clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Vikings at Broncos Preview: Broncos run defense must stop Adrian Peterson

The Denver Broncos take on the Minnesota Vikings at home. Homefield advantage should play a positive role in the game as the Broncos defense looks to tee off on a young, inexperienced quarterback.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, October 4, 2015 - 2:25 PM MDT
Denver Broncos




32nd Pass Off. 18th
3rd Rush Off. 31st
16th Pass Def. 1st
24th Rush Def. 6th
2-1 Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO 3-0
2nd NFC North Spread: Broncos by 7 1st AFC West

The Denver Broncos play host to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, October 4th. The Vikings are a surprising 2-1 after consecutive home wins over the Detroit Lions and San Diego Chargers. The competition there is suspect considering the Vikings got obliterated on the road against the hapless San Francisco 49ers, so one understands why the line is so heavily favored towards the Broncos right now.

Against Teddy Bridgewater, the Broncos defense can simply do their thing. It's unlikely he'll challenge the NFL's best pass defense. That will allow the Broncos to stack the box and focus on stopping Adrian Peterson. If they can do that, it's going to be a long day for the Vikings.

On defense, the Vikings are kind of average except in one category - points against. The Vikings defense is giving up just 16.7 points per game despite all of the yardage. This bend, but don't break style of defense often fails at some point. Us Broncos fans can attest to that fact. Not that matters, all the Broncos need to ensure victory is 20 points. The defense really is that good.

Strength against weakness

Here are some of the bigger match-ups to watch in this weeks game between the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos. All grades referenced come from Pro Football Focus.

Broncos front seven vs Adrian Peterson

If there is any weakness on the Broncos defense, its their 6th ranked run defense. It's 6th only because of Jamaal Charles who gashed the Broncos for 125 yards on Thursday Night Football. Even though Charles also coughed up the football twice, the Broncos yardage statistics took a big hit that week. On either side of that game, the Broncos run defense has been every bit as good as the pass defense. Better, in fact.

The question then is, what defense will show up on Sunday?

I think the better shows up. The main reason for this is T.J. Ward. He had an awful first game back from suspension in Week 2, but followed that up with a really good performance against the Detroit Lions. I'd almost prefer to rest DeMarcus Ware (-2.6 run defense) more in this game in favor of a heavier front seven.

With Vance Walker (+4.0 run defense), Sylvester Williams (+3.0 run defense), and Malik Jackson (+1.1 run defense) clogging the middle, Peterson should have difficulties finding open running lanes inside. That leaves the edge, where Von Miller (+1.4 run defense), Brandon Marshall (+3.0 run defense) and others will have to make the play.

The scary part for me is that Peterson is getting his yards behind a fairly poor run blocking offensive line. Only Joe Berger (+3.1) has a positive grade of note as the rest mostly have dark red negative grades. If that line starts to gel with Peterson on a savage-like mission to gain yards, its going to be hard to stop.

Running the ball really is the only way the Vikings are going to have a chance to score in this game. The Broncos secondary is just too good against the NFL's lowest ranked passing offense.

Broncos rushing attack vs Vikings run defense

The Vikings are mostly average overall in stopping the run (-3.9 run defense grade), but that negative grade comes mostly from linebackers and defensive backs. The defensive line appears to be fairly stout against the run. This does not bode well for a struggling Broncos offensive line (-19.6 run blocking grade).

There is some positive development, however, as the offensive line actually had their best game last week against the Lions. Sure, the Broncos gained their worst yardage total of the year, but I'll take any positive developments from that unit. Evan Mathis (+1.2), Ryan Harris (+0.8), and Matt Paradis (+0.6) all posted positive grades in that game, but overall the unit still came away with a negative grade (-1.3).

It will be interesting to see if they can get things going finally. Any movement against this Vikings front is going to be a good sign for this Broncos running attack moving forward.

Vikings pass rush vs Broncos offensive line

One of the more surprising elements of this Vikings defense that I found was its strength against the pass. This almost entirely comes from the front seven's ability to pass rush (+19.7). It's actually the second highest pass rushing grade from Pro Football Focus in the entire NFL. Second only to the Denver Broncos (+36.6), of course. These are the guys the Broncos offensive line need to worry about getting to Peyton Manning:

  • DL Everson Griffen (+5.7)
  • LB Anthony Barr (5.1)
  • DL Tom Johnson (+3.2)
  • DL Brian Robison (+2.6)
  • DL Sharrif Flloyd (+2.2)
  • DL Linval Joseph (+2.2)

The Vikings have the same kind of wealth at the defensive line position that the Broncos do at the outside linebacker position. Keeping these men away from Manning will be key to opening up the passing game.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that the Broncos defense holds the edge in every category and the Broncos offense still has Peyton Manning. Even diminished physically, Manning has shown he can will his team to victory when the chips are all out there on the table.

That said, this Orange Crush 2.0 defense should be able to produce some turnovers from a young quarterback playing in a hostile environment. Those turnovers are likely to be the difference in this game yet again.