Brian Flores Is a Crazy Man — And It Is Beautiful.

Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

The Minnesota Vikings have had a disastrous defense since a mass exodus combined with key players aging in 2020. That culminated in the lone postseason contest in 2022 when Daniel Jones marched up and down the field, and the defense seemingly had no answer for a QB that looked like an MVP candidate that day rather than like a problem he has been since that day.

Brian Flores Is a Crazy Man — And It Is Beautiful.

Brian Flores Is a Crazy Man--And It Is Beautiful
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores in Miami Gardens, September 15, 2019. © Allen Eyestone via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

And Jones wasn’t the only one as other subpar players like Mac Jones and Mike White did the same thing. As a result, the Vikings fired defensive coordinator Ed Donatell after only one season and replaced him by hiring highly-regarded former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores.

The new coach is the polar opposite of the old one, especially since their defensive philosophies couldn’t be more different. Donatell tried to limit big plays to keep everything in front of the defense. That led to some slow deaths because constant short gains can beat a team. No blitzes and lack of aggression were not a recipe for success.

Flores instead opts to attack the passers, and he tries to make them uncomfortable. That led to some insane stat lines. The Vikings blitzed Justin Herbert in Week 3 on roughly 80% of the plays, a totally absurd number.

Aggressiveness was the big buzzword all offseason, and it translated to the field. While the defense approach didn’t work for a whole game on multiple occasions, Flores still managed to contain the Eagles and the Chargers for a while before they made some adjustments and won the game, to some extent because of Minnesota’s own offensive struggles.

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Everything finally came together in Week 4 against rookie quarterback Bryce Young. The Panthers scored six points on offense and seven on a pick-six. And how does Flores do it with suspect defensive personnel? Well, he attacks instead of waiting for QBs to slice the defense apart like his predecessor.

According to Pro Football Reference, Flores sent a blitz on 90 of 137 pass attempts, 23 more than the second-ranked team. That equals 57%. No other team has more than 50%. For reference, the 2022 Vikings blitzed on 18.9% of passes.

Harrison Smith and Josh Metellus are the two safeties with the most pass-rush snaps in 2023. Both have logged over 30, about twice as many as any other safety in the league. The two leaders in pass-rush snaps among linebackers are Jordan Hicks and Ivan Pace.

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Pace has been a rookie sensation with his ability to create pressure from the linebacker position, and Smith arguably won the Vikings the game in Week 4 when he forced a strip sack and had two more sacks in Carolina’s final drive.

Flores’ defense ranks 17th in EPA/play, 19th in points allowed, and 20th in yards allowed, despite the horrible time of possession deficit. While none of those statistics are elite, they should be good enough to win games if the offense plays up to its potential. Stopping to turn the ball over would help in that regard.

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The defense will be tested when MVP Patrick Mahomes comes to town on Sunday. Most folks in the NFL know that Mahomes shouldn’t be blitzed, which will present an interesting challenge for Flores. Will he change his philosophy and wait for the star passer to make a mistake, or does he want to pressure him to force those mistakes, but it might backfire? Many defensive coordinators have failed over the years.

If the latter is the case, the defensive line and the edge rushers would have to win their matchups. The comeback of Marcus Davenport is key in that scenario.

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