EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Throughout the offseason, the Minnesota Vikings spent ample time on third-down conversions in the red zone and goal-line situations, both on offense and defense.
New Orleans made it inside the Vikings' 10-yard line on four different possessions on Monday. Three of those ended in a field goal. On the other, Drew Brees converted for an 8-yard touchdown that wouldn't affect the outcome of the game.
Minnesota's defense should be quite pleased with how it faired against the third-best red zone scoring offense from 2016. Slowing down Brees wasn't going to be an easy task, but the unit found ways to apply pressure.
"I think Drew Brees was having to get the ball out of his hands before he really wanted to," Minnesota defensive end Brian Robison said after the game. "We blitzed well and we were able to rush with our front four pretty well."
What’s more, the Vikings won the battle on defense by not forcing a single turnover and registering a sack.
"We didn't anticipate we were going to get a whole bunch of sacks because [Brees] gets the ball out quick," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Tuesday. "He's a tough quarterback to defend. They've got a Super Bowl-winning coach over there. We were just trying to fight, scratch and do what we could."
The defense could be taking a similar approach in Week 2, given the difficulty in containing who's under center.
Minnesota goes from Brees to Ben Roethlisberger in back-to-back weeks when it faces the Steelers, the top team in ESPN's power rankings, in Pittsburgh this Sunday. Like Brees, Roethlisberger is notoriously difficult to bring down. He was sacked a total of 27 times last season and was only sacked three or more times twice last season.
While facing quarterbacks of the caliber of Brees and Roethlisberger certainly provides the defense with an early-season measuring stick, Zimmer is more focused on what the team will learn from its game plan for the entirety of the Steelers' offense.
"I don't know," Zimmer said. "We're going to play a lot of potential Hall of Fame quarterbacks as we continue to go forward. Just trying to take one week at a time. This week is a different week. The offense is going to be different. The preparation is going to be different. It's going to be about how we prepare defensively for this offense. This offense is different than the other offense we just played, even though the quarterbacks are both excellent."