At 2-2 with a crucial four game stretch in front of them, the Vikings offense has been kind of a mixed bag of results so far. The running game, lead by Adrian Peterson, currently ranks second in the NFL in yards and average yards per carry, while coming in third in scoring touchdowns. After a slow start, Peterson has been on fire, rushing for 372 yards in four games, which is good for 8th in the NFL.
Passing the ball, however, is another story. Minnesota currently ranks last or close to last in just about every major statistical category--30th in pass attempts, 32nd in yards, 32nd in TD passes. On the surface, that seems like an unsustainable business model for success, and I would agree. However, let's break this down a little bit further, and see where it leads us, shall we?
Week One, at San Francisco: The Vikings offense, both on the ground and through the air, was an absolute tire fire. They had 177 net passing yards, and only 71 rushing yards. Nothing worked that night, and it was arguably the worst offensive performance in the Mike Zimmer era so far.There is a motion on the floor to erase that game from our memory banks. All those in favor say aye. All those opposed say nay. The ayes have it, motion carried. Man, that game just sucked.
Week 2, Detroit: The difference between the San Francisco and Detroit games was startling, as the Vikings pretty much did what they wanted for the entirety of the game. Peterson, still the focal point of the Vikings offense, ran for 134 yards, and the Vikings as a team ran for 199. It was a classic 'use the run to set up the pass', as the Vikings only threw the ball 18 times. Teddy Bridgewater was very effective, going 14/18 for 153 yards and one TD. The Vikings relied almost exclusively on short and intermediate routes to play ball control offense and move the chains, and it worked. In short, they didn't need to pass the ball much, but when they did, they executed the game plan rather well.
Week 3, San Diego: Once again the running game led the way, as Peterson ran for 126 yards and two scores, and the Vikings amassed 163 yards total on the ground. Bridgewater was just okay in this game, going 13/24 for 121 yards and one interception, with a long pass of 19 yards. In the second half, Bridgewater only attempted seven passes, as the Vikings built a substantial lead and just ran the ball to eat the clock. So yes, it wasn't a banner day statistically for Bridgewater, but a 31-14 win was an impressive team effort.
Week 4, at Denver: There is going to come a day when the running game isn't going to work, and the Vikings will be forced to throw the ball a lot more than they probably intended or wanted to. This was that game. AP was neutralized for most of the game, having only 40 yards rushing through three quarters, and the only success the Vikings had in moving the ball was through the air. Bridgewater was under relentless pressure all day, but had a very good game, going 27/41 with 269 yards and a TD. He distributed the ball to six different receivers, and WR's Mike Wallace, Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen had good games. For Bridgewater personally, it was only the fourth time in his career he attempted over 40 passes, and it was his third highest yardage total.
If we look just at the numbers at face value, it would be easy to say that the Vikings passing attack is in trouble. But by digging deeper, it looks like we have a pretty good explanation as to why, and it's not nearly as bad as the numbers would suggest. The bottom line for me is whether or not the Vikings can move the ball through the air when they have to, and the answer to that question appears to be yes.
Although the numbers right now are really skewed to the run game, I don't see them staying this unbalanced all season. The reason I say that is because I'm particularly encouraged by the Denver game. The Vikings made a concerted effort to throw more intermediate routes and pick up yards in chunks, and were largely successful in doing so.. The Broncos field one of the best defenses in the NFL, and Bridgewater was able to stand up to the pressure and get the ball to his playmakers.
Going forward, I expect the offense to find more balance, while still using Peterson as the focal point, and using the run to set up the pass. And I don't see anything wrong with that at all.