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Monday Morning Mailbag: Analyzing A Three-Phase Win

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It was great to see the defense step up and close out the game, and it was nice to see the offense take a step toward getting better. Do you agree? -- John

I do. It was nice to see all those things. It was nice to see complementary football. The Vikings scored a touchdown in all three phases – defense, offense and special teams. The defense rushed the quarterback well and earned the right to do so late in the game by playing great defense in the second half. The offense scored in the red zone twice and converted some short-yardage opportunities. Jeff Locke and Cordarrelle Patterson continued to have the best seasons of their careers. The Vikings got back to playing Vikings football…team football. They will need all of that and more this week as they head to Detroit with first place on the line.

What made the difference in this week's offensive line play versus the last four weeks? -- Jeffery @vikxfan

That's a hard one to put my finger on, but maybe we shouldn't be surprised the offensive line as it was comprised on Sunday played well. It was the same combination of starters the Vikings used in Week 5 against the Houston Texans, which was arguably the best offensive line performance the Vikings have had this season. You have to give a lot of credit to TJ Clemmings for his ability to play as well as he has while flipping back and forth multiple times between left tackle and right tackle.

I have been seeing Trae Waynes on the field quite a bit now. How do you think he has been playing? Has he become a starter? -- Levi Accra, Ghana

It has been very encouraging to see Waynes progress the way he has. We shouldn't be surprised because he has a tremendous amount of talent and he's under the direction of outstanding coaching, namely Mike Zimmer. But it wasn't that long ago (last year) when people were wondering why he wasn't playing more. The reason was more a credit to the guys ahead of Waynes on the depth chart than it was an indictment on him. Now, Waynes has progressed to the point where the Vikings are using a rotation at outside cornerback and that is helping everyone. Waynes has been playing solid and I can only see him getting better. I wouldn't say he's the starter quite yet, but he certainly appears to be on that path.

We finally got a win, which is quite a relief. What is the formula to winning? Is it combination of good coaching and good players to be successful? -- Non Bangkok, Thailand

That is certainly part of it. There isn't one singular formula to winning games. What works for one team isn't necessarily what will work for other teams. And what works one week for one team may not be the same as what is needed to work the next week. Perhaps the biggest component to winning is playing complementary football; multiple phases working well together. An example of that is in the 4th quarter against Arizona, when the offense was backed up inside its own 10 with four minutes to play. They weren't able to sustain a drive to run out the clock. Locke came on and blasted a punt across midfield, and the punt wasn't fielded by Arizona. It bounded toward the Cardinals goal line, settling at the 13 for what was a 72-yard flip of field position. The defense was able to turn the Cardinals over on downs to end the game. Another example came at the beginning of the game, when the Vikings defense forced the Cardinals to go three-and-out. Marcus Sherels returned the ensuing punt 23 yards into Cardinals territory. The offense took advantage of the short field created by the defense and special teams by scoring a touchdown five plays later to give the Vikings an early 7-0 lead. Those two examples right there are complementary football. 

Outstanding win. I am ecstatic the losing streak is over. The defense played exceptionally well in the second half of the game. With the ground game struggling, why isn't Ronnie Hillman being giving more opportunities to run the ball? The few chances he has been given have been mostly positive. Get Hillman in the game! Skol Vikings! -- Chris Zepponi Bay Area, CA

Only Zimmer and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur can answer that question with any veracity, but I think it's a fair question. Another idea is to continue using the wildcat formation/personnel grouping and perhaps even use it a bit more. It seems to work well when the Vikings try it and I wouldn't be opposed to giving it a try more often.

Great to see the spark back in the team! Loved B-Rob's postgame speech! Awesome after four weeks of a somber locker room. I believe that emotion will be what takes us to the division and beyond. We have already proven we have the necessary skill set at all levels and depths. How critical do you think it will be to keep the fire stoked from here on out? Is this our overcoming moment? -- Mike Hayward, WI

Sunday's win over Arizona was a big moment for the Vikings because it was a win at home, a win against a NFC foe and it ended a four-game losing streak. But I'm going to stop short of calling it a season-defining moment only because of the importance of the game on Thursday in Detroit. There is still a lot more work to do. First place in the NFC North is on the line and the Vikings can even up the head-to-head mark against Detroit with a win.

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