Yes, I know that the headline doesn't have a lot of relevance, because 0-3 is 0-3, whether you're an "awesome" 0-3 or a "terrible" 0-3. However, the folks at ESPN put up an interesting article yesterday that shows that the Vikings are not only a whole lot better than a lot of people want to give them credit for, but that they still might even have a shot at the playoffs.
When asked for comment on the story, former Indianapolis Colts' head coach Jim Mora said the following:
Ten years, and that speech still never gets old.
But yes, the Vikings might. . .might. . .still have an outside shot at being a decent team this year. What do the ESPN folks cite as evidence for this? Well, it's an In$ider article, so I can't just copy-and-paste it. . .but I can summarize the heck out of it for you, and I'll do so right after the jump.
First off, according to the article, only six teams in NFL history have had the same sort of dominance in the first halves of football games that the 2011 Minnesota Vikings have shown (scoring more than 50 points while allowing 7 or fewer). The Vikings have outscored their opponents 54-7 in the first half this year. Here are the other teams that fall into that same category.
|Team||Year||Points For||Points Against|
|Los Angeles Rams||1970||63||6|
|San Diego Chargers||1961||73||3|
One minor difference between the 2011 Vikings and those other six teams. . .the six teams listed above all went 3-0. Minnesota has managed to go 0-3.
ESPN even managed to put a number on the odds of the Vikings' losing all three of their games in the fashion that they have. With win probabilities at halftime ranging from 84.9% in the game against the Chargers to 97.1% in last week's game against Detroit, ESPN put the odds of the Vikings losing their first three games with the halftime leads they had at 3,800-to-1. To put it another way, if you could have placed an actual bet of $50 on such a thing occurring, you would have walked away with a cool $190,000.
So how do they think the Vikings can make the playoffs? The summary of their solution is to. . .well, be a little less aggressive.
The example they cite is the Lions game this past weekend. The Vikings went into the third quarter with a 20-0 lead. After stopping Detroit on their first possession of the second half, the Vikings went three-and-out on their first three drives. The play selection on those three drives? Two runs and seven passes. Only two of the seven passes were complete, as Donovan McNabb threw four incompletions and took one sack. It's things like this that contribute to the Vikings being dead last in the NFL in second-half time of possession, which ultimately leads to the defense wearing down in the second half.
In this case, this goes back to what we've been saying. . .rather than going away from Adrian Peterson after halftime, the Vikings need to feed him more. Yes, Peterson is seeing teams stack the box in the second half of games, and the Lions were no exception in this case. But Peterson sees teams stack the box against him all the damn time, and it really doesn't make any difference. . .heck, if Peterson manages to find a seam against one of those stacked fronts, he's going to be long gone.
On defense, as I just pointed out, it looks like they just need a little bit of rest. The offense having the lowest time of possession in the second half in the NFL has led to the Vikings having the worst second-half scoring defense in the NFL, as they've allowed an average of 21.3 points in the second half this season (contrasted with the 2.3 points they're giving up in the first half, on average). This should also help to shore up the discrepancy between the Minnesota pass rush in the first half compared to what it is in the second half. In the first half, the Vikings are registering sacks on 10.3% of all quarterback drop backs, which is awesome. In the second half, that figure drops to just 4%, which is awful. The ability to actually catch their breath on the sidelines in the second half couldn't possibly be anything but helpful in this case.
Even though we as Viking fans have been conditioned to believe otherwise, there's no way that this team can continue defying the odds like this all season. If they can keep things up in the first half the way they have been, things are going to turn around for this team. Hopefully it can start this weekend against Kansas City.