First things first—Thanks, Eric, for knocking out a great SMR in my absence while I had to attend my grandma’s funeral in Iowa. Dying peacefully in your sleep after seeing 100 years, while having all of your mental and physical capabilities right up until the very end? Hell, I’ll take it 10 times out of four. Godspeed, Grandma.
Speaking of taking things 10 times out of four, I’ll take a win like the Vikings had on Sunday with the same percentages. Based on some social media chatter, there’s some angst over the lack of passing attempts, or the heavy emphasis on the running game, or both. But before everyone thinks the Vikings have abandoned the pass, let’s take a closer look at some things before we get concerned about this.
On the Vikings first drive, a two play, 31 yard TD drive (after a penalty following a blocked punt), both plays were pass plays. The touchdown was a perfectly placed 23 yard throw from Cousins to Adam Thielen.
On their second drive, also a touchdown on a short field, this time after a turnover, the Vikings only needed four plays. They were two passes, and two runs. One pass was a one yard dumpoff to Dalvin Cook, the second was an incomplete pass after Zimmer challenged the original ruling as a fumble.
Their third drive, in which the Vikings ultimately punted, went 7 plays with three passes. Their fourth drive, which ended with a Cousins TD from the one, put the Vikings up 21-0, was a 10 play drive that had four passes. On the first seven plays, four were passes, and the Vikes moved from their own 21 to the Falcons 40. Then both Cook and Alexander Mattison broke off two long runs, and Cousins finished off the drive.
On their last scoring drive, the big play was...wait for it...a 31 yard pass from Cousins to Stefon Diggs, and that six play drive was four runs and two passes. It put the Vikings up 28-0 with 25 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Yes, the Vikings were run heavy. On the day, they ran the ball almost 80% of the time, but when we put it in context, the really heavy skew to the run didn’t start until after they went up 28-0, and it was the fourth quarter.
Before that, the Vikings were a lot more balanced than the final statistics bear out, although they still favored keeping the ball on the ground. On a day when running was so effective (172 rushing yards on 32 carries) though, it not only makes a lot of sense, it’s what the Vikings should have done. On their first four drives, which resulted in three touchdowns and a punt, they Vikings ran 20 plays. Of those 20 plays, eight were pass attempts. Yes, that’s still skewed more run heavy, but the Vikings were having a ton of success running the ball on those drives, too. Cook had a 19 yard TD run on the second drive, and on their third scoring drive, Cook and Mattison had back to back runs of 22 and 17 yards that got the ball from the Falcons 40 down to the one.
There were several factors that played into the run heavy offense, and although they were awesome I don’t think we’ll see it every game. I hope we do, don’t get me wrong, but a blocked punt, interception, and fumble to set up the first three touchdowns early in the game seems like a pretty high bar to clear every week. Every game has its own flow and circumstances, and Sunday’s game against the Falcons played out in a way that allowed the Vikings to score early and often, convert turnovers and scoring opportunities into touchdowns and not settle for field goals, bleed the clock, and give us a no drama win in week one, against a team a lot of people think are going to be pretty good.
I think it’s tough to ask for more than that, to be honest. But that’s just me.
Thank you for listening to my TED Talk.