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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Digging into the Vikings’ final team stat rankings

By Matthew Coller

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The Minnesota Vikings finished up their regular season as a .500 team. Did they play better than their record or were they lucky to be 8-8? What can we learn from the numbers about the Vikings’ 2016 performance and direction of the offense and defense? Here are 5 team ranking stats that stick out:

Offense

28th in Yards Per Play

Seven of the top 10 teams in Yards Per Play made the playoffs, while only one in the bottom eight teams made the playoffs.

Comparing the Vikings to the other teams whose offenses were abominable, it sticks out that they had the most competent quarterback play.

Of course, the Vikings’ 32nd rushing attack in yards per attempt had a lot to do with that, but the lack of aggressiveness – especially on third down – in the passing game also dragging down their offensive effectiveness. Quarterback Sam Bradford averaged just 5.8 yards per attempt on third down. The only starting quarterbacks who averaged fewer were New York Jets veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles. At the top of the NFL, Tom Brady posted 10.5 YPA on third down and Aaron Rodgers 9.1 per throw.

The Vikings’ overall passing attack was below average, ranking 18th in Yards Per Attempt at 7.0. The ineffectiveness on third down caused Minnesota to gain the 25th most first downs.

28th in Red Zone Touchdown Percentage

The Vikings scored just 29 offensive touchdowns in 2016, which is just one more than the one-win Cleveland Browns. Their struggles to move the ball consistently explains some of the touchdown shortage, but even when the Vikings did march down the field, they were kept out of the end zone more often than not. Minnesota only scored touchdowns on 46% of their trips into the red zone.

They went into 2016 looking to improve from the previous year by drafting a go-up-and-get-it receiver with the 23rd overall pick. That didn’t exactly work out. Plus the Vikings turned far too often to ground-and-pound at the goal line. Inside the opponent’s 10-yard line, running back Matt Asiata carried the ball 29 times and only scored six touchdowns. They were better off when passing, as Bradford went 18-for-32 with 10 touchdowns and an interception.

The Vikings ran one very creative play against the Detroit Lions in which tight end Rhett Ellison ran in for a touchdown. They also used defensive tackle Linval. Joseph as a fullback. Beyond that, the overall innovation at the goal line was lacking and it resulted in a red zone percentage the Vikings could simply not afford.

3rd in play-action yards per play

Ready to play Myth Busters? The assumption about the Vikings losing Adrian Peterson for most of the season was that they would not be able to effectively run play-action. On the contrary, they were the third best in the entire NFL on play-action plays behind only Washington and Atlanta and they ran them 18% of the time, the 13th most. According to Football Outsiders, the Vikings improved their offensive production on play-action vs. all other plays more than any other team.

5th in Yards Per Play Against

Crazy stat: Only three of the top 10 defenses in yards per play made the playoffs. No, that doesn’t mean that it’s better to have a bad defense. It indicates that having a good offense is more likely to get you a playoff spot than having a good defense.

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The Vikings were the second best passing defense in the NFL behind the Broncos in yards per attempt at 6.6, posted the fifth most sacks and held opposing quarterbacks to an 83.0 rating. These numbers would have all been quite a bit better if not for two meltdowns in Weeks 15 and 16 against Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers. The two star quarterbacks threw for 601 yards against the Vikings defense. Against the Colts, star safety Harrison Smith was missing and versus Green Bay, Smith fought through an ankle injury to get in the game.

There were a few games in which the Vikings’ run defense got bowled over, but they still finished 16th in the NFL in yards per attempted allowed at 4.2 yards per rush. They also gave up the third fewest rushing touchdowns.

The Vikings’ defense did not turn out to be the ’85 Bears, but it often put them in position to win.

2nd in non-offensive touchdowns

Minnesota got seven touchdowns from either kick return (1), punt return (2), fumble (2) or interception (2) in 2016. The way you look at this stat depends on how cynical you are – or how much you believe in regression to the mean. The Vikings won two games on the back of special teams/defensive touchdowns, one against Tennessee and the other against Arizona. There is no taking away from Cordarrelle Patterson or Eric Kendricks or Xavier Rhodes because they had to make big plays in order to score, but no team can expect to score a bunch of touchdowns on a yearly basis. These TDs covered up for some of the issues on offense. The Vikings should look at those seven touchdowns as points they will have to make up next year, then if they get more scores via special teams and defense, it will be a bonus.

The post Digging into the Vikings’ final team stat rankings appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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