So far through the first six weeks of their 2022 season, the Vikings have:
— A 5-1 record, their best start since 2016
— A current four-game win streak
— A 3-0 record at home, all coming against NFC North opponents
— A two-game division lead
Even with all of that in the bank, Minnesota Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said there's plenty of room for improvement going into the team's bye this week.
"Our players have done a lot to win football games that at times we're either trailing late in games or situationally have had to make some plays when it mattered the most," O'Connell said on Monday to Twin Cities reporters.
"We can't rely on always being able to capitalize on some of those charming situations," O'Connell continued. "We need to go finish those games ourselves with a little bit more consistency, a little bit better execution across the board, and a little bit better coaching by us."
View exclusive behind-the-scenes photos captured by Vikings team photographers during the Vikings victory over the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.
Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press recently graded Minnesota's offensive, defensive and special teams performances through the first six games.
Offensively, Mizutani gave the Vikings a 'B-'. He wrote:
It's safe to say the offense has left something to be desired over the first six weeks of the season.
Though many expected the group the hit the ground running with O'Connell — especially considering what he helped the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams do last season as offensive coordinator — that hasn't happened.
The Vikings are currently just above the NFL equator in terms of scoring, ranking 14th at 23.2 points per game, but below it in yardage, averaging 339.8 per game (20th).
Minnesota's offense struggled to get going on Sunday against Miami, going three-and-out 10 times and converting just two third downs.
But just like they did in their previous victories, the Vikings found a way to win. Mizutani wrote:
As much as [the Vikings] have struggled, they have consistently stepped up late in games.
That script played out in consecutive comeback wins over the Lions, Saints and Bears. All of those games featured a game-winning drive from quarterback Kirk Cousins in the final minutes. The offense deserves credit for that.
Defensively, Mizutani gave Minnesota a 'C+'.
The Vikings are near the bottom of the NFL in opposing yards per game, giving up 384.5 on average (26th), but are just outside the Top 10 in limiting points, ranking 11th at 19.7 per contest.
Mizutani noted Minnesota's "bend-don't-break" mentality on defense so far.
It's pretty clear the Vikings are content to let opposing teams rack up yards so long as that doesn't result in points. It's a slippery slope, and the Vikings have navigated it to perfection by forcing key, opportunistic turnovers.
Whether it was cornerback Cam Dantzler, Sr., forcing a fumble in the win over the Bears a couple of weeks ago, or safety Harrison Smith forcing a fumble in the win over the Dolphins on Sunday, the defense has managed to step up in the biggest moments.
For special teams, Mizutani gave the Vikings an 'A-'. He said the unit has been a strength for Minnesota and praised Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels for his leadership. Mizutani wrote:
[Daniels] passion for the game is contagious, and his players have responded well to that.
Just watch the way the Vikings fly around on kickoff coverage. They have consistently managed to put opposing teams in bad spots because of their execution in that realm.
Mizutani also lauded kicker Greg Joseph and punter Ryan Wright for their performances this season. Both Joseph (Week 4) and Wright (Week 6) have been named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week this season.
Overall, Mizutani gave the Vikings a 'B+'. He wrote:
Looking at things from 30,000 feet, they are 5-1 and appear to be building something pretty special. Looking at things with a more detailed lens, however, they have noticeable flaws that need to improve if they want to be taken seriously.
Nonetheless, the Vikings enter their bye week among the best teams in the league, and they deserve credit for that. They have managed to bank some wins to this point, and if they can find a way to get everything on the same page at the same time, they could be a dangerous team that has a future in the playoffs.
EPIX Docuseries NFL Icons Releasing Cris Carter Episode on Saturday
Cris Carter is known as one of the top wide receivers in Minnesota Vikings and NFL history.
Carter joined Minnesota in 1990 after spending his first three NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. It was with the Vikings where Carter propelled himself to a Hall of Fame career.
In 12 seasons with Minnesota, Carter hauled in 1,004 receptions and recorded 12,383 receiving yards and 110 touchdowns. He is the Vikings all-time leader in all three categories.
This weekend, Vikings and NFL fans will get a chance to see an in-depth look at Carter, who will be featured on the premium cable network EPIX and NFL Films docuseries NFL Icons.
The episode premiers at 9 p.m. (CT) Saturday on EPIX.
The eight-episode show, which is narrated by Rich Eisen, provides exclusive interviews, never before seen footage and behind-the-scenes access detailing the lives and careers of some of the NFL's biggest legends.
Carter's episode will be the seventh of the show's second season. Previous episodes this season have featured John Madden, Walter Payton, Jimmy Johnson, Steve Young, Ray Lewis and Troy Aikman.
Brett Favre, Emmitt Smith, Vince Lombardi, Jerome Bettis, Jerry Rice, Steve Sabol, Marcus Allen and Joe Namath were featured in the first season.