The Minnesota Vikings carry a heavy stigma of continuously failing to find a long-term quarterback.

Typically, that spells doom for a franchise.

The surprising part of Mike Zimmer’s tenure in Minnesota has been the Vikings’ ability to win at a fairly high level despite having a different Week 1 passer each of Zimmer’s four seasons. That includes three consecutive years where the primary quarterback had his best career season (Teddy Bridgewater in 2015, Sam Bradford in 2016 and Case Keenum in 2017).

The common link between these three? A low number of interceptions and a high completion percentage. Not to mention a strong defense providing them support.

I crunched the data on the last three years of passing stats for all 32 NFL teams to see where the Vikings stood in various categories. Check out the chart below, initially ordered by highest touchdown-to-interception ratio. No surprise that New England blows away the field, but Minnesota isn’t far behind in fifth.

(But seriously, New England!)

NFL TEAM PASSING STATS 2015-2017

TDs INTs RATIO COMP. ATT. PCT. TOT. YDS.
NE 100 17 5.88 1,161 1,766 65.7 13,313
SEA 91 32 2.84 1,041 1,611 64.6 11,571
KC 65 23 2.83 1,038 1,562 66.5 11,099
GB 96 34 2.82 1,103 1,755 62.8 10,869
MIN 59 22 2.68 1,065 1,569 67.9 10,517
NO 93 35 2.66 1,318 1,877 70.2 14,233
CIN 74 29 2.56 1,002 1,578 63.5 10,987
DET 86 35 2.46 1,182 1,796 65.8 12,506
OAK 86 35 2.46 1,099 1,759 62.5 11,561
WAS 82 36 2.28 1,140 1,702 67.0 12,604
ATL 80 36 2.22 1,127 1,688 66.8 13,094
BUFF 56 26 2.15 870 1,415 61.5 9,204
LAC 91 45 2.02 1,157 1,830 63.2 13,220
PHI 77 41 1.86 1,126 1,796 62.7 11,409
NYG 82 44 1.86 1,142 1,829 62.4 11,705
AZ 84 48 1.75 1,075 1,806 59.5 12,392
CAR 78 45 1.73 899 1,565 57.4 10,351
PITT 88 51 1.73 1,156 1,776 65.1 13,185
JACK 80 47 1.70 1,040 1,760 59.1 11,429
IND 71 43 1.65 1,010 1,690 59.8 10,798
TB 77 47 1.64 1,045 1,718 60.8 12,144
HOU 72 45 1.60 1,004 1,727 58.1 10,287
DAL 63 41 1.54 968 1,504 64.4 10,243
MIA 75 48 1.56 1,054 1,667 63.2 10,846
TEN 68 45 1.51 955 1,551 61.6 10,235
SF 52 37 1.41 971 1,624 59.8 10,152
LAR 53 38 1.39 905 1,527 59.3 9,587
NYJ 68 53 1.28 996 1,664 59.9 10,705
CHI 53 43 1.23 972 1,555 62.5 10,443
BAL 61 50 1.22 1,228 1,922 63.9 11,401
DEN 58 56 1.04 1,039 1,742 59.6 10,988
CLE 50 54 0.93 1,021 1,750 58.3 10,274

Only six teams threw fewer touchdowns over this span that the Vikings: the Bills, 49ers, Rams, Bears, Broncos and Browns. Sure, Denver won a Super Bowl thanks to its marvelous defense three seasons ago — and Los Angeles reached the playoffs last year — but these have generally been among the league’s worst teams over the last three seasons.

Minnesota used a conservative passing approach and an Adrian Peterson-heavy gameplan in 2015 to avoid mistakes, but they’ve managed to take care of the football equally well in subsequent seasons while throwing the ball at a more normal rate. Only two teams besides the Vikings have thrown single-digit interceptions each of the last three years: New England and Kansas City.

The Vikings also rank second in completion percentage since 2015, trailing only New Orleans and veteran Drew Brees, who re-set his own completion percentage record one season after Bradford broke it with Minnesota in 2016.

The caveat: New Orleans leads the league in passing yards while being 70 percent accurate. That’s scary.

Minnesota ranked 25th in passing attempts and 23rd in passing yards in this span. The low marks can be blamed on the 2015 team, which achieved the rare feat of passing for under 3,000 yards. In a sample size that is still relatively small, one odd season can throw off the data, especially when there is a different coordinator at the helm. However, there are other examples that show teams’ remarkable consistency from year to year. For instance, Pittsburgh threw the ball 590, 596 and 590 times, respectively the last three seasons.

The bottom line is that the Vikings are unique. They’ve managed to amass a 32-16 record and two playoff berths over three seasons despite several different quarterbacks and two different offensive coordinators. While Minnesota’s passers have been bottom-third in several categories, including touchdown passes, their decision-making with the football has given the Vikings ample opportunity to win, which is exactly what a stout defense needs to thrive.

Other non-Vikings observations:

  • Cam Newton’s Panthers have the lowest completion percentage on the chart (57.4), and only the Bills have completed fewer balls over the previous three seasons.
  • Buffalo’s profile is actually somewhat similar to the Vikings’ with touchdown passes in the 50s and interceptions in the 20s, though they’ve attempted about 150 fewer passes at a much lower completion percentage. They and the Rams are the only two clubs to come in below the 10,000-yard mark since 2015.
  • Cleveland is the only team with a touchdown-to-interception ratio below 1:1.
  • While the league puts more emphasis on the pass than ever before, 23 of the 32 teams decreased their number of pass attempts last year.
  • Nobody has passed more over the last three years than the Baltimore Ravens, but only four teams have thrown more interceptions. The Ravens have zero playoff appearances in that span.
  • Only five teams have had three straight 4,000-yard passing seasons: the Lions, Saints, Patriots, Chargers and Steelers.

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