The Vikings made a big jump in red zone scoring percentage in 2017.
After ranking 28th in the league in 2016 with a 46-percent success rate from the red zone, Minnesota was successful on 59.9 percent of attempts inside the red zone, which was ninth overall.
Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com opined that while Pat Shurmur played a big role in the Vikings red-zone success, they have the opportunity to remain strong in that area under new Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo. Coller wrote:
In order to continue their success inside the 20, new OC John DeFilippo will have to bring some of the Philadelphia Eagles red zone philosophies to Minnesota. The Eagles ranked No. 2 in the NFL this year, scoring TDs on more than 65 percent of trips.
The Eagles had a near 50-50 split of runs and passes inside the 20 and when they threw the ball, Philadelphia had great success. In fact, Carson Wentz was the highest rated quarterback in the NFL in the red zone this year.
Coller quoted DeFilippo, who spoke about his approach to the red zone during a conference call with Twin Cities media last week:
“We’re going to have a touchdown-check down mentality in the red zone,” DeFilippo said. “We’re going to throw the ball in the end zone if it’s there, and if it’s not there we’re going to check the ball down. The two best traits of red zone teams in the National Football League is number one, your ability to run the football in the red zone, because safeties are going to be on you. There’s 22 guys in a tight space.
“Our backs are going to have to do a great a job of running through the unblocked players, and then that’s the nature of NFL red zone football,” DeFilippo continued. “[Are] your backs taking on that extra player and making them miss, running them over, whatever you have to do to get in the end zone? And at the same time, we’re going to have plays where all the quarterbacks feel comfortable with because of certain coverages we’re seeing from team to team to be able to cut the ball loose in tight windows down there.”
Coller broke down specific Eagles plays from inside their opponents’ 20-yard line throughout the season.
So what we saw from the Eagles this year was a multitude of personnel packages, blocking schemes, misdirection, matchup mismatches and trickery.
Those are the same elements of red zone play that helped Shurmur lead a huge improvement in scoring for the Vikings and the things that will make the Vikings successful in the red zone next year if DeFilippo carries over what he used with the Eagles to Minnesota.
Vikings top PFF’s 2017 special teams rankings
Last week, analytics site Pro Football Focus listed Vikings safety Harrison Smith as the league’s third-best overall player.
The Vikings topped another one of PFF’s recent rankings, this one evaluating all 32 special teams units. In the same list last season, Minnesota came in No. 2. Eric Eager wrote the following of this year’s unit:
A nicely balanced group, with Ryan Quigley going an entire regular season without a touchback from the punter spot, Kai Forbath improving steadily on place kicks after a shaky start, Marcus Sherels earning the league’s best grade as a punt returner, and a core group of C.J. Ham (14 tackles), Ben Gedeon (12 tackles), Kentrell Brothers (10 tackles), Jayron Kearse (nine tackles) and Anthony Harris (six tackles) rounding out the league’s best unit.
Coming in behind the Vikings to round out the top three were the Ravens (ranked No. 5 last season) and the Rams, who were at No. 3 for the second consecutive season.
In looking at Minnesota’s NFC North rivals, Detroit was ranked 12th, Chicago 24th and Green Bay came in 26th.
Vikings long snapper Kevin McDermott, who missed the final regular-season game and two playoff games after injuring his shoulder at Green Bay, took the opportunity on social media to highlight his special teams crew.
*Super Bowl LII drew more than 1 million visitors to Minneapolis festivities *
Last week, Vikings.com shared 52 happenings from the week of Super Bowl LII in Minnesota.
According to the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, the Twin Cities’ festivities leading up to the big game were a hit for both locals and out-of-town visitors. Tim Yotter of *Viking Update *highlighted the numbers released by the Host Committee. He wrote:
Prior to the final game of the NFL season, the host committee put on 10 days of public events around the Twin Cities, drawing more than 1 million visitors to the free Super Bowl LIVE, a six-block exhibit along the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, and more than 1.4 million people visiting the Mall of America in Bloomington to view the NFL Fan Gallery.
He then listed the full breakdown of various tallies taken from the 10 days of events. A few that especially stand out include Feb. 3, which drew the largest Super Bowl LIVE attendance (235,000); 1,420 total miles that 10,000 Bold North Zip Liners collectively traveled during the time frame; 185,000 total volunteer hours from more than 10,000 Crew 52 volunteers; and a record number (5,800) of credentialed media members for Super Bowl LII.