Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 10/13/11
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Vikings coach Leslie Frazier implored his teams playmakers to come up with the big plays Minnesota needed to finally win a game. Defensively, the emphasis was put on turnovers. A couple of game-saving turnovers, or stops, might have kept the Vikings from losing their first four games by an average of less than 4.75 points. Losing second-half leads was growing tiresome. Then something happened last week while Minnesota was waiting for its playmakers to take over the young secondary came up with its biggest performance of the season. Safety Jamarca Sanford who had one interception in 30 career games previously pulled in two fourth-quarter interceptions and cornerback Asher Allen had another interception in the Vikings 34-10 victory. Including second-year cornerback Chris Cook, the defensive backs also helped hold Arizonas Larry Fitzgerald to four catches for 66 yards. Just the fact that they were able to mentally rise to the challenge that was given to them during the week about handling that No. 11, Fitzgerald for them, and getting those turnovers that we needed, Frazier said. We really thought that our defensive line would rush the quarterback well. Now, could we handle things and not give up explosive plays when the opportunity was there to make plays. They bought into that and then were able to go out and do it on the field. That was impressive and it just gives you hope that its there and we can consistently do that. The secondary did benefit from the pressure created by Allen and fellow defensive end Brian Robison. Allen had two sacks and a fumble recovery on a fumble caused by Robison, who added two sacks of his own. Minnesota is tied for sixth in the league with a plus-3 turnover differential after last weeks effort, but had gone two straight games without creating a turnover. So, the Vikings put a further emphasis on turnovers. The secondary answered, even though it was working without veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield, who missed the game with a neck injury. I just think we tried to increase the urgency on defense to be cognitive about stripping the ball, going for the ball, getting turnovers because you know what it does for the team, Asher Allen said. This time guys were where they were supposed to be and the ball just kind of came to us. Two first-quarter turnovers Asher Allens interception and Jared Allens fumble recovery led to touchdowns and a 21-0 lead last week. In all, 17 of Minnesotas points came off turnovers, an aspect the Vikings know they need going into the heart of their schedule. To finally get those interceptions and to get those turnovers, hopefully that momentum will stay and we can continue to get turnovers, Jared Allen said. As you see, when you get turnovers in this league, it can get lopsided quick. This weeks opponent, the Chicago Bears, have been particularly careful with the ball this season. Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler has been besieged by opponents pass rush, being sacked 18 times, the third-highest total in the league. But the Bears are tied with Minnesota at plus-3 in the take-away, give-away department this season with just five turnovers through their five games. Allen, Robison and the front line should be able to pressure Cutler this week, and now the defensive backs are confident following last weeks performance. The young secondary is ready to show it can be counted amongst Minnesotas playmakers and hopefully turn one big game into a season-long trend. You look at the secondary, were young, Sanford said. Besides Antoine and (cornerback Cedric Griffin), everybody else is two or three years in. So, we know thats the word that were young, but thats something we put on our shoulders and want to show everybody that we can play with the best. Harvin, Winfield miss practice: Receiver Percy Harvin missed Thursdays practice to have his sore ribs re-evaluated. Frazier said test didnt reveal anything fractured or broken and Harvin should be ready to play by Sunday. We had to double-check to make sure there was nothing broken, Frazier said. Harvin was bothered with the rib soreness earlier this season as well and Frazier said the team will likely try to add some protection around Harvins rib cage for Sundays game. His style of play is not going to change, Frazier said. Hes a violent runner when he has the ball and hes the same way when he runs routes. Hes running everything full speed. We have to watch some of his reps, as weve always tried to do, and also try to protect him physically by doing something with the ribs there to protect him. Winfield is still dealing with neck stiffness, though tests have ruled out any structural damage at this point. Winfield was injured making a tackle two weeks ago at Kansas City and hasnt practiced since. In order to make a decision to put him on the field on Sunday, the fact that not one week but this would be two weeks without having him to run around, it would make it tougher to make it a game-day decision if hes not able to do anything tomorrow, Frazier said. Linebackers E.J. Henderson (knee) and Kenny Onatolu (hamstring) were limited in practice Thursday for the second straight day. Jared Allen (eye) and safety Husain Abdullah (pelvis) were listed on the teams injury report, but were full participants in practice Thursday.
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