Defense providing some concerns for Vikings

Jasper Brinkley (Chuck Burton/AP)

Brett Favre isn't the only concern for the Vikings, whose defense suddenly has some issues after being exposed in two of the last three games.

While the Brad Childress-Brett Favre saga has taken up most of the headlines this week, there are other real football-related issues surrounding the Vikings (11-3) as they prepare to play Monday night at Chicago.

The Vikings are one game up on the red-hot Philadelphia Eagles in the race for the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye in the playoffs. But considering what is going on with the Vikings' defense it's not a slam dunk they are going to wrap-up that spot.

Among the concerns:

  • Cornerback Antoine Winfield has returned from an injury to his right foot, but he clearly wasn't able to push off on that foot against Carolina last Sunday and missed at least three tackles in a loss to the Panthers. Three missed tackles is a lot for Winfield.

  • Safety Tyrell Johnson returned after missing a game because of a concussion and struggled with his tackling against the Panthers. Rookie Jamarca Sanford played well in place of Johnson against Cincinnati and could be a candidate to replace Johnson if he continues to miss tackles.

  • Rookie Jasper Brinkley did a nice job filling in for E.J. Henderson on Dec. 13 against run-oriented Cincinnati but struggled against the Panthers as they attacked through the air. The middle linebacker in the Tampa-2 is responsible for dropping into coverage and Brinkley's inexperience showed against the Panthers.

    Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier knows all these things are issues he needs to get fixed as soon as possible with the playoffs approaching and he certainly will put a large focus on tackling this week.

    The Vikings struggled with their tackling before their bye week in early November but seemed to get things straightened out during the bye.

    The issue is that Arizona set a template for beating the Vikings in their Dec. 6 meeting. The Cardinals rolled to a 30-17 victory in part by having Kurt Warner take three- and five-step drops and get rid of the ball long before the Vikings line could get to him. Carolina followed suit with quarterback Matt Moore and receiver Steve Smith causing all kinds of headaches.

    Pass defense isn't the Vikings' strength and when that's combined with poor tackling a defense that is very good at stopping the run is rendered fairly ineffective.

    NOTES

  • WR Percy Harvin continued to participate in all of practice Thursday and it appears he has put his latest episode of migraine headaches behind him. Harvin visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., on Tuesday.

  • G Steve Hutchinson was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a shoulder injury.

  • DE Brian Robison was limited Wednesday and Thursday because of a quadriceps injury.

  • DT Pat Williams was limited Wednesday and Thursday because of an issue with his elbow.

  • CB Antoine Winfield was limited Wednesday and Thursday because of a foot injury that he has been playing through the past two games after sitting out six in a row.

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