In case the word hasn’t quite filtered out to everybody yet, the Minnesota Vikings’ defense is really, really good. They finished #1 in the National Football League in both points allowed and yardage allowed, marking the first time a Vikings’ team has done that since 1970.
The numbers are even more insane at U.S. Bank Stadium. At home this season, the Vikings have allowed a total of 100 points, or 12.5 points/game. The defense has allowed eight touchdowns at home this season, and even most of those came either a) after the outcome was academic or b) under extremely fortuitous circumstances for the opponent.
So, since we’re basically killing time this week and we need something to talk about, let’s take a look at the touchdowns that opponents have managed to score this season at U.S. Bank Stadium and marvel at just how good this defense is when things actually matter.
Week 1 - 29-19 victory over New Orleans - 1 touchdown allowed
As we saw, the Saints’ offense basically did nothing in this game, as the Vikings shut them down for nearly the entire evening. The Saints’ lone touchdown came when Drew Brees found Coby Fleener on a 6-yard touchdown pass with 1:56 left in the game. What had been a 29-12 game became 29-19, and the Saints didn’t get any closer.
Touchdown drives: 8 plays, 75 yards, 2:04 off the clock
Week 3 - 34-17 victory over Tampa Bay - 2 touchdowns allowed
Only one team walked into U.S. Bank Stadium this season and walked out having scored multiple touchdowns, and that was the offensive juggernaut known as. . .the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Yes, Jameis Winston and company did manage a pair of touchdown drives against the Vikings’ defense, though the first one didn’t come until they were down 28-3 midway through the third quarter. One of them came on a drive that started in Minnesota territory after a big kickoff return for the Buccaneers.
Touchdown drives: 6 plays, 46 yards, 3:38 off the clock; 7 plays, 75 yards, 2:04 off the clock
Week 4 - 14-7 loss to Detroit - 1 touchdown allowed
Even in their lone home loss this season, the Vikings only allowed an opponent into the end zone once. Detroit didn’t have to go far to do it, either, as their touchdown drive covered less than 30 yards following the fumble on the play that ended the season of running back Dalvin Cook.
Touchdown drives: 5 plays, 29 yards, 2:25 off the clock
Week 6 - 23-10 victory over Green Bay - 1 touchdown allowed
After the injury to Aaron Rodgers, everyone knew that the only way that the Packers were going to score in this one is if they got a short field. That’s what happened, as they turned a Case Keenum interception into their lone touchdown of the afternoon.
Touchdown drives: 3 plays, 18 yards, 1:24 off the clock
Week 7 - 24-16 victory over Baltimore - 1 touchdown allowed
Again, the Vikings held a team out of the end zone until near the end of the football game. In this case, it was the very end, as Joe Flacco and the Ravens couldn’t find the end zone until the final play of regulation when he found Chris Moore on a 13-yard pass.
Touchdown drives: 14 plays, 68 yards, 3:03 off the clock
Week 11 - 24-7 victory over Los Angeles - 1 touchdown allowed
The Rams were on a serious roll offensively coming into this one, and they looked like they might continue that when they marched 75 yards for a fairly easy score on their opening drive. Of course, they then proceeded to not put any more points on the board for the final 56 minutes of the game as the Vikings cruised.
Touchdown drives: 9 plays, 75 yards, 4:18 off the clock
Week 15 - 34-7 victory over Cincinnati - 1 touchdown allowed
In this one, the Bengals looked like a team that was already scheduling tee times at tropical resorts for the early part of January, and the Vikings took advantage of it. Cincinnati didn’t score until near the end of regulation, when they converted the interception that killed the buzz of Teddy Bridgewater’s return into their only touchdown of the game.
Touchdown drives: 6 plays, 23 yards, 2:56 off the clock
Week 17 - 23-10 victory over Chicago - 0 touchdowns allowed (by the defense)
The lone touchdown for the Bears in this one was the result of some special teams trickery, as they fooled the Vikings’ punt coverage into thinking the ball was going to one receiver when it was really going to someone different. The defense didn’t allow any points at all until the fourth quarter when Mike Nugent converted a 55-yard field goal.
Touchdown drives: None
So, the Vikings’ defense has given up exactly one touchdown per game this year at home. Of those eight touchdown drives:
- One covered less than 20 yards (Green Bay)
- Two covered less than 30 yards (Detroit, Cincinnati)
- One covered less than 50 yards (Tampa Bay)
That means that, of all the drives that Vikings’ opponents started in their own territory during the 2017 regular season at U.S. Bank Stadium, they converted exactly four of them into touchdowns.
Of the four touchdown drives that the Vikings’ defense allowed on drives that teams started in their own territory:
- The Saints’ long touchdown drive moved the score from 29-12 to 29-19 with less than two minutes left in the game.
- The Buccaneers’ long touchdown drive moved the score from 31-10 to 31-17 on the final play of the third quarter.
- The Ravens’ long touchdown drive moved the score from 24-9 to 24-16 on the very last play of the game.
- The Rams’ long touchdown drive came on the first drive of the game. (I think this is what statistics folks call an “outlier.”)
Basically, it appears when games at U.S. Bank Stadium have been competitive and the Vikings’ defense has been well and truly focused on stopping opposing offenses, they’ve stopped them. When teams have to travel more than half the field against this Vikings’ defense at U.S. Bank Stadium, they haven’t been able to do it, particularly when the outcome of the game has still been in doubt.
The Vikings’ defense has been pretty darn good everywhere they’ve played this season, with a couple of exceptions. They’ve been outright dominant on their home field. There’s a chance that, if they play three more games this season, they could all take place at U.S. Bank Stadium.
I know that it might still be too early to feel really, really good about the Vikings’ chances of making it to the big game in February, but with this defense, maybe those feelings are warranted already.