Kevin O’Connell has added a lot to the Minnesota Vikings. With five consecutive close wins, a generous game ball distribution process, and unquantifiable good energy, O’Connell has coined the term “situational masters” to describe what he wants his team to aspire to be. The Vikings have frequent meetings breaking down specific situations and how the team can leverage the thinnest of margins on the way to winning football games. Staying in bounds on late-game runs, getting down after interceptions that can close the game, and dominating the last four minutes of each half all encompass important situations throughout each week.
A situation that the Vikings mastered in Week 8 was the red zone. In the red zone, space is constricted and offenses are limited in what they can do. Defenses tighten up and you no longer need to worry about deep throws down the field. Safeties can also play more aggressively with less concern about their depth.
On Sunday, the Vikings were 5 for 5 on their trips to the red zone. They succeeded in different ways: individual playmaking, great design, and effective run-game execution.
Players make plays
On the first drive of the game, the Vikings entered the red zone facing 3rd and 4. The Cardinals came out in man coverage to the Vikings Empty look and did a great job relating to the receivers on this play. Man coverage can force Quarterbacks to make tight-window throws with disrupted timing and shift the advantage to the defense based on certain matchups. Man coverage can also, however, leave the Quarterback unaccounted for as the defensive backs are all looking at receivers. Kirk Cousins took advantage of just that on the way to this game-opening score:
Rushing TD for 8 in purple:— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
-mesh vs 1 cross, D does a good job relating to routes
-no one to account for Q when the pocket is broken in man coverage pic.twitter.com/URScBLq9Lv
At this point in the season, we are almost guaranteed one sweet low red zone design per week from Kevin O’Connell and his offensive staff. In Week 1, we saw Justin Jefferson jet to the flat on a 4th down touchdown. In Week 6, we saw a perfectly executed Tight End delay. On Sunday, Johnny Mundt tallied his first regular season touchdown after selling a block with a whole lot of window dressing on the play:
KOC draws up another Y delay TD pic.twitter.com/1MkYbWKzWA— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
The Vikings were happy to see their run game produce its first 100-yard game for Dalvin Cook on the season. Though the century mark can be misleading, the Vikings were able to execute double teams, work to the second level, and pave the way for both Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison on touchdown runs:
Cleveland (72/LG) and Bradbury (58/C) with a nice double here giving Mattison room on the TD pic.twitter.com/mBl2270TPw— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
OL washing people and getting to the second level. Irv Smith with a nice sift block on Dalvin Cook's TD run pic.twitter.com/0tls1JoLqr— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
A perfect football play will see 11 players all executing their assignment in a way that produces poetry in motion. On the Vikings' last trip to the red zone, the Cardinals sent pressure to speed up the Quarterback, test the offensive line, and try to break the offense’s protection rules. Undeterred, Alexander Mattison worked across Cousins to pick up the blitz, K.J. Osborn took advantage of the stack alignment to create some separation, and Kirk Cousins threw a great ball for the final Vikings score of the day.
Mattison helping out in pass pro, Vikings rub from stack, and a great ball from Cousins all lead to the Osborn TD pic.twitter.com/qdbKnD46su— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
Execution in the red zone has been an important area for success during the Minnesota Vikings' hot start to the season. The Vikings need to continue to get 6 points instead of 3 as they make these trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line on the way to becoming situational masters.