We all know that the Minnesota Vikings struggled in the red zone in 2016, and today ESPN’s Vikings’ writer Ben Goessling documented exactly how bad it was.
The Vikings focused on their red-zone woes after a year in which they ranked 28th in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They scored touchdowns on just 46 percent of their red-zone drives, and when they got in goal-to-go situations, they weren't much better, ranking 26th in the league with a 61 percent touchdown conversion rate.
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Of particular interest to the coach was third-down situations in the red zone, where the Vikings saw too many drives turn into field goals. Minnesota faced 76 third downs in the red zone last year, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and converted only 44 of them; their 57.9 conversion percentage was 27th in the league.
Goessling also points out several games that could have swung in Minnesota’s favor if they could have punched the ball into the end zone rather than settling for field goals.
The popular thought might be that the loss of Adrian Peterson would only serve to weaken the Vikings’ red zone offense, but according to Goessling, Peterson’s presence didn’t seem to do much either. In Peterson’s ten seasons with Minnesota, the Vikings finished in the bottom half of the league in red zone efficiency in six of those seasons. Even in 2012, when Peterson was the MVP of the league and ran for over 2,000 yards, the Vikings were just 18th in the NFL in red zone efficiency. In the two most recent seasons where he played the majority of the team’s games, they were 19th and 24th in that category.
As Goessling points out, a lot of this probably has to do with erratic quarterback play for the Vikings over most of that time. However, whether it’s Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater, that shouldn’t be an issue for the Vikings in 2017. A lot of it will have to do with the improvement of the offensive line and how the new group of running backs meshes into the offense.
We saw last year that the Vikings struggled to get one yard on numerous occasions, whether that was near the goal line or from other spots on the field, and hopefully the Vikings have done enough this offseason to fix that. We know that the team has two new offensive tackles, and they also grabbed running back Dalvin Cook in this year’s draft. They also signed Latavius Murray, who had 11 touchdown runs of four yards or less with the Oakland Raiders in 2016.
If the Vikings can find their way to scoring more touchdowns in 2017 and less trotting Kai Forbath or Marshall Koehn onto the field to settle for three points, this team should improve markedly on their 8-8 record from last season, since I don’t see the defense having any problems holding up their end of the bargain if they don’t have to play 40 minutes a game.