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4 Ways Vikings Offense Can Improve from 2021


Jun 8, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Here’s the oddity to know about the Minnesota Vikings offense in 2021 — the team led the NFL in 15+ yard gains on offense, had the fewest turnovers in the NFL, and missed the playoffs.

Indeed, the club had the firepower to be great on offense but was often bogged down in ruts of bland playcalling and generalized ineffectiveness. But with a new skipper in town — the team hired Kevin O’Connell in February to kickstart an offense-first era — the offensive side of operations should improve.

These are four ways it can do so (in no particular order of importance).

1. Increase Time of Possession

2021 NFL Ranking = 24th

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Kevin O’Connell

There’s a correlation between the amount of time teams control the football and who wins ballgames. In 2021, the Vikings ranked ninth-worst in time of possession, an odd stat for a franchise led by Mike Zimmer, who often sought to control the tempo of a game.

Put simply, Minnesota didn’t hang onto the ball long enough, and drive sustainability was suspect. The 3-and-Out stat listed below will further uplift the problem. With O’Connell, the Vikings must stay on the field longer and “play the way they want to play” rather than succumbing to punts derived from dumb playcalling.

Last year, the Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans led the NFL in time of possession. Unsurprisingly, those two teams were the #1 seed in their respective conference.

2. Better 3rd Down Conversion %

2021 NFL Ranking = 26th

Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Like time of possession, teams whose offenses convert on 3rd Down win games. Minnesota ranked seventh-worst in the business for 3rd Down conversion last season. Their 36.4% 3rd Down conversion rate was .08% better than the New York Jets — not a team to exalt for offensive prowess.

In 2019, the last time the Vikings won a postseason game, Minnesota ranked ninth in the NFL via 3rd Down conversion percentage. So, the blueprint is “in there” somewhere.

3. Rushing Efficiency

2021 NFL Ranking = 27th (Rushing DVOA)

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Jun 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) and wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

How about this oddball fact? Despite employing Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison in 2021, plus a coach who unabashedly wanted to run the ball, the Vikings were one of the league’s worst rushing organizations. Weird.

The Vikings ranked 28th in rushing touchdowns, 19th in yards per rush, and 17th in rushing yards. If a team is going to advertise defense-first football, coupled with running the ball to the utmost, it better be efficient. The 2021 Vikings were not efficient on the ground.

Of course, O’Connell’s Vikings won’t run as much as Zimmer’s Vikings, but when they do, improving on efficiency from 2021 is desirable.

Also remember — the 2021 Rams weren’t some sort of “run and shoot” passing offense. McVay and friends (in this case, O’Connell) like to run the ball, too.

4. Reduce 3-and-Outs

2021 NFL Ranking = 32nd

Kirk Cousins
Nov 22, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive back Donovan Wilson (37) sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The smoking gun.

No naughty habit stifled the Vikings more on offense in 2021 than 3-and-Outs. The Vikings led the NFL in the metric. Pair this poor situational stat with the defense’s knack for surrendering points in the final two minutes of halves, and it’s no wonder the 8-9 Vikings missed the playoffs.

This malady should be marked for immediate clean-up. If it is not, Minnesota will not reach the postseason (for a third consecutive year), and the Kirk Cousins experiment will come to an end.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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