Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
In the 48 regular-season games between 2006 to 2008, Minnesota’s run defense held opponents to fewer rushing yards than any team in football. The exact figure was 3,400 rushing yards, an average of 70.8 yards per game.
In two games this season, opponents are averaging 109 yards per game. That number puts the Vikings smack in the middle of NFL rankings, but the 35 percent increase is at least worth noting as Sunday’s game against San Francisco and tailback Frank Gore approaches. (In case you missed it, Gore rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns last week in the 49ers’ 23-10 victory over Seattle.)
Most notable to me has been how brazenly both Cleveland and Detroit have challenged what has long been the Vikings’ strength. The Browns ran on 15 of its first 26 plays Sept. 13, while the Lions kept it on the ground for 24 of their first 32 plays.
Asked about that dynamic this week, Vikings coach Brad Childress repeated a quote he said he heard from NBA star Dwayne Wade.
“It really holds true,” Childress said, “that you earn your respect every night in the NBA going out on the court. You have to earn it every time out. This league is now different than what he’s talking about individually. You have to earn it. It’s not that somebody is going to defer and come in and bow to you and say we’re not going to probe there. You have to earn it. Last year is old news. What you have done in the past is old news. You have to earn it week to week because every team is good enough to be able to exert their will on you from time to time.”
Translated, Childress wants his run defense to play with a bit more urgency. The Vikings haven’t allowed an individual 100-yard rusher in 25 consecutive games. Gore will be ready to test that trend Sunday.