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Vikings analyst: Defense a bigger problem than QBs

By Brent Stecker

From Christian Ponder to Matt Cassel to Josh Freeman, the Vikings have had all kinds of trouble staying healthy and finding consistent production at quarterback. But while that has grabbed most of the attention during the Vikings’ 2-7 start, their problems are not limited to who is taking the snaps.

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The Vikings’ defense is ranked 29th in the NFL against the pass this year. (AP)

Vikings color commentator Pete Bercich joined “The Huddle” on 710 ESPN Seattle on Wednesday, and he explained that as Minnesota prepares to face the 9-1 Seahawks on Sunday, its struggles mainly stem from ineffective defensive play.

“The underlying issue, despite the carousel at quarterback, has been our defense,” said Bercich, a Vikings linebacker from 1995 through 2000. “We lost Harrison Smith, one of our safeties. We’ve been without (safety) Jamarca Sanford. So we have not been able to stop too many teams, and we’re last in the league on third-down conversions. We’re giving up somewhere near 400 yards a game.”

Minnesota has been prone to being burned through the air, as it has allowed 285.7 passing yards per game in 2013, 29th in the NFL. But even with former Vikings receiver Percy Harvin possibly returning from injury to make his debut for Seattle on Sunday, it’s the Seahawks’ running game that has Bercich concerned.

It’s a valid concern. Though the Vikings rank near the middle of the league in run defense (113.7 yards per game), they were ripped for 191 yards on the ground last week against Washington, and Green Bay rushed for 182 against them two games before that. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are the league’s best running team, as the combo of running back Marshawn Lynch (871 yards) and quarterback Russell Wilson (395) has lead them to an average of 153.4 rushing yards per game.

“The defense has really been the issue, and Marshawn Lynch and the rest of your squad, Russell Wilson, present plenty of problems for this defense,” Bercich said. “That’s gonna be the big question – can we hold up against the run? Can we stop Russell from running, as well?”