There’s quite a dichotomy that’s been produced by the Vikings offense. No team has thrown more passes and no team has rushed fewer times. In the end, the Vikings have scored at least 24 points in three of four games this season, so it’s hard for anyone to look at the offense’s body of work sideways.
But it still happens. A desire for more of an equal run-pass balance has been suggested by analysts and observers. It makes sense. Running the ball well takes pressure off the pass protection because it causes defenders to glance in the backfield at the running backs before they pin their ears back and pursue the quarterback. There’s also the intangible benefit of being able to run the ball where a tone is set…that “impose our will on you” kind of tone.
“There is no one in this building who wants to run the ball more than I do,” Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo said during his weekly press conference.
Ultimately, though, it’s not balance that matters. Doing what it takes to win in that week’s game is what matters. And that is the point DeFilippo discussed with reporters this week.
“And we are grinding our butts off to make that (run with more efficiency) happen,” DeFilippo said. “But at the same time, the Rams game, Aqib Talib is out. Marcus Peters is on one leg. I like our matchups on the outside more so often than trying to bang our heads up against Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.
“Like I said, there is no one that wants to run the ball more than me. We are going to try to establish that and continue to keep grinding on that. At the same time there is a fine line of doing something just to do something and maybe taking some success away from your team.”
Guess who has the NFL’s No. 1 rushing defense? The Philadelphia Eagles, that’s who. So will that perfect run-pass ratio happen? Time will tell. What matters more, though, is the winning run-pass ratio.
Hughes should get a long look at outside cornerback
Trae Waynes was held out of practices this week and has been ruled out of the game due to a concussion. It’s reasonable to assume rookie Mike Hughes will be the next man up in Waynes’ stead, which represents an interesting subplot to Sunday’s game. Hughes has seen plenty of playing time through four games this season, but exactly where he’s played on all of his snaps has varied quite a bit. He’s played outside some but also a bunch inside as the nickel cornerback. Those are two very different jobs and both require training. Presumably, Hughes has trained mostly at outside cornerback this week and now it’ll be interesting to see how the rookie looks in a game after he’s trained all week at the spot in which he’ll play in the game.
Tweet of the Week
Two players in this week’s Vikings-Eagles game make the list – Eagles tight end Zach Ertz and Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. It would be hyperbolic to suggest that whichever team contains their opponent’s best slot receiver will win this game because there’s a good chance even the losing team will get a lot of production from their guy. But make no mistake: each defense has spent a lot of time in practice this week working on ways to limit the production of the opposing slot receiver. The graph in this tweet suggests that’s going to be a tall task.
DeFilippo was asked at his weekly press conference on Thursday how often head coach Mike Zimmer approaches him to exchange ideas or gain an understanding of how an offense would approach something in particular. Here was DeFilippo’s response:
“Coach and I are always having dialog about that stuff. He’ll bring a blitz in to me, or say, ‘How would you guys protect this against your main protection?’ Or, ‘What would be your answer if we showed you a cover zero look here?’ There’s always that dialog, and I do the same thing with him as well, ‘What would you do if we showed this a bunch?’ There’s constant dialog between Coach and I, which I think is really, really good.
There are a lot of football junkies on vikings.com and reading this article right now. How much would you love to be in the room for conversations like these? Surely the discussion would be tantalizing for those who love the game and aren’t ordinarily privy to stuff like that.
Stat of the Week
In 38 games with Doug Pederson as head coach and Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator, the Eagles are allowing 14.2 points per game at home and 25.3 points per game on the road
This stat excludes a meaningless Week 17 game with Dallas last year and includes three playoff games. It’s a remarkable statistic – the home/road split is notable but most notable is the sheer dominance the Eagles defense plays with at Lincoln Financial Field, site of this week’s Vikings-Eagles showdown. Vikings fans can take solace in this statistic, though: Kirk Cousins has three career games of 300+ passing yards against the Eagles, with each of them coming in Philadelphia; he has posted a 12-3 TD-INT ratio and 112.0 passer rating in his four career games at Philadelphia.
To beat the Eagles, the Vikings must avoid losing the TIP battle - turnovers, injuries, penalties. In addition, keys include: running the ball effectively enough to force respect of play action; protect the QB; solid, if not spectacular, special teams play with no gaffes; defensive assignment integrity (no free runners); Get the boo birds out. Philly fans turn faster than Dale Jarrett at Daytona. Let’s hear those home town boos early with a quick score and a frustrating defensive effort. That should do it.
Sounds like a good formula! My favorite part of the to-do list is the special teams note. There are inherent advantages to playing at home, including the pass rush benefiting from the crowd noise. But winning battles on special teams can help capture hidden yardage to help balance out some of those natural disadvantages that come with being the road team. The Vikings special teams evened out last week in Los Angeles after a less than ideal start to the season and now I’m anticipating another step forward from this group on Sunday.
National TV: FOX
Play-by-Play: Joe Buck
Analyst: Troy Aikman
Sideline: Erin Andrews
National Radio: Westwood One
Play-by-Play: Larry Kahn
Analyst: Hank Bauer
Sideline: Troy West
Local Radio: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline: Greg Coleman, Ben Leber