"Our defense is playing unbelievable and that's what's expected of those guys," Johnson said following a 27-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
It's been a long, long time since such high expectations have been bestowed upon this defense, which has amazingly thrust the Vikings back into contention for the NFC North title.
The Vikings forced six turnovers and held Steven Jackson to 67 yards rushing in their sixth consecutive victory.
With Chicago (9-4) losing at Pittsburgh, the Vikings (8-5) pulled within one game of the division lead in a season that appeared lost after a 2-5 start. And the Bears still have to come to town on the final Sunday of the season.
"It is hard not to look ahead," receiver Koren Robinson said. "You just have to stay focused and understand that if we don't handle our business, regardless of what the Bears do, we're going to miss the playoffs."
Even mentioning that word would have been ludicrous six weeks ago, when the Vikings appeared to be spiraling out of control with myriad mistakes on the field and an embarrassing boat party scandal off it.
That was before the defense, with five new starters, started coming together. Now that it has, the wins just keep on coming.
"I think we're jelling," said cornerback Brian Williams. "Everybody's just putting it together and figuring out what our defense is all about."
Vikings defenders have long held starring roles in highlight reels for the "Greatest Show on Turf," allowing an average of 47 points and 456 yards in three straight losses to the Rams.
Williams led the way with two interceptions as the Vikings confused and battered rookie quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was 26-of-44 for 235 yards and five interceptions for the fading Rams (5-8).
"It was a disappointing game," Fitzpatrick said. "I made some mistakes and it seemed like every time I made a mistake, they capitalized on it."
Behind quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger, the Rams scored 137 points in routes in 2003 and 2000 and an NFC divisional playoff win after the 1999 season.
Bulger (shoulder) has missed the last three games and Fitzpatrick clearly is not in that class. He made several poor decisions, including throwing a ball right to Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield deep in Rams territory with less than 2 minutes to play in the first half.
That set up Paul Edinger's second field goal and gave the Vikings a 13-6 halftime lead.
"He didn't have a very good day today," Rams interim coach Joe Vitt said of Fitzpatrick. "I thought the protection was good. I thought his ball was sailing on his outs."
Robinson, Michael Bennett and Ciatrick Fason all scored touchdowns on the ground for the Vikings, who have been conservative and efficient during their turnaround, all with Johnson starting for injured Daunte Culpepper at quarterback.
Johnson was 16-for-25 for 146 yards, once again avoiding the costly mistakes that so plagued Culpepper early in the season.
Fitzpatrick tied the game at 13 with a 14-yard TD run early in the third quarter, but the Vikings' defense shut out the Rams the rest of the way and is allowing just 15.5 points a game during the winning streak.
The Rams crumbled under the pressure, making mistake after mistake to lose for the fourth time in five games.
In the third quarter, Bruce stumbled out of his break, and Fitzpatrick's pass went right into the arms of Williams, who returned it to the Rams 21 to setup Fason's 1-yard plunge and a 27-13 lead.
Fitzpatrick fumbled the snap on third-and-3 from the Vikings 37 on the ensuing possession, and Rex Tucker had a false start as the Rams lined up to go for it on fourth-and-6, forcing a punt.
Kevin Curtis also dropped a pass in the end zone with 3 minutes to go that would have pulled the Rams within a touchdown.
Isaac Bruce had five catches for 66 yards to move past Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner for 10th place in NFL history with 12,181 yards. He also caught his 800th career pass in the game.
Torry Holt had 10 catches for 95 yards.
- Rex Tucker started in place of the injured Alex Barron (thumb) at RT for the Rams.
- Holt passed Henry Ellard for second in team history with 602 catches.
- Robinson's score was the just the fourth rushing TD by a receiver in franchise history and the first since Anthony Carter ran for one against Tampa Bay on Nov. 8, 1992.
- Vikings LB Keith Newman left in the second quarter with a sprained right knee and did not return.