The Vikings Have One Large Problem

The Vikings Have One Large Problem
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings are 4-1 through five weeks, sitting atop the NFC North. But the team has one large and identifiable problem.

Even with a luxurious 4-1 record, the Vikings are going to bed in the 3rd Quarter. Thankfully for their sake, they respond with a vengeance in the 4th Quarter, yet 3rd Quarters are a documentable dilemma.

Opponents have outscored the Vikings 33-6 in the 3rd Quarter of games, a differential totally unbecoming of a suddenly Super Bowl-contending team. That’s right — opponents have piled on 33 points in Quarter 3 against the Vikings, whereas Kevin O’Connell and the gang have only tossed six points on the board. It’s not sustainable for a winning season and will soon cause comeuppance.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings are “getting away with it” for now, knocking off wayward teams like the Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, and Chicago Bears despite the 3rd Quarter blues. But that prosperity streak won’t last unless O’Connell regulates 3rd Quarter performance.

Here are some of the numbers for context.

Vikings Score by Quarter,
thru Week 5 of 2022:
[Vikings Score-Opponents Score]

1st Quarter = 21-17
2nd Quarter = 51-38
3rd Quarter = 6-33
4th Quarter = 37-14

And the NFL ranking comparison from the 3rd to 4th Quarter:

Vikings Points Differential,
2nd Half of Games,
thru Week 5:

3rd Quarter = -27 (3rd Worst in NFL)
4th Quarter = +23 (4th Best in NFL)

Put simply, the Vikings are wholly ineffective right after halftime, lasting about 15 minutes until the big-boy pants return for the 4th Quarter. All things considered, Vikings fans are mostly of the mindset “we’ll take it,” as the statistics indicate the team roars back for the final period. However, a good football team can do both and improve on the fly.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings even tried taking the ball to start the game in Week 5, a departure from normative decision-making. This meant the Bears would get the ball to start the 2nd Half on Sunday, but even the philosophy swap didn’t cure the 3rd Quarter doldrums. Whether getting the ball at the beginning of the 3rd Quarter or kicking it, the 3rd Quarter pain is present.

O’Connell can continue to ride 4th Quarter heroism if the 3rd Quarter futility exists, but the Vikings aren’t students of thaumatology. The only saving grace through five games is that the last two seasons, 2020 and 2021, were nearly inverse. Minnesota would tread water in the 3rd Quater and collapse defensively in the 4th Quarter. It’s why they didn’t reach the postseason in either season.

The 2022 season is only 29% complete. There’s time for repair. And narrowly focusing on 3rd Quarter performance is a sensible spot to target.

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Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).