Vikings’ Whitaker, rest of pass defense being exposed

By Krupka  |   Monday, November 13, 2006  |  Comments( 2 )

Minnesota Vikings
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Fact: The Minnesota Vikings have a top-notch defense (No. 6 overall) spearheaded by great run-stopping ability.

Fact: The Vikings have a porous pass defense.

Pundits throughout the season, including yours truly, have been quick to pile on the accolades for the improvement in the defensive unit, some even proclaiming coordinator Mike Tomlin as the next great assistant.

Then three weeks ago, something happened. The New England Patriots exploited flaws in the zone defense Tomlin employs.

They came out throwing early and often with four- and five-receiver sets and shotgun formations. Head coach Bill Belichick did the unthinkable. He made his offense one-dimensional, steering away from the run. And it worked to the tune of 31 points, 372 passing yards and four passing touchdowns. Needless to say, the Patriots were victorious.

The following week, the pass defense was much better; then again, it could be attributed more to the San Francisco 49ers' weak offense and mainly the difference between quarterback Alex Smith and Tom Brady.

Then just this past Sunday, future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre torched the Fred Smoot-less secondary for 347 yards and two touchdowns. Packer receiver Donald Driver had a career day, hauling in six passes for 191 yards and a touchdown.

In the waning minutes of the game, rather than try to run the football, the Packers kept throwing, using short routes and horizontal passes considered safe to keep the clock ticking; however, more importantly, to continue moving the football. It was a testament to their respect for the Vikings' run defense and lack of regard for the pass defense.

The common denominator in much of the pass defensive woes is nickel back Ronyell Whitaker. Surely, all the blame can't be put on one individual, especially when there are other reasons contributing to the suspect aerial coverage.

Still, Whitaker has been burned countless times in coverage this season, earning him a spot on the bench a couple weeks ago. With Smoot inactive for Sunday's game due to the death in his family, Whitaker was back in the nickel spot as his replacement, rookie Cedric Griffin, moved into the starting lineup.

This season, Whitaker has been torched by Bernard Berrian in what was a game-winning touchdown, by Darrell Jackson on a 70-plus-yard touchdown, and his newest nemesis, Driver, this past Sunday.

Why the Virginia Tech product was lined up in the slot opposite of Driver is anyone's guess, but something needs to be done. Because, at the moment, everyone knows how to beat the Minnesota Vikings:

Throw the football.

Eric Krupka is a senior writer for RealFootball365.com. He can be reached at ekrupka@realfootball365.com

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