Slow Starts Should Benefit Minnesota Vikings' Defense

Ben SchmitContributor ISeptember 21, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - SEPTEMBER 21:  Jared Allen #69 of the Minnesota Vikings talks with teammate Pat Williams #94 against the Carolina Panthers during their NFL game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on September 21, 2008 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Panthers 20-10. (Photo by David Sherman/Getty Images)

After inheriting a team in chaos in 2006, Brad Childress immediately began the fight to turn around an embarrassing franchise. There is little doubt that the team which was the NFL's joke pile in the early years of the new millennium stands in stark contrast to the Minnesota Vikings of 2009.

Specifically, the Vikings defense has vaulted from an historically abhorrent ineptness to one of the most feared units on the field today.

However, as evidenced by two poor first-half showings early in the 2009 season, fighting to the top is the easy part; maintaining excellence is the real test of a champion.

Granted, it's hard to get all fired up going into games featuring two opponents with a combined total of four wins in the previous season. But lackluster performance is not the response one would expect from overachievers when faced with little to no challenge.

A squad that is told it is among the best, that has consistently performed among the best, and that knows it is among the best inherently has a different mindset than the squad that has set out to prove that it is among the best.

Think Elvis, circa 1974. It is all too easy to languish within the confines of success.

Hopefully, the near disasters in Cleveland and Detroit early in this season—if not for one or two arguably lucky plays midway through both games, as both contests could easily have resulted in humiliating losses—will serve as a wakeup call for the new, vaunted Purple People Eaters.

Vikings fans should be thankful the 2009 season has begun the way it has. With an ever more difficult schedule looming ahead, leading into the team's Week Nine bye, a little complacency and ineffectiveness is just what Minnesota's defense needed.

If this crew is to establish itself as the most dominant defensive squad in the NFL—and it is, or at least can be just that—it needs to regain that sense of urgency, and to maybe get that chip back on their collective shoulders.

Allowing the hapless Detroit Lions to amass 129 rushing yards (94 in the first half alone) should provide this spark. It better.

Suddenly, next week's home opener against San Francisco looks to be the first in a hefty stretch of difficult matchups, which include both Green Bay games, a look at Baltimore's fierce defense, and a harrowing trip to Pittsburgh to challenge the defending Super Bowl Champions.

The 49ers' Frank Gore amassed 246 yards from scrimmage in Week Two, 207 of those yards on the ground.

If anything, the Minnesota Faithful should be pleased to see their defense inspire so many yawns battling two teams which are, by any standard, terrible. Hopefully, E.J. Henderson, Jared Allen, and company have had the fear of failure reinstated as their motivation.

The Vikings defense is now primed to prove a point.

One fact is clear: If the Vikings continue to rest on their laurels, on either side of the ball, this is going to be a disappointing season. The next two games will tell us everything we need to know about who this Minnesota team really is.