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Where do the Vikings throw the football?

A look at pass attempts and directions across the NFL and the Vikings.

Minnesota Vikings v Buffalo Bills
Pass mapping Sam Bradford
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

There was an interesting article written by Anthony Staggs over at Sharp Football Analysis. He was speculating that teams in the NFL should change the predominant direction that they throw the majority of their passes. His conclusion is that this might create different mismatches that they can exploit more effectively. He has quantified throws that go short left, short middle, short right, deep left, deep middle, and deep right. Most quarterbacks in the NFL predominantly throw to the right. This can be because by the fact that most are right-handed, or they are avoiding what is usually the better cornerback on the left side. They have crunched the numbers and looked at success rates for each sector.

Numbers where balls are thrown in the NFL
NFL accumulated passer ratings by field location.

The completion percentage for each sector [line 3 on the spreadsheet], is very interesting in this conversation, as well as, the yards per attempt, and then comparing them to the touchdowns scored out of each segment. This made me wonder, where did the Vikings throw last year?

Under two different offensive coordinators, Norv Turner and Pat Shurmur, I ran the numbers. These are the results that the site produced. You can see in the left-hand diagram, the total number of passes thrown in each sector with their completion percentage in the circle underneath. In the center graphic, you see where it rates against the mean [average] of the entire NFL, and right graphic you see the success percentage. It is interesting that the Vikings throw less to the short left sector, and quite a bit less to the deep middle sector.

Vikings throws and success rates from 2016.
Minnesota Vikings receiving efficiency in 2016.

What is cool about Sharp Football Analysis, is that we can further look at an individual’s performance, as well as the group’s, and in this case, looking to see on which downs Sam Bradford [in this case], have his most success, and in what distance and direction. It can even be refined down using filters such as the red zone.

Sam Bradford’s 2016 passer rating pass map by down.
Minnesota Vikings Sam Bradford’s passer rating by location and down in 2016.

This does tell us some of where Sam likes to throw, where the offensive coordinator likes to call plays with their specific routes, and it reflects on the receivers catching those balls in those routes along with hinting at o-line play against pressure. The website only has stats for 2016, but as this season progresses, this shall be an interesting metric to track for both Pat Shurmur and Sam Bradford, or whoever the starting quarterback may be. It will also be interesting to compare the short sectors versus league average considering that Pat Shurmur likes his dink and dunk offense.

If you are curious about where Bradford had thrown completions in the first preseason game against the Buffalo Bills. I have charted those. We know that Sam went 5 for 7 on his throws, with a 71.4% completion rate, for a total of 35 yards. The yardage total includes the yards after catch made by the receiver. My chart below, is just where the ball was thrown and where it was received.

Sam Bradford throws on 10 August, 2017.
Minnesota Vikings Sam Bradford’s passing attempts and reception map for the Vikings versus the Bills in preseason game #1.
Graphic by Luft Krigare

As you can see, in the three series that Sam played, all pass attempts except for one were under 10 yards, and that there was nothing over the middle. You can take this with a grain of salt, because it is only the first preseason game, and as Matthew Coller said on 1500 ESPN this morning, he suspected that all the starters wanted to do, was to play soft so that they could get out of the game without injury. His theory was that it was sort of reminiscent of how players play in the Pro Bowl, in my opinion. Combine that with vanilla play calling, and an offensive line that is still a work in progress when it comes to figuring out who will start, and the prerequisite gelling that is required, we saw nothing fancy.

I do like passing maps, and plan to continue this throughout the season as a weekly feature provided for Daily Norseman readers. If there are any ways you can think of tweaking it so it will be better, please let me know.