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Monday Morning Mailbag: Looking At The Offensive Struggles In Chicago

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Tough loss in Chicago, but not the end of the world. We made mistakes and didn’t take advantage of their mistakes. What is it the team needs to do to be more effective in the running game? At times we are running the ball, but then it becomes non-existent. Your thoughts?
-- Mike Boswell
Goodwin, SD

A big part of the running game is being able to stick with it throughout the course of the game and eventually wear out the defense. This is something any play caller, including Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo, would love to do. And DeFilippo tried to get the running game going in Chicago because the Vikings ran the ball on eight of 12 snaps in the 1st quarter. But when you’re not moving the ball and/or when the game circumstances are such that passing the ball becomes the primary way to attack, sometimes the running game falls by the wayside. Expect the Vikings to work on the running game this week in practice and display much more balance against the Green Bay Packers next Sunday night.

Is it time for Mike Zimmer to unleash the offense? I think, like many great offenses, the natural identity of this team is to play no huddle/hurry-up. When given the opportunity, they have been explosive in doing this. What do you think?
-- Jim More
St. Paul, MN

I’m all about doing whatever it takes to make it work. If one week that means throwing it 45 times, then let’s do it. If another week that means using a bunch of heavy personnel groupings and running the ball 35 times, let’s do it. So I hear Jim’s point about the hurry-up offense and how that seemed to provide a spark the offense needed. I will caution you, though, that the hurry-up offense can have its drawbacks, too. If you employ that strategy and you aren’t able to pick up a 1st down, you’re putting your defense back out on the field without much of a break. If you do that too many times, it will catch up with your team. So like anything, there’s a balance to be drawn and the probability of success for the tactic will vary from week-to-week based on opponent, game circumstances, etc.

Kirk Cousins threw 46 times in the Bears game. What happened to being a tough, smart football team? We have Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray…why keep putting the game only in the hands of Cousins and setting our offensive line up to fail?
-- Prince Nyemah

The Vikings are a tough, smart football team. The run-pass ratio become off-balance in Chicago, but that doesn’t mean the team lost its identity. As stated above, a lot of that had to do with the game’s circumstances. After the pick-six by Eddie Jackson, the Vikings were down by 16 with 8:24 to play and they were forced to be pass-predictable. From that point, 20 of the 22 snaps were passes, but there was no sense in running the ball given the deficit and lack of time remaining. This is one of the main challenges of the play caller – drawing a balance with the run-pass ratio but also making sure to stick with what provides the best chance to move the ball. It’s a balance that will have to be constantly fine-tuned each week depending on several factors, but there’s little doubt that running the football better will be a goal for the team this week.

To be the best, you have to beat the best. Hope springs eternal but time is running out. Anything specific you see we need to do in order to turn things around before we see the Bears again?
-- Nicholas Balkou

Even the harshest Vikings critic would have a hard time looking at the losses to Chicago, Los Angeles and New Orleans and come away saying “The Vikings can’t beat those teams.” The Bears, Rams and Saints deserve credit for winning those games, but there is no reason the Vikings can’t correct the mistakes that plagued them in each of those games and find a way to come out on top in a rematch. Protecting the football on offense and winning on 1st and 2nd down on defense will be keys for the Vikings as they look to put their best foot forward over the final six games of the regular season.

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