The Minnesota Vikings have three wins in four games to start 2022, and they’re doing so primarily because of minimized mistakes.
Through Week 4, the Vikings are the league’s least-penalized team, only tabulating 95 yards of penalties on 16 flags.
For the first seven years of the Vikings experience with Mike Zimmer at the helm, the franchise was disciplined, routinely finishing low on penalty leaderboards — in a good way. But in 2021, the tendency changed. The Vikings finished last year with 1,043 penalty yards on the ledger, the fourth-worst mark in the NFL.
Insert Kevin O’Connell.
The Vikings, in 2022, have not been called for an offensive holding, defensive pass interference, unnecessary roughness, facemask, or roughing the passer. While that will assuredly change — perhaps with a proverbial jinx from this article — not being docked for such infractions in four games is rather remarkable, especially for a heavily-penalized team of yesteryear.
If asked, the coaching staff would probably take credit, as low penalties generally symbolize adept coaching. That theory may hold weight because Minnesota’s depth chart is predominantly similar to the 2021 version when it stockpiled penalty yards.
Moreover, the Vikings most prominent offender for penalties in 2021 was offensive lineman Oli Udoh, and he hasn’t played much in 2022. Udoh recorded 13 penalties last season, the second-most in the NFL. He played 1,076 offensive snaps during Zimmer’s swan song but zero snaps on offense to date this year.
Other “small” things have helped Minnesota, too. Punter Ryan Wright has averaged 47.2 yards per punt. He’s banged 9 punts inside the 20 yardline, the fourth-most in the NFL. In Week 4, kicker Greg Joseph converted 5 field goals on 5 attempts — the first time a Vikings kicker hit 5+ field goals perfectly in a game since 2017.
With the game on inches mantra popular and everpresent, the Vikings are executing the small stuff with precision — particularly limiting penalties. And it’s a change of pace when compared to 2021. Of course, O’Connell’s team can clean up some big stuff — offensive consistency, 3rd Down conversion, defensive yards allowed, etc. — but the fundamental items are in check.
The Vikings host the 2-2 Chicago Bears in Week 5 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
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).