News | Minnesota Vikings – vikings.com

Vikings Season Review: Special Teams Flourished In 2015

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — By all accounts, the special teams unit was a strength for the Vikings this season.

A few statistics of note:

—Kicker Blair Walsh led the NFL in field goals with 34.

—Kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson helped the Vikings lead the league in kickoff return average.

—The Vikings didn't allow a kickoff or punt return for a score, and were one of three teams that returned both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown.

Yet even with all of that success, Vikings Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer wants to be even better going forward.

"I think it was a good year. I'm the type of guy who looks at it where we always have to improve," Priefer said. "If you don't learn and try to get better then you're going to go backwards.

"We're not anywhere near where we need to be as a team yet," he added, "and I know special teams are going to be a big part of our success in the future."

In his fourth season out of Georgia, Walsh converted 33 of 37 of the longer extra points, which were moved back to be 33-yard attempts this year.

Walsh also produced touchbacks on 47 of his 86 kickoffs, good for a 54.7 percent rate.

He was successful on 34 of 39 of his field goal attempts in the regular season, including a long of 54 yards. He also added three more field goals in the postseason.

And although Walsh's season ended on a sour note with a missed field goal in the fourth quarter in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, Priefer said he has "100 percent" confidence in Walsh going forward.

"He's one of the best kickers in the league," Priefer said. "We would not have gotten to that point in the season, even in that game, without Blair Walsh.

"That was unfortunate for him and for our football team but I think he's a great kicker," he added. "I have 100 percent confidence in him that he'll come back next year and be a better man because of it."

The chart below shows field goal stats for the Vikings in 2014:

19 or less

20-29 yards

30-39 yards

40-49 yards

50-plus yards

B. Walsh

0/0

9/9

13/15

6/7

6/8

Vikings

0/0

9/9

13/15

6/7

6/8

Opponents

0/0

7/8

6/6

9/10

6/7

Punter Jeff Locke also enjoyed a solid season for the Vikings. He tallied 66 punts, less than the 75 he had in each of his first two years in the league.

Because of the drop in his number of punts, Locke punted for 2,746 yards, the lowest total of his career. He averaged 41.6 yards per punt and his net average was 37.8.

Locke also landed a career-high 34.8 percent of his punts inside the 20-yard line, which helped the Vikings limit returners to a 5.2-yard average, which was the fourth-best mark in the NFL.

Priefer said Locke should benefit from moving into the new U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016.

"Our punt team was good…our net numbers weren't real high but TCF (Bank Stadium) is a difficult place to play," Priefer said. "I thought Jeff performed admirably this year in those conditions. Going indoors next year, hopefully he's going to continue to grow as a young punter."

The chart below shows the Vikings punting stats in 2015:

No

Yds

Avg

Net

TB

In20

Lg

B

J. Locke

66

2,746

41.6

37.8

5

23

61

0

Vikings

66

2,746

41.6

37.8

5

23

61

0

Opponents

72

3,158

43.9

39.3

1

24

68

0

One area Priefer was more than pleased with this season was Minnesota's kickoff and punt return units, two areas where the Vikings were among the league leaders.

Patterson led the league with a kickoff return average of 31.8 yards and was the only player with two returns for a score. Patterson took kicks all the way against Oakland and Seattle, respectively.

Patterson helped the Vikings lead the league with a team return average of 28.3 yards.

The chart below shows the Vikings kickoff return stats in 2015:

No

Yds

Avg

Long

TD

C. Patterson

32

1,019

31.8

101t

2

Z. Line

3

43

14.3

23

0

M. Sherels

2

33

16.5

21

0

R. Blanton

1

27

27

27

0

J. KcKinnon

1

24

24

24

0

S. Diggs

1

22

22

22

0

M. Pruitt

1

12

12

12

0

D. Hunter

1

10

10

10

0

Vikings

42

1,190

28.3

101t

2

Opponents

40

1,043

26.1

70

0

The Vikings were 13th in the league with a punt return average of 9.1 yards. Return man Marcus Sherels was one of a dozen players to return a punt for a score.

Sherels' 65-yard touchdown return helped the Vikings get a win in Chicago and placed Sherels atop Minnesota's record book with three punt return touchdowns in his career.

The chart below shows the Vikings punt return stats in 2015:

Ret

FC

Yds

Avg

Long

TD

M. Sherels

34

15

311

9.1

65t

1

Vikings

34

15

311

9.1

65t

1

Opponents

20

21

152

5.2

10

0

While the Vikings often excelled in returning opponents' kicks, Priefer said his wants his units to improve in their kickoff and punt coverage.

Even though Minnesota didn't give up any return touchdowns in 2015, Priefer said the Vikings allowed too many big plays.

"I think kickoff coverage was not good enough. We gave up four explosive plays, which is 40 or more yards," Priefer said. "Those we have to eliminate.

"(On a positive note), we didn't give up any explosive plays in the punt return, which is 20 or more yards."

Andrew Sendejo also recorded a special teams highlight in 2015 when he blocked a field goal in the Vikings season-opening game in San Francisco.

Rookie Trae Waynes led the Vikings with 14 total tackles on special teams. Wide receiver Adam Thielen and linebacker Jason Trusnik each recorded 10 total tackles.

The chart below shows special teams statistics (tackles by coaches' tally) for the Vikings in 2014:

Solo

Assisted

Total

FF

FR

BL

T. Waynes

8

6

14

0

0

0

A. Thielen

9

1

10

0

0

0

J. Trusnik

8

2

10

0

0

0

R. Blanton

6

3

9

0

0

0

M. Sherels

7

1

8

0

0

0

E. Robinson

5

3

8

0

0

0

A. Exum Jr.

4

2

6

0

0

0

M. Asiata

4

2

6

0

0

0

S. Crichton

3

2

5

0

0

0

D. Hunter

4

1

5

0

0

0

A. Cole

2

2

4

0

1

0

B. Watts

3

0

3

1

0

0

J. Robinson

2

1

3

0

0

0

J. McKinnon

3

0

3

0

0

0

Z. Line

2

0

2

0

0

0

R. Ellison

2

0

2

0

0

0

J. Trattou

2

0

2

0

0

0

A. Sendejo

1

1

2

0

0

1

E. Kendricks

1

0

1

0

0

0

K.McDermott

0

1

1

0

0

0

J. Locke

1

0

1

0

0

0

M. Pruitt

0

1

1

0

0

0

Totals

77

29

106

1

1

1

View the best special teams photos of 2015.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.
Advertising