EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota delivered a four-win improvement from the 2014 season, notching an 11-5 record. The Vikings won their first NFC North championship since 2009.
And while the Vikings offense got better in well-known stats such as points per game (where they upped their total from 20.3 to 22.8), there were other improved areas that allowed them to have a successful season.
Here are three important and improved offensive stats that led to Minnesota's strong season and first playoff appearance since 2012:
Time of possession
One strategy to win is to have the ball longer than your opponent, giving yourself as many opportunities to score as possible. The Vikings did just that this season, as their time of possession ranked 17th in the league at 30 minutes and 23 seconds per game. That was better than their 2014 mark of 28:43, which was 26th. Arizona led the league in time of possession at 32:04.
View some of the best images of Adrian Peterson from 2015.
Rushing yards per game
The return of running back Adrian Peterson surely helped the Vikings here. Peterson, who missed all but one game in 2014, helped Minnesota churn out 138.2 yards per game on the ground, good for fourth in the league.The Vikings were in the middle of the league rankings in 2014 as they were 14th at 112.8 yards per game. Peterson led the league with 1,485 yards and claimed the third rushing title of his career.
View some of the best images of Teddy Bridgewater from 2015.
Second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater constantly stresses the importance of ball security. The Vikings signal-caller backed up his words in 2015 as he threw an interception on just 1.98 percent of his passes, the 12th-best mark in the league. The trio of Bridgewater, Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder had the second-worst interception rate in 2014 as they were picked off on 3.48 percent of their attempts. Bridgewater only threw nine interceptions in 2015, down from 12 the year before.
A big part of Mike Zimmer's philosophy is there's always room for improvement. Here are a couple of offensive stat categories where the Vikings can improve in 2016:
First downs per game
This is an odd twist, as the Vikings actually improved on this stat in 2015, when they had 18.6 first downs per game. That was tied for 28th in the NFL. The season before, the Vikings recorded an average on 18 first downs per game, when Minnesota ranked 26th in the league.
The only other team to make the playoffs with a ranking in the 20s was the Kansas City Chiefs (25th). Super Bowl 50 participants Denver ranked 19th, and Carolina ranked fourth in the category.
Red zone percentage
The Vikings scored touchdowns on exactly half of their trips inside the 20-yard line in 2015, which placed them tied for 24th in the league. Minnesota also had a 50 percent red zone percentage in 2014. Detroit led the league with a red zone percentage of 69.39, so the stat doesn't measure success. But five of the top 10 teams in red zone percentage did qualify for the playoffs.