The Vikings are a superb soccer staff…on paper. Simply their roster, you’d assume this staff was a perennial playoff staff with Tremendous Bowl aspirations, if they might solely get previous these pesky Packers. They haven’t been that although. They haven’t gained their division since 2017 and have reached the playoffs solely as soon as in that span as nicely.
A number of the blame for this staff’s lack of manufacturing over these years has been pinned on quarterback Kirk Cousins. Everybody, whether or not you be an informal NFL fan, diehard Vikings fan, or author for Deadspin, has taken a shot at Cousins sooner or later or one other. Hell, even NFL gamers can’t assist however underrate the man. How do you rank him under Mac Jones?
Whereas I don’t consider he’s a Tremendous Bowl-caliber quarterback, opposite to what most individuals appear to consider, Cousins isn’t the rationale his staff has missed the playoffs every of the final two years. His protection is. Whereas I’ve defended the Vikings’ protection because it pertains to Cousins’ means to win a Tremendous Bowl previously, there’s no defending how horrendous the Vikings’ protection was in 2021. Not solely did they permit the fifth-most passing yard and seventh-most speeding yards, however they have been arguably the least clutch protection within the NFL this century. Don’t consider me?
Since 2000, the 2021 Minnesota Vikings allowed extra factors within the remaining two minutes of the 2nd and 4th quarters than another staff. In Week 1 alone final 12 months, the Vikings surrendered 14 factors after the two-minute warning within the first half, then allowed a game-tying subject purpose late on the clock within the fourth. That’s 17 factors in a four-minute span, arguably a very powerful 4 minutes of a whole recreation. Of their second recreation, it was ten factors. Sport No. 4, 11 factors. Then it was 11 factors, eight factors, seven factors, seven factors, seven factors, seven factors, seven factors, 12 factors, zero factors (in some way), 9 factors, three factors, seven factors, and eight factors to finish the season. That’s a complete of 131 factors in 68 minutes over the course of your entire 2021 season. That’s virtually two factors per minute performed. That’s embarrassing.
There were only two weeks all of last year where the Vikings’ defense managed to hold their opponents to zero points in the final two minutes of the first and second half — Week 3 versus Seattle and Week 14 on Thursday Night time Soccer towards the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I don’t know what it was that enabled such horrendous play towards the tip of every half for the Vikes, however that’s in all probability an enormous motive why each head coach Mike Zimmer and one of many staff’s co-defensive coordinators, Adam Zimmer, have been fired this offseason.
Whereas I do know former co-head coach and defensive coordinator Andre Patterson was well-respected inside the Vikings’ group, I really assume it’s good that he’s now not with the staff. Patterson was hooked up to Zimmer and scattered after Zimmer was fired. Now, new head coach Kevin O’Connell will get to usher in all of his personal guys and implement his system instantly with none remnants of Zimmer.
New defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has all the time been well-respected by opposing staffs and quarterbacks alike. He’s received two Tremendous Bowl rings, and his Broncos’ ranked third in factors per recreation allowed (18.9) and second in opponent purple zone scoring proportion (50 %) in 2021. If Minnesota’s protection had these numbers final 12 months…they may’ve been a Tremendous Bowl contender. We shouldn’t anticipate them to place up these numbers in 2022, however even when they enhance barely, they’ll be vying for a playoff spot. Oh, the Broncos additionally solely allowed 48 factors within the remaining two minutes of both half in 2021. That’s 36.6 % of the factors that Minnesota allowed.
After all, you may argue that’s as a result of Denver performed a neater schedule. Certain, Minnesota did have some powerful video games, however no less than they don’t play within the AFC West. You would argue that Denver’s protection is simply extra proficient. I’d whole-heartedly agree with that, however you don’t see the type of disparity between level totals like I simply defined with the Vikings and Broncos primarily based on simply expertise. The teaching virtually assuredly performed a task.
Kirk Cousins isn’t going to be an elite quarterback anytime quickly. He’ll enhance with Kevin O’Connell and Wes Phillips calling the performs, however I extremely doubt we’ll see him take an analogous leap to what Stafford did in 2021. That stated, even when Cousins doesn’t enhance in any respect, the Vikings’ offense isn’t the difficulty. Cousins can solely carry the staff to this point, and he usually does greater than sufficient to get a win. Hopefully, with the additions of Donatell, Za’Darius Smith, and Jordan Hicks, in addition to the absence of Anthony Barr, the Vikes can enhance their protection and thus, attain the playoffs as soon as once more. I wouldn’t be shocked in the event that they competed for the NFC title till late within the season. Don’t anticipate a Tremendous Bowl run, although.