The Vikings fielded a No. 1 defense in 2017 that boasted talent on all three levels.
Under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and defensive line coach Andre Patterson, Minnesota's defensive line focuses on first stopping the run and then affecting the quarterback to make it difficult for him to get off passes.
It is important to note, also, that quarterbacks facing the Vikings defense often got the ball out quickly to avoid said pressure.
NFL.com's Matt Harmon recently delved into teams' pass-rushing units with the help of Next Gen Stats and ranked the top 10. He wrote the following as an explanation:
Next Gen Stats defines a "pressure" as a pass-rushing play in which a defender gets within two yards of the opposing quarterback at the time of the throw or sack. Other outlets collect pressures using different methods, and these have value. What is and is not a pressure will always carry some level of debate, but NGS provides us a unique advantage in that the numbers rely not on the subjective eye test, but rather on objective results that are consistent across all plays.
Using the above evaluation method, Harmon placed the Vikings at No. 10 on the list with 229 pressures (according to Next Gen Stats). He tabbed Everson Griffen as Minnesota's top rusher with 62 pressures individually.
The Vikings owned the No. 1 defense in terms of both yards and points allowed in 2017, and their excellence began right up front, with the pass rush as a catalyst. A group whose core has been together for multiple seasons, the Vikings defense totaled 229 pressures on the season. Griffen racked up 62 pressures from his right end position, leading the team and finishing fourth in the NFL among all defenders. His running mate, Danielle Hunter, has developed into a high-end complementary rusher and posted 46 pressures of his own. The Vikes cycle in several other names on the line, and they had three more players finish with 25 or more pressures on the season. Minnesota will look to get back to the NFC Championship Game again [next season] – and this team has the horses in the pass rush to do it.
Leading the list at Nos. 1-3, respectively, were the Eagles (291), Redskins (269) and Seahawks (261).
The Vikings were the only NFC North team included in the top 10.
PFF highlights Case Keenum's performance in Purple
When the Vikings signed Case Keenum in free agency last spring as a backup for Sam Bradford, they likely didn't expect that Keenum would end up playing in 15 regular-season games and help lead them to the NFC Championship game – but that's exactly what happened.
Sam Monson, who writes for analytics site Pro Football Focus, took a look at players' performances across the league that he deemed "surprising," with Keenum topping the list. Monson wrote:
Keenum came in for an injured Sam Bradford after Week 1 of the season, and despite an ill-fated attempt at putting a hobbled Bradford back under center, continued to impress as the year wore on, including into the playoffs. Keenum was playing in the best situation he has seen throughout his NFL career and had the second-best sack percentage of any quarterback in the game (the percentage of pressured plays he allowed to result in sacks).
Coming in at No. 2 was Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson, who snagged a pick-six against the Vikings to help the Eagles advance to Super Bowl LII.
Monson also highlighted Patriots center David Andrews, Ravens running back Alex Collins, Panthers tackle Daryl Williams, Cardinals cornerback Tramon Williams, Redskins cornerback Kendall Fuller, Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman and Colts outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard.