Vikings’ Ed Donatell Issues Strong Statement on Defense After Early Struggles

Ed Donatell

Courtesy of Vikings Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell is in the hot seat with fans calling for his firing after the team's season-ending loss to the New York Giants.

The Minnesota Vikings defense has been a sore subject for most of the 2022 season.

Despite Pro Bowl talent at all three levels, the Vikings defense allowed the second-most yards and third-most points per game in the league this season. From Week 10 to Week 16, Minnesota allowed 400 or more yards in six of seven games.

Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was under considerable scrutiny during that stretch of porous performances. However, he’s heading into the postseason with a conspicuous level of confidence — saying Vikings observers will like the way they play.

“It’s our time to shine as a defense, now that we’re hitting the playoffs. Really love the overall team chemistry of this football team. We’ve been put in a lot of big moments and it’s hardened us for these times that are coming,” Donatell said in a January 12 press conference, adding that players have taken charge on defense in preparation for the postseason.

“When I go in our locker room and when I go to practice yesterday, these guys built the confidence for me,” Donatell added. “Eric Kendricks, Pat Peterson, Za’Darius [Smith], Danielle [Hunter], [Jordan] Hicks, I can just about name anybody, but they’re kind of taking over our team (this week). I think you’ll like the way we play.”

Vikings’ Ed Donatell Shows Short Memory After Allowing Giants to Reach Season-High 3 Weeks Ago

The Vikings (13-4) enter a Super Wild Card Weekend matchup with the New York Giants just three weeks after needing a 61-yard field goal to clinch a 27-24 win in Week 16 over New York.

Minnesota has thrived in late-game situations, however, the defense’s performance begs the question of whether the game should have even been that close. Donatell’s defense gave up 445 total yards, a season-high for the Giants, and allowed Daniel Jones to throw for 334 yards.

But despite those gaudy numbers, the defense was vital to the victory, forcing two turnovers, including a fourth-quarter interception by Patrick Peterson. They also sacked Jones three times, and held the Giants to a 3-of-11 conversion rate on third down.

Special teams also had a blocked punt, while the offense scored a pair of touchdowns in the final quarter. That’s the chemistry and complementary football Donatell mentioned.

“We love the process,” Donatell said. “We get to learn so much about each other and being in tight games and (having) setbacks. This team never lost two games in a row. And then you’re also forging your team and all parts of your defense, your run defense, your pass defense, the chemistry, your calls, your pressures. You accumulate that and you get a chance to go to the tournament.”

Vikings Kevin O’Connell’s Intervention on Defense Has Led to Improvement

After the Vikings allowed 400 or more yards in five consecutive games for the first time in franchise history, head coach Kevin O’Connell intervened in the defensive decision-making.

He urged Donatell to blitz more often, play tighter coverage and become less predictable.

These adjustments, coupled with the Vikings’ strengths could bode well for a higher ceiling in the playoffs. Minnesota’s defense forced the eighth-most turnovers (25) in the league and is among the best third-down units (38.1% conversion rate, 12th-best), per Pro Football Reference.

“We’ve had some times where we gave up more big plays than we wanted to,” Donatell said. “Okay, well, what are you going to learn from that? Now that we’re in the tournament, you want to have those things cleared up. But there’s some really positive things. Down the line, this is an A-plus defense, how many times we’ve closed out games. Third down, we’re a top-ten group, red zone, when we needed it in big games, it was great down there. Those are good things. We can stop the run when we need to. Putting it all together is what we intend to do this week.”

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