With all of Sunday’s results from Week 5 of NFL action in the books, the Minnesota Vikings stand alone as the last undefeated team in the league. There are a few different numbers that have a lot to do with the team’s current standing, and we’re going to take a look at some of them here.
Obviously, the biggest story of the Vikings’ season to this point has been the play of the defense. After yesterday’s games, the Vikings are leading the National Football League in points allowed per game, giving up just 12.6 points/contest on average. They’re tied for the NFL lead in takeaways with 12, and are also tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 19 through their first five games.
Their 31-13 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday marked the ninth consecutive game (including the playoffs) where the Vikings have held an opponent to 17 points or less. That’s tied for the second-longest streak in team history.
(I erroneously said on the Twitters that it was tied for the longest streak in team history.)
The Vikings have had two other such nine-game streaks, one in 1971 and the other that spanned the 1974 and 1975 seasons. They have a ways to go to match the longest such streak in team history, though. The 1969 Vikings’ defense, probably the most dominant defense in team history, had a streak of 13 games where they allowed 17 points or less. In nine of those 13 games, the Vikings allowed 10 points or less. Here are the Vikings’ next five opponents and where they rank in the NFL in scoring offense.
- Philadelphia Eagles, 28.8 points/game (3rd in NFL)
- Chicago Bears, 17 points/game (30th)
- Detroit Lions, 23.8 points/game (T-13th)
- Washington Redskins, 23 points/game (16th)
- Arizona Cardinals, 25 points/game (11th)
It will be interesting to see if this defense can keep their impressive streak going coming out of their bye week.
Let’s not leave the offense completely out of this one, as they’ve had a significant part in the Vikings’ start as well. To be more specific, the play of the quarterback position has put up a pretty impressive stat in the team’s 5-0 streak. In Sam Bradford’s four starts, he’s completed over seventy percent of his passes and has thrown six touchdowns to no interceptions. Between Bradford and Shaun Hill, the Minnesota quarterbacks have not thrown an interception this season, having thrown 158 passes over their first five contests without having one intercepted.
According to the NFL’s Stats department, this makes them just the second team since 1933 to start a season 5-0 without throwing an interception. The only other such team was the 1969 Los Angeles Rams. Rams’ quarterback Roman Gabriel threw an interception in his team’s sixth game of the season, ending that streak. The Rams actually got off to an 11-0 start that season before losing their first game. . .to the Minnesota Vikings. The Rams finished that season with an 11-3 mark, and then lost their first game of the playoffs. . .to the Minnesota Vikings.
The fact that the Vikings have managed to do this with the cascade of injuries they’ve dealt with makes it that much more remarkable. Already they’ve replaced their starting quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater), their starting running back (Adrian Peterson), their starting left tackle (Matt Kalil), and their starting right tackle (Andre Smith). They also played Sunday’s game without their top wide receiver (Stefon Diggs), and lost their starting right guard (Brandon Fusco) midway through the first quarter. A key piece of their defensive line, tackle Sharrif Floyd, hasn’t suited up since the season opener, and they played the first two games of the season without cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the NFL’s best at the position.
I’m not sure if a team can embody the “next man up” philosophy more than this Vikings’ team has through the first five weeks of the season, but you have to give credit to coaches Mike Zimmer, Norv Turner, and George Edwards, as well as General Manager Rick Spielman. No matter what setbacks this team faces, they just keep rolling players out there and getting results.
There’s still a whole lot of football left to be played in the 2016 season, to be certain. But if the Vikings can continue playing stifling defense and playing smart football on offense. . .and if Sam Bradford can continue to make Rick Spielman look like a genius after all the flak he took in the days following the big trade. . .fans of this team should have every reason to believe that this team will be playing deep into January.
Maybe even into the first Sunday in February, too.