|12-14-2006, 05:53 AM||#1|
Join Date: Jan 2004
Green Rush Faces Purple Crush
What a terrible title...
Green rush faces Purple crush
BY RICH CIMINI
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Leon Washington is ready for whatever he might run into in Minnesota.
The Jets have the Brick, but the Vikings have an entire wall.
In a virtual must-win game Sunday at the Metrodome, the Jets will face the stingiest run defense this side of the 2000 Ravens. Actually, you have to go back, back, back to the 1942 Bears to find a defense that gave up so little on the ground.
The Vikings have allowed only 54 yards rushing per game, the equivalent of one Willis McGahee run against the Jets. But are the Jets running scared of this modern-day version of the Purple People Eaters? Nah.
"Yeah, we can run on these guys," running back Leon Washington said yesterday. "With attitude and execution, you can run on any team in the NFL."
A lot of teams felt the same way, but ended up with embarrassing totals. The Vikings have held opponents under 18 yards rushing in seven games, including a whopping minus-3 from the Lions last week.
It's a huge challenge for D'Brickashaw Ferguson and the Jets' offensive line, along with the tight ends and backs. Some teams get discouraged by the Vikings and give up on the running game after a handful of failed attempts, but the Jets insisted they're not going to be bothered by the Minnesota mystique.
"I don't think they're intimidating," Washington said. "I don't think any team in the NFL can fight you off from something you need to do."
Said guard Brandon Moore: "I don't think players get intimidated. Sometimes coaches get intimidated. When it's one yard here, a 5-yard loss there, they kind of run scared. But players don't feel that way."
If the Jets sound confident, it could be because they have done their homework. Some scouts believe the Vikings are paper lions, the product of a soft schedule. There's some credence to that. In their last 11 games, the Vikings have faced only one top-10 rushing offense.
Of course, the Jets weren't going to admit that. In the team meeting, Eric Mangini read a scouting report on the Vikings' defense, putting their statistics in historical perspective. Listen up:
If the Vikings hold their final three opponents to a combined 51 yards, they would finish with the lowest rushing yards-per-game since the NFL started keeping records in 1920.
The record is held by the '42 Bears, who surrendered only 47.2 yards under legendary coach George Halas. The modern mark, post-1969, belongs to the '00 Ravens, who limited opponents to 60.1yards en route to a Super Bowl championship.
"It's ridiculous," quarterback Chad Pennington said of the Vikings' production. "Fifty-four yards a game is just ridiculous."
"Remarkable," guard Pete Kendall said.
The Vikings' 54 isn't an artificial number, either. Some run defenses are under-tested and overhyped because the opponent falls behind and starts throwing, but that isn't the case with the Vikings (6-7). In fact, they have held double-digit leads in only four games.
The most accurate gauge of a team's run defense is the per-carry average. For the Vikings, it's a league-best 2.7.
"They're a legitimate, legitimate run-stopping group," Kendall said.
The Vikings don't have any household names on defense, but they have two formidable tackles (Pat Williams and Kevin Williams) and a stout middle linebacker (Napoleon Harris). They form an impenetrable interior triangle, shades of the old Ravens' trio of Tony Siragusa, Sam Adams and Ray Lewis.
The rest of the Minnesota defense feeds off the middle three. Right end, former No.1 pick Kenechi Udeze, has 11tackles behind the line. A safety, either Darren Sharper or rookie Cedric Griffin, always seems to be near the line, giving them an eight-man front.
Jets nose tackle C.J. Mosley, acquired in a preseason trade with the Vikings, knows the Minnesota personnel better than anyone. Asked if his former defense is the real deal, Mosley said, "You better believe it."
Originally published on December 14, 2006