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Defense has Vikings thinking big

The SportsXchange

Upstaged by the Vikings' performance on special teams was the Vikings' performance on defense during Sunday's 20-13 upset win at Detroit.

Missing two opening-day starters - weak-side linebacker Erin Henderson (concussion) and strong safety Mistral Raymond (ankle) - the Vikings held the Lions' top-ranked passing offense below its season average of 334 yards (319) while sacking Matthew Stafford five times and harassing No. 1 receiver Calvin Johnson, who caught only five of the 12 passes intended for him.

The Lions also averaged just 2.8 yards on 20 rushes and didn't reach the end zone until less than three minutes were left in the game.

Considering the competition level that Detroit's No. 2-ranked offensive presented, this was the Vikings' best defensive performance of the season.

"I think some of it was the mentality (of the players)," coach Leslie Frazier said. "But also, I think (new defensive coordinator) Alan (Williams) is getting in a groove with our players, getting a better understanding or feel for how to utilize some of our players.

"But, for sure, our players also are taking some ownership in some of the things we were trying to do. And really wanting to set the tone as a defense, about how we play. It's been great to see."

With their first road win of the season behind them, the defense now gets the boost of playing three of the next four games at the Metrodome, starting with Sunday's game against Tennessee.

Frazier was asked whether his young team will be able to handle the unexpected success of the first winning streak since the 11th and 12th games of the 2010 season. He said the players will handle it better than they did after beating the Jaguars in the opener and then going to Indianapolis and losing in Week 2.

"Just seeing how we responded after the Indy game, and then coming back after San Francisco, I think we're maturing, we're growing as a team," Frazier said. "This will be a little heady for them. This is new territory for most of our guys. But I got a feeling they'll handle it the right way."
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