The 2010 season was incredibly disappointing for Minnesota Vikings fans. Throughout Minnesota and further afield, fans watched in agony as their "savior" at quarterback Brett Favre crumbled under the weight of his own age (and a few Bills linebackers).
With many players on injured reserve, in combination with issues in the front office, team morale was low and the Vikings found themselves at the bottom of the NFC North.
Many will blame the season's failure on the uncertainty at quarterback, a weak offensive line or bad coaching. Now, these all have something to do with it, but nothing hurt the Vikings more than their lack of identity on defense.
The Vikings' traditionally weak secondary proved to be just as weak as ever, completely decimated by injury. The 'Williams Wall' had deteriorated because of the age of veteran defensive tackle Pat Williams, causing the Vikings to fall out of the top five rush defenses which was a place they'd held for years.
Worst of all, All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen was off to his slowest start with the Vikings, only recording one sack in the first half of the 2010 season.
I don't think I was alone going in to week 16 against the Eagles, thinking the Vikings had no chance.
The Vikings were running with a rookie QB, a new interim head coach and a new defensive coordinator: all things that would point to a thumping by this high powered team.
Then, something amazing happened.
The Vikings stunned Vick and probably the entire country by downing the Eagles 24-14 on the road. This was mostly to do with the high amount of blitzing that DC Fred Pagac did with his defense.
The Vikings defense forced three turnovers, and as many know, the turnover battle can decide any game. Since that small but meaningful victory, Pagac has been promoted to full-time defensive coordinator in Minnesota.
The Vikings defense needs to have a big showing in 2011 because right now, they are treading dangerous waters in their division.
Pagac seems to have found the answer to this problem.
NBC Sports reports in an interview that Pagac had this to say about his plans for the defense in 2011:
“As far as being aggressive, I’ll probably call more blitzes — whether they be zone or man — than maybe Les[lie Frazier] did or maybe Mike [Tomlin] did, but that’s my nature. That’s what I do."
This is important to Minnesota's fans for two reasons.
First, because re-establishing a defensive presence is essential for keeping up with the other high powered defenses that make up the "black and blue" division.
Secondly, because maintaining the Vikings same defensive make-up is essential for holding up the traditional way things have been done in Minnesota since the days of the Purple People Eaters.
A more aggressive, blitz-happy defense will be great for Vikings players.
More blitzing will allow the linebackers to pad their stats even more, the secondary will benefit greatly from an adequate pass-rush, and not to mention help Jared Allen reach his goal of 17+ sacks in 2011.
The Vikings have a long way to go to be at the top of the division again. I'm not arrogant enough to say that Ponder will cause a 180 for this franchise in one year.
The Vikings won't be winning division titles again for a few years, but a strong, hard-nosed defense can put them in a position to steal a wild card spot, just ask the New York Jets.
If the Vikes can muster a strong, aggressive defense, I think they will surprise some people in 2011.
For those of you who haven't read any of my articles before, I'll repeat what I have written so many other times:
Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships.
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