The Minnesota Vikings Are Showing Improvement in Key Areas


Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell greets players before the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings made some significant changes during the offseason, and they are paying off. The team is showing improvement in some key areas headed into Week 4. 

One of the most notable changes the team made was bringing in new Head Coach Kevin O’Connell after releasing Mike Zimmer who had been with the team for 8 years. Zimmer had spent his time building up the team’s defense and O’Connell is known for his offensive abilities, after learning under the Rams Head Coach, Sean McVay. It is still early in the 2022 season, but we are already seeing some positive changes with the team.

Defensive Pressure has Increased

The Viking defense has been far from perfect and shows some inconsistencies, a glance at some key statistics shows that disparity. 

  • 30th in yards allowed
  • 29th in passing yards allowed
  • 25h in rushing yards allowed

Despite how low the team is ranked in those categories they excel in a more critical category:

The defense might be struggling to completely stifle opposing offenses; however, they are able to shut them down when it counts and prevent opponents from scoring. It is that concept of a “bend and don’t break” defense; they give up yards in this prevent type system but not the big plays.

New Viking Za’Darius Smith has proven to be an asset in this area. While he might not have as many sacks as he would like, he is pressuring the passer consistently, 12 times, which is 9th most in the league among edge rushers.

Za’Darius Smith is not the only player making a difference. Patrick Peterson looks like he discovered the fountain of youth, despite being 32 years old and after having a less than perfect season in 2021, he has bounced back. He has improved to 6.2 yards per target and an overall passer rating of 63.7. 

The Vikings Offense is More Aggressive

The Viking offense is showing a more aggressive side, particularly during the last 2 minutes of the 1st half. Prior to the start of the season, O’Connell said that this was something he learned from Brian Belichick and was an area he planned to focus on, and it shows.

The Viking offense has scored 2 touchdowns in the last 2 minutes of the 2nd half, tied for the most in the NFL – this also doubles the output from last season. According to ESPN, they have run the 4th most offensive plays (16) and have the 2nd most accumulated yards (110) during those final 2 minutes of the 1st half. On top of that, every one of the final plays of the 1st half has been passing plays. 

This attacking strategy is a big change from prior seasons where they appeared to safely ride out the 1st half. It helps to set a better tone for the players going into halftime and prevent leaving points on the table. 

Tenacity is on the Rise

A more intangible improvement in this Viking team is the feeling that they are more determined and tenacious. It helped the offense, led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, come back against the Lions. Cousins led a 10-point comeback to win the game in Week 3, 28-24

In some of the more disappointing games last season, it felt a bit like the offense was giving up. However, following a frustrating loss to the Eagles in Week 2 the Vikes bounced back and fought hard to find a way to win in Detroit. When one path wasn’t open Cousins managed to find another. When he wasn’t able to connect with star receiver Justin Jefferson he found a way to get to KJ Osborn instead. This includes on the winning 28-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds left in the game. 

The Vikings are still not firing on all cylinders but there have been some significant improvements in a number of critical areas. These improvements in key areas should give Skol Nation a lot of optimism as the team heads to New Orleans to play the Saints in Week 4.


Source link