The Minnesota Vikings are just 2-8 on the road under second-year head coach Mike Zimmer, including an 0-2 mark this season and an 0-3 record inside the division.
The two trends will combine in Week 7, when the 1-5 Detroit Lions host the 3-2 Vikings at Ford Field.
There has never been a better time for Minnesota to conquer its road blues. The Vikings are facing a stretch of three games away from home in the next four, including two against NFC North teams. More slip-ups on the road and Minnesota’s promising season could suddenly be put on the ropes.
“We want to continue the way we’re playing at home on the road,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said Wednesday, per Vikings.com. “Become a better football team on the road.”
The Vikings are 3-0 at home but winless in two attempts on the road this season. Minnesota was pounded by the 49ers in San Francisco in the season opener before failing to upset the Broncos in Denver ahead of the bye week.
|Points per game||24.3||11.5|
|Points allowed per game||13.3||21.5|
Vikings at Lions in Week 7
Head coach Mike Zimmer has an idea for how the Vikings can improve on the road.
“Probably start fast would be a good one,” head coach Mike Zimmersaid Monday, per Vikings.com. “But again, handling the crowd noise, making sure we don’t turn the ball over. We’ve got to protect the quarterback better than what we’ve done on the road, those will all be big things. We haven’t had hardly any sacks at home, but we’ve had several on the road.”
Playing better early in games would be a strong start.
The Vikings fell behind in both San Francisco and Denver. Minnesota didn’t score in the first half against the 49ers, and it took a flurry late in the second quarter against the Broncos to erase an early 13-0 deficit. The Vikings haven’t trailed at home this season, jumping out to first-half leads of 17-3, 10-0 and 10-0 in the three wins.
Jack Dempsey/Associated Press
But starting fast isn’t the only ingredient needed. The Vikings had a 14-0 lead early in the first half in Detroit last season but still lost. Minnesota held another 14-0 lead in Miami a week later and lost again.
Zimmer mentioned turnovers. The Vikings had nine in eight road games last season, but the club has only two in two games in 2015.Bridgewater threw a second-half interception against the 49ers, and he was strip-sacked by Broncos safety T.J. Ward to end the game in Denver.
Last season, Bridgewater‘s two interceptions in Detroit turned the game in favor of the Lions. Interceptions he threw in Buffalo and Miami also led to touchdowns.
“We just have to remain poised on the road and do the things that we’re doing at home,” Bridgewater said. “It’s all about execution. When we don’t execute well, it shows.”
Rick Osentoski/Associated Press
Winning the sack battle will be another important factor.
During his eight career road games, Bridgewater has been sacked 24 times, including seven in Denver. In 2015, the Vikings have allowed three sacks at home and 12 on the road.
Zimmer‘s attacking defense isn’t as disruptive away from home. Minnesota has seven sacks at home this season but only three on the road, with twice as many takeaways at TCF Bank Stadium than away from home.
Most important factor for MIN to win at DET?
Essentially, the Vikings are struggling with all the important ingredients in winning football games when playing on the road. Getting leads, winning the turnover battle and protecting the quarterback are all areas where Minnesota must be better to start securing victories away from home.
The Vikings are facing back-to-back road games, with a trip to Chicago following Sunday’s visit to Detroit. Minnesota then returns home to play the St. Louis Rams before heading out west to face the Oakland Raiders.
The four-game stretch will help define the Vikings’ season, especially with games against the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals awaiting Minnesota once it returns from Oakland.
Anything less than 3-1 over the next four games could put the Vikings’ playoff hopes in jeopardy. If Minnesota is serious about the postseason, it must find a way to win games away from home.
There’s no grand secret. The Vikings simply need to be much better in the most important areas of winning games, regardless of setting. Minnesota is capable of beating any team if it plays at the cumulativelevel of its three home wins in 2015.