At times, the Minnesota Vikings defensive line has failed to contribute. In many ways, Minnesota’s issues along the d-line are understandable. Subtracting Danielle Hunter and Michael Pierce is a lot to overcome; the Yannick Ngakoue trade didn’t end up working out. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, though, the defensive line played well, largely contributing to the Minnesota Vikings Week 13 win.
The Minnesota Vikings Defensive Line
Before the game, the Vikings received the news that Eric Kendricks – who should be getting serious consideration for Defensive Player of the Year – would miss the game with a leg injury. It was a massive blow for a defense that has already sustained significant injuries. Kendricks is a player who can hold a defense together, making both the defensive line and secondary look better because of his incredible play. Kendricks’ absence was yet another hurdle for the defensive line to clear.
Perhaps the best player on Minnesota’s defensive line was Ifeadi Odenigbo. He was credited with eight pressures, and many of them came in the second half. Odenigbo got better and better as the game progressed. Perhaps most importantly, Odenigbo got a safety on a critical fourth quarter play:
Ifeadi Odenigbo and @Jbrailford2 force the SAFETY!!!
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 6, 2020
The overall context adds an extra layer of importance to Odenigbo’s safety. A few plays earlier, Dalvin Cook began the fourth quarter by fumbling on the 1-yard line. Instead of going up by two-scores, the Vikings were instead forced to play defense as they clung to a three-point lead. Odenigbo, in combination with Jordan Brailford, responded by getting the safety Mike Glennon, giving the Vikings a critical two points and the ball.
Brailford was originally signed several weeks ago and placed on the practice squad. He only got the chance to play on Sunday because of an injury to D.J. Wonnum. He made the most of his chance. Brailford not only got in on the safety, but he also forced a fumble and then recovered it. It’s also worth mentioning that Hercules Mata’afa, a player who also spent some time on the practice squad, got a sack yesterday. In other words, the Minnesota Vikings got some nice production out of their defensive line.
The Vikings are officially in a playoff spot. The Arizona Cardinals lost their game, allowing Minnesota to hop into the seventh spot in the NFC. Of course, there is still plenty of football left to be played, so the Vikings will need to ensure they’re sharp if they have any hope of getting into the postseason.
Minnesota’s next opponent is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s going to be a great test for Minnesota. Tom Brady has a vast array of weapons on offense, so the simplest solution rests in being able to generate pressure. Ideally, they’ll be able to do so with just their defensive line.
Against the Jaguars, Mike Zimmer often deployed four defensive ends on obvious passing downs. Doing so allowed him to drop more players into coverage. Zimmer’s strategy didn’t always work, but it’s an approach that makes a lot of sense. If they are to have any hope of taking down the Bucccaneers, the Vikings will need continued strong performance from Odenigbo, Brailford, and the rest of the defensive line.
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