Vikings

Mike McDaniel Is Capable Of Matching O'Connell's Red Zone Creativity

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In each of the first five games of this season, Kevin O’Connell has flaunted his creative play-calling ability when the Minnesota Vikings are in goal-to-go situations. His use of motions and different formations has added a layer to the Vikings’ offense and kept defenses guessing.

For example, on the first touchdown of the season this year, O’Connell sent Justin Jefferson in a fly motion across the formation. Then he used Dalvin Cook as a decoy in the play action, allowing Jefferson to be wide-open in the flat for a walk-in touchdown.

On Monday Night Football, O’Connell motioned Adam Thielen in tight between Irv Smith Jr. and Brian O’Neill. This motion aims to trick the Philadelphia Eagles into thinking the Vikings will run. Then Kirk Cousins fakes the handoff to Cook, freezing the Eagles’ defense for a moment. Irv peels out to the flat and is wide open for a walk-in touchdown.

O’Connell used Jefferson as a decoy against the Detroit Lions a week later. Similar to the first play I showed, Jefferson came across the formation, drawing the attention of three different Lions defenders. That left Thielen wide open in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.

In London, O’Connell again used Jefferson in motion against the New Orleans Saints. This time, Cousins handed the ball off as Jefferson came across. The motion gave Jefferson a running head start, and it was the key to him being able to walk in for a touchdown.

Finally, O’Connell called a toss play for Jalen Reagor against the Chicago Bears. Reagor used his open-field elusiveness and juke past Roquan Smith for the touchdown. It was a classic example of finding easy ways to get the ball into the hands of your playmakers and allowing them to do the rest.

O’Connell is influencing everything about Minnesota’s goal-line offense. Klint Kubiak did not have plays like this last season. As a result, the Vikings have become unpredictable in the red zone, and there has seemingly been a “gimme” touchdown each week.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been hiccups. Minnesota went 2/5 in the red zone against the Saints. However, this injection of creativity into the offense has undoubtedly helped far more than it has hurt.

In Miami, the Vikings will face another creative offense led by rookie head coach Mike McDaniel this week. In Week 5, McDaniel showcased his creativity with a play call on par with O’Connell’s repertoire.

The play was a sneak from the one-yard line, but it wasn’t just any ordinary sneak. Miami Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe comes in motion while third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson acts confused.

Before you know it, Smythe is under center, taking the snap and sneaking in for the touchdown. McDaniel’s use of motion freezes the New York Jets’ defensive linemen for just a moment, allowing the Dolphins’ lineman to get enough push for Smythe to get in for the easy score.

The funny part about this is that McDaniel took this play from the Kansas City Chiefs, who used it the previous week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It would be hilarious to see O’Connell use this trick sneak play against the Dolphins this week if given the opportunity.

The Jets also ran a play against the Dolphins last year that O’Connell could call near the goal line on Sunday. Braxton Berrios is a Jets receiver with similar abilities to Reagor’s. He comes in motion for a toss with a pulling guard out in front and makes a man miss before scoring.

Overall, O’Connell’s creativity near the end zone has given the Vikings seemingly effortless touchdowns each week. If Minnesota finds themselves on the goal line against the Dolphins this week, expect the unexpected.

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