Mike Zimmer's defense smothered Brees in road win

With an injury-ravaged secondary, Mike Zimmer entered Sunday's tilt against the high-powered New Orleans Saints believing his defense would "find a way" to stop Drew Brees & Co.

Find a way they did indeed.

The Saints entered the game on a hot streak. From Weeks 13-17, New Orleans averaged 37.2 points per game, 384.8 yards per game, 275.8 passing yards per game. Sunday, they were held woefully short in all those areas.

Zimmer's defense held Brees to 20 points, 227 passing yards and 324 total yards. New Orleans had only allowed four total sacks and one turnover in its last five games combined. The Vikings earned three sacks and two takeaways in Sunday's game.

The pressure from Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen were the key. Facing one of the top offensive lines in the NFL, the duo blasted Brees at every turn, discombobulated the Saints offense, and protected the injured back end of the defense. Each compiled 1.5 sacks of Brees, they combined for six QB hits and a bevy of other pressures.

"They are two of the best defensive ends in the league, especially the pair. You cannot just focus on one," Brees noted after the loss. "And oh, by the way, they have some good interior guys and good pressure players at the linebacker and safety positions, as well. You have to have a plan for all of those guys. I think we understood that it was going to be a battle, and there are times where they're going to get you."

The brightest move from Zimmer was moving Griffen and Hunter inside on third downs and in obvious passing situations. The Saints' strength along the line is at the tackles. Moving the two inside allowed them to go at New Orleans' weakness. They created havoc from there.

"I thought it was good," Zimmer said, via the team's official website. "It's always nice when you do something and it works. It doesn't always work, but you've got to try it."

Griffen noted the decision to move inside was a difference in the game.

"It's a switch-up," Griffen said of the tactic. "They always see us in the same spot, and being able to switch it up and give them a different look, it really messed them up in the beginning.

"They made their adjustments, we made our adjustments, but I'm proud of our team, man," he added. "We fought. Kirk [Cousins] played well, Rudy (Kyle Rudolph) -- everybody, man. It was a top-down win. A team win."

Entering the bout, the only way the Vikings were going to win on the road against Drew Brees and Sean Payton was for the defensive front to take over the game. They did from the first snap and rarely let up. Hunter's strip of Brees as the Saints were marching for a potential game-tying score with plenty of time left, helped turn the tide as the Vikes offense struggled for a stretch.

"He's Brees. A future Hall of Famer. He's going to make his plays," Griffen said. "But we just have to stay tuned in and keep on fighting, and that's what we did. We did that, and we came out victorious."

Cousins rightfully is getting the praise for leading the overtime victory. It was the defense, however, that gave him a chance for that epic moment by dousing an offense that entered the game flaming hot.

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