The Vikings Not So Simple Plan vs. Giants
Whether you’re a professional football player or work in business, one of the most frustrating roadblocks we all run into is highlighting a plan to success that is plain as day but not understanding or not being able to execute said plan.
For the Minnesota Vikings, this would appear to be one of the main issues they’ll run into as they square off against the New York Giants for a Wildcard playoff matchup this weekend in Minnesota.
The plan is simple — if you can stop the run game of the Giants, you essentially stop the Giants.
Right now, their offense is relatively one-dimensional with a passing game that, at times, can strike dangerously but, on the whole, has underperformed all season long. The 27th-ranked passing offense in the league this year, Daniel Jones hasn’t been able to hone in on a dynamic receiver this year, forcing his hand to spread the ball around to young, largely unproven wideouts or dump the ball off to Barkley coming out of the backfield.
The Vikings Not So Simple Plan vs. Giants
On the contrary, the tandem of Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones running out of the Giants backfield has pushed New York to have the 4th-most effective running game in the NFL and the second-best run game left in the playoffs only behind the Ravens.
Barkley has proven this year that he’s recovered fully from the injuries that shortened and hampered each of his last two seasons. With 1,312 rush yards this season and 10 touchdowns, Barkley finished the season as the 4th-most productive running back and did so in having been held out of the final game of the year.
This production level carrying the football rivals that of his rookie season when he took the NFL by storm and had fantasy football players across the country drooling over the gold mine that they might have stumbled into. The mix of dynamic running and power running that Saquon can bring to the table is unique and causes issues for defenses that usually look to hone in on one facet or the other.
And then there’s the quarterback, Daniel Jones. He finished the season with 708 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns, averaging an astounding 5.9 yards per carry. This top-flight tandem and then sprinkling in Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell have given the Giants four runners on roster who average more than 4 yards per carry.
This ground attack has pushed the Giants to four games this season with more than 200 yards rushing, all 4 of which resulted in wins. The unbalance that a run option can cause when facing a 1,300-yard running back and a 700-yard quarterback is one of New York’s key advantages over their opponents.
All the notes above would prove problematic for a Vikings defense that has allowed more than 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns to runners this season.
But there is an interesting juxtaposition mixed in for the Giants as well. Despite all the success they’ve had running the ball this season and all the different players that could factor in that success, they still have four games on the books this year where they finished with less than 100 yards running. Consequently, they lost three of those four games when they underperformed on the ground.
Looking a little deeper at the last two instances of such against the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, you can find the Vikings potential path to success in containing the Giants run. Much of that pressure will fall on the Vikings front three defensive linemen. Eating up blocks as best they can, carrying doubled teams, and getting pressure into the backfield will all prove to be essential as the Giants thrive when they’re able to get their blockers into the second level. Keeping Hicks and Kendricks clean so they can move to the ball carrier will be critical for the Vikings to best contain the run.
Secondly is sure tackling. Barkley is 4th in the league with yards after contact only behind Jacobs, Chubb, and Henry. He’s strong, he’s quick, and he’s elusive. You cannot afford to not wrap him up at the first point of contact.
And third, for the Vikings specifically, is to get up on the Giants early in the game and force them to play more through the air. This is not just a first-drive scoring scenario. We’re talking first drive, second drive, and maybe third drive. You need to put points on the board. Forcing the Giants to move away from their strength (the run game) and towards a weakness (the passing game) to play catchup is always a good plan.
The tough part — the Vikings are not good at any of this. They haven’t been able to stop the run, haven’t been fundamentally sound on tackles this year, and allow their opponent to hang around rather than put them away.
Herein lies the problem, identifying the path to victory seems simple — executing that plan and bringing it to fruition is much more difficult for this team.
Aj Mansour is a member of The Power Trip Morning Show on KFAN and works for iHeartMedia and the Vikings Radio Network. He’s also a senior writer for VikingsTerritory.com. Be sure to follow him on social media for the latest Vikings news and big opinions – @AjKFAN
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