Oct 6, 2011, 4:13 PM | Updated: 5:18 pm

The Minnesota Vikings are a complete conundrum. Watching
them on film belies the record they have posted after the
first month of the season: they are talented, relatively
young and completely better than 0-4.

The Vikings have some of the best talent in the league on
both sides of the ball. Donovan McNabb, Visanthe Shiancoe,
Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, Steve Hutchinson and Adrian
Peterson are names most NFL fans are familiar with and
still make defensive-coordinators fade-to-black.

Jared Allen, Chad Greenway and Antoine Winfield are the
tip of the spear for the Vikings defensively. And although
these three players are the Vikings best defenders and
have experienced success in the league they also stand as
markers for the malaise that has fallen on the Minnesota.

The Vikings are a complete enigma – especially on the
defensive side of the ball.

This is a team that has one of the best pass-rushes in the
NFL. The numbers don’t lie. They are #8 in sacks/pass
attempt and are currently tied for #5 in sacks with 12.
You watch their front-four on film and see the ability
they possess to pressure the QB. Jared Allen has turned
opposing left-tackles into putty; his ferocity is back and
he is currently on pace to shatter the NFL sack record. He
has 6.5 sacks and should have more.

But just as the talent on their team contradicts their
record, this formidable pass-rush has not yielded
flattering numbers for Leslie Frazier’s defense.

The Vikings are #28 in the league in pass defense,
yielding 286-yards/game; they have a Defensive Quarterback
Rating (DQBR) of 96 which is also #28 in the league; and
they are #29 in 3rd Down Conversions, giving up
conversions at a 46% clip!

This does not compute. Teams with good pass-rushes are
supposed to protect secondaries; good pass-rushes wreak
havoc on quarterback ratings; good pass-rushes are the
golden key that unlocks the secrets of the third-down
paradigm. But the Minnesota Vikings defense can’t seem to
get off the field.

The usual suspects seem to apply here. Minnesota’s
secondary has not played well. Antoine Winfield has been
to three consecutive Pro Bowls but the rest of the Vikings
secondary has struggled – mightily.

Knowing that the Vikings have a great front-seven and
boast the #5 rush-defense in the league, one would assume
it’s going to be difficult to run the ball against the
Vikings, even with Beanie Wells running roughshod over the
Giants. Hopefully, the running game will be effective
enough to put the Cards in many third and manageable
situations.

And this will be the key for the Cardinals on Sunday:
third-down. In what will admittedly stand as the greatest
oversimplification of all time, if the Cards protect Kevin
Kolb and win on third-down I think they win the game.

The good news is the Vikings are bad on third-down; the
bad news is the Cardinals are too. Arizona is only
converting 30% of their third-downs. And protecting Kevin
Kolb and his pocket-presence has contributed greatly to
their third-down woes.

For both of these teams, what is real and what is
just really weird may begin to surface on Sunday.
But the reality remains: a season will end.

Penguin Air

Ron Wolfley

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Cardinals face enigma in Vikings