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Once-ballyhooed Vikings pass rush has fizzled

MINNEAPOLIS -- Defensive end Brian Robison said early this season Vikings could have one of the best defensive lines in team history. Such talk hasn't been heard much lately. After three games, the Vikings had 15 sacks, putting them on pace to br...

Dec 10, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (97) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Vikings 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 10, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (97) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Vikings 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS - Defensive end Brian Robison said early this season Vikings could have one of the best defensive lines in team history.

Such talk hasn't been heard much lately.

After three games, the Vikings had 15 sacks, putting them on pace to break the NFL record of 72 set by the 1984 Chicago Bears. After five games, all wins, Minnesota had 19.

In the past three games, all losses, Minnesota has had just two sacks.

There have mitigating factors, namely that opposing quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball quicker with shorter pass patterns. Still, coach Mike Zimmer said Thursday the Vikings (5-3) must do a better job with the pass rush.

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"We've been not as reckless as we had been early," said Zimmer before saying "more aggressive" would be a better description.

The Vikings had no sacks in a 21-10 loss at Philadelphia in Week 7. They had one apiece in their 20-10 loss at Chicago in Week 8 and 22-16 overtime loss to Detroit in Week 9.

"We're getting a lot of extra protection" from opponents' offensive lines, Zimmer said. "We're getting a lot of quick things out, so guys are thinking a little bit too much. We're just trying to clean that up. ... Since we had a lot of sacks early, we've seen a lot more protection. You got to beat somebody quick, usually that's part of it, and part of it is we've got to be tight in coverage."

The Vikings have emphasized all season that it's not all about the number of sacks they produce. Still, there's a general agreement that having just two over the past three games is substandard.

"Up front, we can't be too cautious, but we've got to be cautious enough where we are still doing our job right," defensive end Everson Griffen said. "Just like coach said, we want to be aggressive."

Griffen had set a goal of 20 sacks this season, and was on pace with four in the first three games. But he has had just two in the past five games.

Griffen did have Minnesota's lone sack against both the Bears and Lions. He said the entire defense needs to step it up.

"It's rough," Griffen said. "(Opposing quarterbacks are) getting the ball out quick. They're throwing shorter routes. They're not letting us pin our ears back and get in. We'ver got to be more aggressive coming off the ball."

Related Topics: MINNESOTA VIKINGSFOOTBALL
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