Vikings

5 Numbers That Tell the Story Of the Vikings Season

Photo credit: Sam Greene (The Enquirer)

The Minnesota Vikings’ season came to an end in yet another meaningless final-week showdown with a divisional opponent. The Chicago Bears led 14-3 at halftime, but the Vikings scored four touchdowns in the second half to win 31-17. It was only Minnesota’s second win by more than one score all season.

The Vikings finished their season with an 8-9 record and just missed out on the playoffs for the second season in a row. This offseason has already started, and it’s as eventful as the season was.

Here are five numbers that tell you the story of this season.

14

The Vikings were often involved in close games all season, with 14 of their 17 games decided by one score. It felt like no matter how large the lead or deficit, the Vikings would somehow find a way to make the game more interesting than it had to be.

A prime example of this would be the Thursday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Vikings were up by 29 points in the third quarter but somehow only managed to win by eight points. Harrison Smith punched the ball out of rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth‘s hands on the last play of the game.

Though Vikings fans will argue that if you flip some critical plays in their favor, the Vikings would be in the playoffs, we also need to think about all of the games that the Vikings managed to win due to some lucky breaks of their own. While a lot of the blame falls on the coaching for these close losses, it doesn’t seem like something that is unsolvable for next season.

128

One of the causes of these close losses this season was the Vikings’ horrific two-minute defense that allowed a record 128 points in the final two minutes of either half. It started in Week 1 of this season when rookie Ja’Marr Chase was able to blaze past Bashaud Breeland on a go route for a score, and the Vikings never seemingly fixed it. Even the Bears managed one to close out the first half in Week 18.

The Vikings’ first-half two-minute defense was the worst of the two, giving up 93 points going into halftime this season. For those keeping track at home, that is 5.47 points allowed at the end of the first half per game. Even when opponents would start deep in their own territory, whatever could go wrong seemed to go wrong. The Vikings had missed interceptions that turned into big gains or pass interference calls that shortened that field. Next season, the defense will need to tighten up their play with two minutes left in the half if they want to improve their record.

23

Despite fans thinking that the additions of Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis would immediately make the Vikings a much better offensive line, the unit still struggled, finishing as the 23rd-ranked offensive line per PFF. For context, that was one below the Bears’ offensive line. When Darrisaw was healthy, he proved to be an immediate upgrade over Rashod Hill, but the Vikings still struggled in pass protection.

Center Garrett Bradbury and right guard Oli Udoh were the main culprits for most of the penalties, and they were often at fault for the pressure Kirk Cousins endured. Despite this, the Vikings’ coaching staff seemed committed to starting Udoh and Bradbury. It wasn’t until Bradbury missed time with COVID that the Vikings added Mason Cole to the mix. While he improved, the Vikings’ offensive line still wasn’t great.

Right tackle Brian O’Neill was the only Vikings offensive lineman to post a pass-blocking grade above 65.0, a stat that needs to change in the future if Minnesota wants to contend. While the pieces are there with Darrisaw, O’Neill, and Ezra Cleveland, the Vikings need to give Davis a chance and upgrade the center position.

26

Even after the addition of Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson, the Vikings’ run defense still struggled, finishing 26th in yards allowed. After the embarrassing Christmas Day loss against the New Orleans Saints, everyone thought the run defense would improve exponentially. With Tomlinson and Pierce clogging the middle, Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks would be able to finish off any runner who managed to somehow squeeze past them.

Unfortunately, this was not the case.

While it is easy to blame Pierce and Tomlinson for not playing up to their contracts when it came to stuffing the run, it wouldn’t be fair to toss the blame on them. Minnesota’s edge rushers didn’t do a great job setting the edges this season. They allowed opposing ball carriers to cut back away from the middle and bounce their runs into open space, where they had a higher probability of making one of the linebackers miss.

This was especially frustrating to watch in games where opposing quarterbacks were struggling, and they could lean on the run game to bail them out at all times. Remember the Los Angeles Rams game? Sony Michel was able to run all over the defense despite Matt Stafford throwing three interceptions.

12

The Vikings will have the 12th-overall pick in the draft this year. After firing Zimmer and Spielman, this first pick presents a challenging decision the new head coach and general manager will make. There is no shortage of positions that they can select at 12.

They could try to find the next quarterback if they decide to move on from Cousins and his $45 million cap hit. They could also choose to pair Danielle Hunter with another blue-chip defensive end and fix their lack of pass-rushing options. The Vikings could also rebuild the cornerback room that saw players like Kris Boyd and Tye Smith get some playing time.

This will be one of many decisions new management must make that could alter the history of the franchise for the next decade or so.

Vikings
Using Dalvin Cook At Receiver Goes Beyond the Box Score
By Chris Schad - May 20, 2022
Vikings
Christian Watson Would’ve Been the Perfect No. 3 Wideout For the Vikings
By Rich Frances - May 19, 2022
Vikings

We Get Our First Look At Minnesota's Right Guard Battle As OTAs Open

Photo credit: Sam Greene (The Enquirer)

The Minnesota Vikings began their Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on Monday, giving fans their first look at veterans and rookies on the field together since the new […]

Continue Reading