Vikings have holes in defense

There has been plenty of newsprint, not to mention Internet space, devoted this week to the challenges the Vikings will face against Philadelphia's blitz-happy defense Sunday.

There has been plenty of newsprint, not to mention Internet space, devoted this week to the challenges the Vikings will face against Philadelphia's blitz-happy defense Sunday.

Lost in the analysis? The Vikings have a pretty good pass rush themselves.

In fact, the Vikings' 45 sacks this season ranked fourth in the NFL, one spot behind the Eagles' 48. Continuing that type of pressure against Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb will be imperative to disrupting a Philadelphia passing attack rated sixth in the NFL.

"He can make any throw on the field if he gets his feet set, so it's going to be important for us to pressure all around the field and not let him make any runs and get his feet set and make some good throws," Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams said.

That isn't going to be easy. The mobile McNabb has been sacked only 23 times, and the Eagles' ratio of one sack for every 27 passes was the best in team history. The Vikings also are going to be without starting left defensive end Ray Edwards, who injured his left knee last Sunday against the Giants. Edwards had five sacks this season.


Pro Bowl nose tackle Pat Williams is questionable after being limited all week in practice as he tries to return from a broken right shoulder blade. Williams has missed the past two games and coach Brad Childress said it will be a game-time decision whether he plays. Childress, though, has acknowledged Williams could do further damage; Williams was working with the third team Friday during the brief portion of practice reporters are allowed to watch. That's a sign the Vikings are leaning toward holding him out.

Pat Williams is a run-stopper and not a pass rusher, but if he and Edwards are both missing, the depth of the defensive line will be adversely impacted. The Vikings could have some tired linemen chasing McNabb.

"We'd love to have [Edwards and Pat Williams], but it doesn't change our goals," defensive end Jared Allen said. "It doesn't make a difference for what we have to do. We have to win with or without them, and we want to win so we can get them back for the next week."

It's likely that second-year player Brian Robison will start at left end and Fred Evans and Jimmy Kennedy will continue to share snaps at nose tackle.

"The fact that it is a playoff game, we'll have [those guys] geared up even more and [they'll] know how important this game is and they'll play their best football," safety Darren Sharper said. "You can sometimes overcome the loss of a lot of starters in any area because the backups will step up their game and play at a high level. We expect our guys to do that."

The Vikings also still will have Pro Bowl standouts Allen and Kevin Williams on the line. Allen finished tied for fifth in the NFL with 14.5 sacks, and Williams' 8.5 sacks tied Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth for the most among defensive tackles.

However, Williams did not have a sack in the final five regular-season games and Allen has a two-game dry spell. "Whatever goes down, I'm ready for it," Allen said. "You expect everything and you prepare for everything and you just go out and play. There are going to be times where me and Ticket [Kevin Williams] are going to be double-teamed or I might get chipped and somebody is going to have a one-on-one and somebody is going to have to win it."

While Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier doesn't send blitzes nearly as much as the Eagles' Jim Johnson, it's likely Frazier will dial up some blitzes to get after McNabb. Philadelphia does like to use maximum protection packages so they likely will be ready for whatever the Vikings show.


"You look at the blitz as an opportunity [if you're on offense], but I don't know any quarterbacks that like to get hit, that like to get pressured," said Childress, who spent seven seasons working with McNabb in Philadelphia. "You just have to have the answers before the test and you have to see if you can get to him or do you need to cover him. Do you need to blitz him? You kind of usually need to do both. He doesn't relish it. ... I don't know many that do."

Eagles' Samuel hurting

Eagles Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel did not practice Friday and is listed as questionable after injuring his hip in practice Thursday. Philadelphia coach Andy Reid described it as a "hip strain."

"We think he's going to be OK, but we'll see," Reid said.

Samuel led the Eagles with four interceptions and 21 pass knockdowns. He earned his second consecutive Pro Bowl invitation this season.

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