Minnesota Vikings' pass rush picking up steam

MINNEAPOLIS -- The phrase "team rush" first made its way into coach Mike Zimmer's lexicon on Sept. 30, two days after the Minnesota Vikings sacked quarterback Matt Ryan just once and allowed him to escape the pocket numerous times in a 41-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Zimmer could see a problem festering with how the Vikings executed his pass rushing concepts, often over pursuing quarterbacks while trying to win one-on-one battles. Four days later in Green Bay, the problem spread to the rush defense, when Eddie Lacy ran for 105 yards in 13 carries in a game where defensive end Brian Robison said some players "checked out" of sticking to the Vikings' defensive plan.

Since then, those issues haven't merited much discussion. The Vikings have sacked quarterbacks 20 times since then -- six more than any team in the league -- disrupting 20 percent of opposing passer's dropbacks. On Sunday, they pressured Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III on 32.4 percent of his dropbacks, taking him down five times and registering two sacks on the Redskins' final drive.

"We're playing as a great defensive line," said defensive end Everson Griffen, who got his ninth sack in as many games on Sunday. "With my defensive line, we can be the best, and we're going to be the best each and every week, because we've got the best coaches. I love this team, I love the coaches and we're here to stay."

A significant part of the Vikings' success has come from the double-A gap blitz look the Vikings use regularly on third downs. They sent linebacker Chad Greenway on a blitz from that look on Sunday, and Greenway got his first sack of the season. But the Vikings can bring pressure from a number of different angles out of that set, in which Greenway and Anthony Barr line up on either side of the center and the Vikings' defensive tackles set up over the guards. The Vikings can drop Barr, Greenway, Griffen or Brian Robison into coverage from the double-A gap blitz look, and they can involve safety Harrison Smith in the package, as well, making it difficult for offenses to predict where pressure might be coming from.

"It's not us. It's Coach Zimmer and his plan," Greenway said. "We're just trying to create different situations. We do a lot of film study on what they do when put in that situation and we try to break it down off of that. I don't want to give you too much info on it. We like it."

No matter the details of the Vikings' approach, it seems to be working right now. They're headed into the bye on a two-game win streak, with flickering playoff hopes and a defense that feels like it's heating up.

"We're starting to get it and bring it together as a whole team," safety Harrison Smith said. "Now we have a little time to rest up, heal up and come back ready to go."