Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

After Further Review: Run Game Sputters in Week 16

After Further Review is a deeper look at plays or stats after Vikings games…

The Vikings backfield was without dynamic duo Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison on Monday night against the Packers.

Minnesota turned to Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah on the ground. Abdullah also was targeted seven times (six receptions for 31 yards) late in the game and fullback C.J. Ham early on (four targets, two catches, 12 yards).

All told, the Vikings totaled 57 rush yards on 16 attempts that included a 2-yard gain by WR Adam Thielen when Minnesota needed 3 to move the chains.

The passing game also struggled, with Kirk Cousins completing 16 of 31 passes for 122 yards and suffering five sacks. He threw one touchdown and a momentum-changing interception, finishing with a passer rating of 58.8.

Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph rank 8, 9 and 10 among the Vikings all-time receiving yards leaders, but the trio was limited to 64 yards on four combined receptions (Diggs led with 57 yards on three catches and caught Minnesota's touchdown).

View game action images as the Vikings take on the Packers on Monday Night Football.

The problems in the passing game, however, can be rooted with Minnesota's inability to run the ball against a Green Bay squad that was giving up 120.9 rushing yards a game.

The Packers were able to guard against the run with their front, allowing the secondary to take away passes.

"What I would say was they did a good job in coverage but not being able to run the ball into the coverage, that was a factor," Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Tuesday. "I mean we had some good looks to run the ball, and we couldn't run the ball, so that is where it all started."

When Zimmer mentions good looks, he's likely referring to a lack of defenders in the box, as well as more defensive backs than linebackers.

According to Next Gen Stats, Boone did not face a box with eight or more defenders a single time on Monday.

Mattison has faced a box with eight or more defenders on 34 percent of his snaps, the seventh-highest rate in the NFL in 2019. Cook has faced a loaded box 24 percent of the time, which ranks 18th.

In Week 2, however, the Packers took their chances even with Cook, only adding one or more defenders 10 percent of the time. Cook rushed for a career-best 154 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per rush, in that game.

Would Green Bay have added defenders in the box to prevent a similar showing by Cook, which consequently could have opened up more passing lanes?

We won't know because the Packers were able to bottleneck the ground game at the point of attack without extra help.

The following play is an example of what would be a good run look for the offense that was stymied at the point of attack.


Q1, 2:00 remaining — First-and-15 at the Minnesota 20

The Vikings have just suffered a false start penalty to open their possession.

Minnesota has 11 personnel in with Boone at running back and Tyler Conklin at tight end. Diggs and Thielen are on the right side of the formation, and receiver Bisi Johnson is on the left.

Cousins motions Conklin from right to left before the snap, then hands the ball off to Boone.

Boone is trying to make his way left, but defensive end Dean Lowry surges up the field and drives left guard Pat Elflein back to the 16 and into Boone's intended path. The penetration forces Boone to stutter-step.

Outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith, who has been guided to the inside by tackle Riley Reiff, is then in prime position to make the tackle.

The Vikings have a hat on a hat and good angles to set up a nice gain, but the play results in a loss of 2.