Vikings Do 1 Thing Like Recent Super Bowl Champions

Vikings May Have First
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings are 12-3 and could lock up the number two seed in the NFC in the next couple of weeks when the purple team faces two divisional opponents, the Packers and the Bears.

Most experts don’t buy the Vikings as serious contenders despite the excellent record. One reason is that most analytics and advanced stats have the Vikings as an average team. Another reason is the lack of convincing wins, as the team has already won 11 one-score games in the season while also getting blown out by two of the best teams in the conference.

However, some people would say that it’s hard to win in the NFL, and it doesn’t matter how many points a team is winning by. The Vikings are fantastic at situational football, something Kevin O’Connell preached all offseason, and the team doesn’t make any mistakes late in games and comes away with the victory in most games for that reason.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell

The organization underwent many offseason changes, including upheaval in the front office and the coaching staff. The latter especially had a big impact on the immediate turnaround of the football team. O’Connell appears to be the opposite of Mike Zimmer, his predecessor. While Zimmer is a tough, old-school coach similar to Bill Parcells, O’Connell is a young and cool coach — which might be a better fit with today’s generation of players.

Vikings Do 1 Thing Like Recent Super Bowl Champions

The vibe around the team completely changed. There’s nothing wrong with Zimmer’s coaching style in general. The team just needed a change after eight years. However, the team took on the personality of their head coach.

Suddenly a Busy Man, Mike Zimmer Has Another New Gig
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Outside of the personality, the Vikings also changed their approach on the offensive side of the ball. The NFL changed in the last decade, mainly because the running game is far less important nowadays. It is still setting up playaction passes, and teams want to threaten opponents with the running game, but it is not necessary to run the ball a lot to win in the NFL in 2022.

Zimmer’s offenses were built around the run, something that was problematic when the team fell behind in games but a great way to win if the team went up by two scores. Now, the Vikings became a pass-first team and pull off comeback after comeback. Some would say the change came a couple of years too late.

From 2014 through 2021, the Zimmer-Vikings ran the ball an average of 27.3 times per game, which ranked them 12th over that span. In 2022, O’Connell’s Vikings run the ball only 23.1 times per game, ranking them 30th. Only the Buccaneers and the Dolphins have fewer rushing attempts per game. The Chargers and the Buccaneers are the only teams with fewer runs per pass in 2022.

Interestingly, that is apparently how teams win Super Bowls in today’s day and age. The 2021 Rams were 24th in run-pass ratio, Tom Brady’s Buccaneers were 30th, and the 2019 Chiefs 24th.

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The Vikings employ a highly-paid running back. Dalvin Cook is a true difference-maker but has slowed down in 2022 by NFL Next Gen Stats. His rushing yards over expected per rush were at 0.82 in 2020, declined to 0.34 in 2021, and declined even further to -0.02 in 2022. He can still totally change games with big plays and has done that multiple times this season.

Against the Bills, Cook pulled off a career-high 81-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Without that run, the comeback from down 17 points is impossible. In the comeback win against the Colts, Cook took a screen to the house for 64 yards to tie the game.

Cook can still change games, but the league doesn’t value running backs anymore. It would not be shocking to see the Vikings moving on from their star runner, as it would save almost $8 million in cap space. Even if he is slowing down, the threat of having Cook in the backfield helps the Vikings in the passing game because teams still respect the runner. However, the key to winning the Super Bowl is an explosive passing offense, and the Vikings aerial attack is getting hot right in time for the postseason.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt