Aside from Turnovers, Here Is the Vikings Problem

NFL: Preseason-Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 Minnesota Vikings own a -6 turnover differential and -9 points differential through two weeks of the regular season.

Due to that utterly naughty turnover statistic, Minnesota’s point differential should be close to -40 or so — not “only” negative nine points.

Aside from Turnovers, Here Is the Vikings Problem

On the whole, yes, the Vikings are a fumble-problem fix away from emerging as a good football team, but there’s one other item that requires immediate remedy: Run the football, at least a little bit.

Aside from Turnovers
Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) hands the ball off to running back Alexander Mattison (2) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

VikingsTerritory is not asking the Vikings to establish the run or turn the clock back to the Mike Zimmer era. We don’t do that here. However, the club must run the rock at a more reasonable clip, if only to manage the time of possession battle.

Minnesota’s lack-of-rushing woes have forced some Vikings fans to lament the exit of Dalvin Cook from the team. Cook is averaging 2.3 yards per rush attempt in New York — that’s how grim the Vikings rushing attack feels at the moment. Fans want a player who gains 2.3 yards every time he touches the ball to return.

Analyst and Vikings,
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

But the Vikings don’t need Cook, nor should fans miss his status as RB1. The team merely needs to give the ball more to Alexander Mattison and Ty Chandler. It’s truly as simple as that. Consider this very simple stat:

Vikings NFL Ranking,
Through 2 Weeks,
Yards per Game:

Passing Yards = 2nd
Rushing Yards = 32nd

What’s more, only two teams in NFL history have rushed the ball less through the first two games of a season. The Vikings have run the ball 26 times. A normal team through Week 2 has rushed the rock about 54 times. That’s average for an NFL team, running the pigskin 27 times per contest. The Vikings are calling rushing plays 13 times per game. It’s mind-boggling.

ESPN Names RB2
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sean Mannion (14) hands off to running back Ty Chandler (32) during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Unsurprisingly, the Vikings time of possession on offense ranks 28th leaguewide in two games. A club can’t hope to improve a sketchy defense if those 11 men are always on the field. It flat-out doesn’t work that way. Thankfully for the Vikings sake, the defense has actually improved from 2022 to 2023, so if they rectify the playcalling madness, Brian Flores’ unit can get even better.

Vikings players and coaches know the offense has potential. Tight end T.J. Hockenson said after Thursday night’s loss, “We can move the ball on anybody. We can be in any game. We just have to clean things up.”

The clean-up should involve a quasi-commitment to carries for Mattison and Chandler.

Aug 26, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) reacts after a game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell said, too, “I do know this: Kirk Cousins absolutely played well enough for us to win that football game.”

Cousins’ productivity and efficiency would be aided by mixing up the run and pass. That’s what smart offenses do.

Run the damn ball a little bit.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by