Minnesota Vikings Pass Rush: Best in the League?

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Vikings’ pass rush has been a key part in the 3-0 start of the season. The stats and film agree that the Vikings are the best at bringing the heat through the first three weeks.

After three consecutive weeks of defying popular opinion, the Minnesota Vikings have proven their ability to win in many different ways. Perhaps the most consistent facet of the Vikings’ game throughout the season has been their pass rush.

On paper, the Minnesota Vikings lead the league in sacks with 15, and yards lost on sacks with 116. Seven different Vikings have sacks including Harrison Smith (1), Linval Joseph (3), Danielle Hunter (3), Anthony Barr (1), Everson Griffen (4), Brian Robison (2) and Tom Johnson (1). Only Von Miller has more sacks (5) than Everson Griffen, and Linval Joseph is second in the NFL among interior linemen. Three Vikings are in the top five for sacks which also leads the league.

While the numbers look fantastic, the tape is even more impressive for the Minnesota Vikings’ pass rush. Even elite quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton have been flustered and frustrated with play-to-play pressure seemingly flooding in from all angles. The Purple People Eaters 2.0 have forced opponents to use additional blocking help and get rid of the ball faster, causing frequent miscommunication.

More from Minnesota Vikings

In the Minnesota Vikings’ week two victory, the Packers implemented a two tight end formation for virtually every play starting in the second half after they were bullied in a game where five different Vikings sacked Rodgers. That game plan alteration resulted in Green Bay only racking up 180 passing yards with one of the league’s best offensive personnel.

One of the most important factors that stats simply cannot capture is the crucial timing of the Vikings’ effective pass rush. In week one, Everson Griffen’s tenacious pressure forced Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota to throw an ill-advised check down into the palms of Eric Kendricks who turned the tides of that game with a pick six.

Besides Kendricks’ pick six in route of victory over the Titans, the Vikings also forced a game-sealing interception against the Packers and the Panthers. Trae Waynes managed to jump a route after Rodgers had to throw the ball early, and big man Tom Johnson picked off Cam Newton with one athletic hand after several Vikings jolted through the center of the line.

Facing Carolina, Danielle Hunter bull rushed Panthers left tackle Michael Oher and corralled Cam Newton for a safety–the first two points of the Vikings’ winning 22-point streak. With momentum on his side, Aaron Rodgers dropped back to pass at midfield when Brian Robison came around the edge with a savvy move and strip-sacked Rodgers, winning the ball back for Minnesota.

More from Sporting Sota

Depth has contributed immensely for the Minnesota Vikings’ pass rush. Even with Shariff Floyd, the Vikings’ primary interior pass rusher, shelved with injury, the Vikings have managed to maintain a consistent high motor. Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson (due to Floyd’s injury) and Brian Robison make up the fantastic starting front four.

Shamar Stephen comes off the bench to consume double-teams while Danielle Hunter subs in all over the line on passing situations–he enjoyed his first touchdown after alertly scooping a botched snap against Tennessee. Having seven reliable play makers on the line makes this defense consistently tick while freeing up open lanes to other blitzers like Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks who managed to hit Cam Newton 12 times collectively.

More than anything else, the success of the Minnesota Vikings pass rush comes from a foundation of team chemistry. Mike Zimmer has clearly coached a culture of selflessness on the defensive line which has led to good discipline in containment and no worries when it comes to the flashy egos of superstar players.

While Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph frequently garner attention in the form of double-teams and backfield help, Robison, Hunter, Johnson and anyone blitzing from the secondary typically has an easier path to the quarterback. Meanwhile, Griffen and Joseph still find a way there.

Next: Minnesota Vikings Embracing Mike Zimmer's Fighting Spirit

Both the numbers and the tape point to the Minnesota Vikings as the best pass-rushing team in the NFL. With this elite pass rush, a clicking secondary and a budding offensive identity, the Vikings have emerged as an NFC superpower.