There’s no denying that Minnesota’s defeat of Atlanta in Week 1 was a unique one.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has placed a bigger emphasis on running the ball, but even he didn’t anticipate the team throwing just 10 times during the game.
Matthew Coller of SKOR North recently delved into the win and asked which aspects of that contest “are sustainable” heading forward. He first looked at Kirk Cousins’ 10 passes and wrote the following:
Of course, the Vikings will not be averaging 10 passes per game. They could, however, do a complete 180 degree turn from having a 65/35 percent pass-to-run ratio and emulate some recent teams that have won by largely focusing on the ground game.
Coller made a comparison to the 2018 Seahawks, whose 427 passes (26.7 per game) were the fewest in the NFL over the past five seasons.
In order to win with that few attempts through the air, other things had to happen for Seattle. They needed to be efficient in both run and pass attempts, avoid turnovers, play strong defense and perform exceptionally well on special teams.
Seattle was the only team in the bottom five in pass attempts that made the playoffs (Tennessee, Miami, Arizona, Buffalo). Naturally, those clubs were not in the ballpark of Seattle’s talent level. The 2019 Vikings are.
It wasn’t the only time the Seahawks also had the fewest passes and lowest turnover percentage in 2014 when they reached the Super Bowl. They ranked No. 1 in yards and points allowed on defense that year.
If the Vikings do indeed have the fewest throws in the NFL this year, it won’t be the first time under Zimmer. In 2015 the Vikings had the fewest number of pass attempts in the NFL. They had the seventh best turnover percentage, seventh best scoring percentage and fifth in points allowed and went 11-5.
Coller wrote that “winning with a low number of passes is possible under the right circumstances.”
He also evaluated whether Cousins’ 9.8 yards per attempt and the Vikings 172 rushing yards and 28 quarterback pressures are sustainable long-term, concluding that the Week 1 win was a “strange one, but it wasn’t way off from the way [the Vikings] want to win.”
The Athletic ‘likes Vikings chances’ in Week 2 under certain circumstances
Each week, The Athletic’s Chad Graff and Arif Hasan respond to fan questions about previous and upcoming games, player performances and more.
The duo – as expected – fielded multiple questions this week about Minnesota’s upcoming Border Battle against Green Bay. One fan asked in what areas the Vikings can succeed offensively that the Bears didn’t in Week 1. As a refresher, the Packers defeated the Bears 10-3 on Thursday Night Football. Graff wrote:
For starters, I think the Vikings will actually try to run against the Packers. I still don’t quite understand why [Bears Head Coach] Matt Nagy didn’t call more running plays in the opener. David Montgomery looked great the few times he got the ball, but he was limited to just six carries — which still led all Bears rushers. Meanwhile, the Packers secondary looked much improved, part of why Mitch Trubisky only completed 57 percent of his 45(!) pass attempts.
In total, the Bears called 12 running plays — and one was Cordarrelle Patterson up the gut on third-and-one (which got stuffed). While [Packers DL Kenny] Clark is great up the middle, I do think that you can beat the Packers on rushes out wide, which is now the Vikings bread and butter.
So if it gets to a shootout, then you have to like [Packers quarterback Aaron] Rodgers’ chances at Lambeau Field. But if it stays a low-scoring game and the Vikings can keep relying on [Dalvin] Cook and their new zone rushing attack, I like the Vikings chances.
Another Packers-related question asked the following: “With the Packers likely using a similar game plan that they did against Chicago (loading the line, 6 DBs, 2 LBs), do you see the Vikings looking to do more quick passes or three-step drops with [Cousins] under center?”
Graff said he doesn’t believe Green Bay will use that same formula “after what Minnesota showed in the running game” against Atlanta.
If the Packers want to play with six defensive backs, I think the Vikings would gladly line up and hand the ball off to Dalvin Cook until the Packers showed they could stop it.