Vikings' defense back to its old, withering ways?

Updated: November 3, 2003, 8:38 PM ET
ESPN

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The sight was painfully familiar for the Minnesota Vikings and anyone who roots for them: An opponent moving up and down the field against a defense that seemed unable to resist.

For the second straight week, the Vikings allowed 450 total yards -- and lost. Might there be a pattern developing here?

"I think the situation (stinks), frankly," coach Mike Tice said, asked specifically about a run defense -- a recent source of pride at Winter Park -- that was porous in a 30-27 defeat to Green Bay.

Overall, the defense has dropped to 29th -- giving up an average of 356 yards per game despite a 6-2 record. The Vikings allowed 261 yards rushing to the Packers Sunday night and fell to 20th in the league in that category.

"You can't win a lot of games in the NFL doing that," Tice said Monday, emphasizing that the coaching staff will closely evaluate "everything" on defense to determine if personnel changes need to be made.

Defensive coordinator George O'Leary, who has been lauded for his help in revitalizing the Vikings' defense this year, said he thought the right players are in place.

"The big thing is it's all correctible," said O'Leary, who gathered the defense together in a rare Monday meeting to make sure everyone was aware of what needs to be fixed this week before the Vikings face the San Diego Chargers and LaDainian Tomlinson -- whose 780 yards rushing are second in the AFC.

"You've got to stop the run if you want to win," O'Leary said. "I don't even think we slowed them down. ... They've made a great attempt to attack a certain part of the field."

The New York Giants rushed for only 83 yards in their 29-17 win on Oct. 26, but Tiki Barber was able to run outside effectively -- something that the Atlanta Falcons also did with T.J. Duckett in a 39-26 win by the Vikings on Oct. 5.

On Sunday, the Packers worked that formula to perfection. Ahman Green had 137 yards, Najeh Davenport 43 and Tony Fisher 38 -- most of them coming outside the tackles on cutbacks when Vikings defenders over-pursued the ball carrier.

"As a linebacker, you take that personally," Chris Claiborne said. "We worked all week on our mental game and fundamentals, but we didn't apply that.

"We made the game way too hard, with our tackling, yards after the catch, yards after contact. We needed to get off the field and give our offense a chance. ... I'm going to work and learn, put some more time in this week to make things all right. They brought me in here to make things all right."

In winning their first six games, the Vikings gave up their share of yardage but were successful by forcing turnovers -- something that was sorely missing in 2002. They still lead the NFC with 20 takeaways (18 interceptions), but the last two weeks have yielded only two.

Another problem noticed by the coaches on Sunday was a lack of speed.

"We don't look as quick or as explosive on defense," Tice said.

Said O'Leary: "I thought we looked leg-dead. For the life of me, I don't know why."

The Vikings have a good chance to re-strengthen their hold on the NFC North with games against San Diego (1-7), Oakland (2-6) and Detroit (2-6) in the coming weeks. That's if they can stop the run.

"This is a bump in the road, but we can't let it steamroll," said free safety Brian Russell.

The offense put up 27 points and didn't turn the ball over on Sunday, but it wasn't by any means flawless. The first and last drives went for touchdowns, but the eight possessions in between yielded only 187 yards, 13 points and four punts.

"We've just got to be more explosive," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index