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Monday Morning Mailbag: The Offensive Line Steps Up

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Considering how good the Jaguars defense is and under the circumstances the offensive line has faced with injuries this season, do you think Sunday's performance was the best of the season so far for the offensive line? I believe they only had one pre-snap penalty. -- Kris Arndt Utah

From a pass protection perspective, Sunday may have been the offensive line's best game. They teamed with the running backs and tight ends to allow zero sacks, and they did it without starting center Joe Berger in the game and with Brandon Fusco leaving the game in the second half. Credit goes to Nick Easton and Zac Kerin for their ability to step in when they were called up. Overall, the Houston game stands out to me as the offensive line's best performance. The Vikings did give up two sacks that day, but they ran the ball a bit better than they did this Sunday and they picked up eight 1st downs on the ground that day. No matter how you slice it, Sunday's performance was a step in the right direction for the offensive line from several standpoints.

In your opinion, who is the most improved player this season? A few names came to mind – Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Danielle Hunter, Jeff Locke and Xavier Rhodes. -- Paul Pecukonis Seattle, WA

Those are all good candidates for the distinction of most improved. I'd be remiss to single out one of them as more improved than the others. In fact, I'm going to throw three more names into the mix to make it even harder to pick the most improved – Eric Kendricks, Shamar Stephen and Trae Waynes. All of the players listed in Paul's question and in this answer have stepped up their games to help the Vikings this season. 

Why do you think we can't finish off drives with touchdowns? I know we have a good offense based on the long plays we had on Sunday, but why can't we finish drives with touchdowns? -- Alex Garcia

Bear in mind, the Vikings did score two red zone touchdowns on Sunday, so it's not as if the offense was shut out in this regard. In fairness, there were three red zone possessions that failed to yield touchdowns, so Alex's question does have merit. The coaching staff knows far more than we do about what needs to improve for the offense to finish drives with touchdowns, but I keep coming back to the running game as the reason for this deficiency. The Vikings did score a rushing touchdown in the red zone on Sunday, but they also had 41 yards on 16 rushing attempts inside the Jaguars 30, including a lost a fumble on the goal line and eight rushes of zero or negative yards. It's harder to run the ball in the red zone than it is to run it anywhere else on the field, so I'm not suggesting this is an easy fix. But I do think a more efficient rushing attack would help the Vikings red zone offense.

The Vikings got a much-needed win on Sunday. I'm proud of the fight in this team. In looking ahead of the Colts game next week, do you think the Packers game in Lambeau is going to be a make-or-break game for the Vikings postseason hopes? -- Dylan F. New Jersey

That is looking too far down the road at this point. With a 7-6 record, the Vikings are in a position where they will likely need to win all of their remaining games plus get some help from other NFC contenders losing in order to make the playoffs. That means that by definition the Green Bay game is likely a must-win, but it does not mean that the Green Bay game will be a win-and-in scenario.

View game action images as the Vikings battle the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field.

I was at the game. It was awesome. Felt like a home game cheering them on with a ton of other Vikings fans. -- Cameron @CamVikes

Vikings fans typically travel very well to road games, and Sunday in Jacksonville was certainly no exception. It was another great example of how well the fan base travels. There were thousands of fans at the game, and that fact was clearly revealed in the final minutes when the home crowd retreated, leaving a sea of purple behind to take in the victory formation and cheer the Vikings off the field. It was an impressive display by Vikings fans showing up to support their team.

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