Numbers Check: The Vikings Win Behind Aggressive Approach
For the first eight games of the Vikings season, fans have consistently noticed one part of this team that had been lacking: a consistent aggression on the offensive side of the ball. The defense had been good to great, the special teams is much better than 2020’s debacle, but it turned out that the offense ended up holding the team back in stretches.
This week, no such thing occurred. The Vikings consistently put the pedal to the metal on drive after drive, and they ended up with a 34-31 win over the rival Packers. The Vikings now sit just two games behind Green Bay in the loss column, and they hold the six seed in the NFC playoff picture. Here’s the stats behind how the Vikings got a big win over the Green and Gold.
In order to commit to an aggressive style of play, a team needs to draw up some plays in advance to use throughout the game. Then, in order to execute these plays, they need to avoid beating themselves with penalties. This has been a problem for the Vikings in 2021 as they’ve averaged 7.7 penalties for game, second-worst in the entire league.
This week, the Vikings didn’t have any issues with laundry on the field. The team committed just three penalties, and all of them were on the defense for just 25 yards. On the contrary, the Packers, a team that has been the cleanest in football this year, committed 8 penalties which backed them into a wall in many situations.
If the last two weeks have taught Vikings fans anything, it should be that the Vikings offense goes as Justin Jefferson goes. The second year receiver got 10 targets this week, and with those targets, he produced eight receptions, 169 yards, and a pair of touchdowns. Three of these receptions were for 20+ yards, and a fourth play resulted in a 37-yard DPI penalty that benefited Minnesota.
After this game, the Vikings are now 4-1 in games where Jefferson gets 10+ targets this season and 8-5 in his career. The only loss this season has been the loss in Arizona where a field goal by Greg Joseph could have changed the result. Clearly, the Vikings have made it an emphasis to get Jefferson the ball as he’s had 21 targets and 17 receptions in the last two games.
Similar to their issues with penalties, the Vikings have surprisingly struggled on third downs this season. This might be something for a separate article, but it feels like a lot of their problems have come at a result of trying to get too cute on these plays. The problem bled into this game a little bit, evidenced by the 3rd & short toss to C.J. Ham, but for the most part it felt like Minnesota got straight to the point on third down this week. They were going to attack, and they were going to make sure they punched Green Bay’s defense in the mouth.
Dalvin Cook took multiple third down plays right up the middle of the trenches, and more often than not, he won the battle. This ended up with the Vikings going 9/13 on third down, at a 69% (nice) clip. it makes things a lot easier when third downs are going your way, and if Minnesota can continue converting on this down, we could see more results like today’s in the future.