Entering the 2018 season, the Vikings were seen as one of the main contenders to make it to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII but after just 4 games things are not going as smoothly as Mike Zimmer had hoped.
Both offence and defence looked set to dominate this year and challenge for the North. But 4 weeks in and the Vikings record sits at an underwhelming 1-2-1.
So, what has happened to the team that finished last year so strongly?
There are a few factors which stand out. Unfortunately, this includes the offence, defence and coaching staff.
Through the first 4 weeks of the season it’s clear that the Vikings are struggling to run the ball (ranked 31st) with any great purpose. Yes, Dalvin Cook has been carrying an injury and missed a game, but let’s look at his numbers and the rest of the teams. Cook has just 98 rushing yards from 36 attempts (2.7 average), and the rest of the team have combined for a mere 154 yards from 37 attempts, with not a single rushing touchdown between them.
If you started anyone in the extended family of the Rams/Vikings offense, you get at least 10 fantasy points from them.
— Andy Holloway (@andyholloway) September 28, 2018
Comparing that to the yards through the air and the productivity from Kirk Cousins and his wide receivers, focusing on the top two wideouts Stefon Diggs & Adam Thielen, they’ve combined for 784 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns.
From the preseason we knew that their offensive line would struggle due to injuries and positional swaps. The return of Pat Elflein from offseason shoulder and ankle surgery along with the resurgence of rookie Brian O’Neill should give the 27th ranked O-Line a boost.
The Vikings need to find a way to run the football.
Onto the defence and the struggles they’ve had after a promising week one win against the San Francisco 49ers, when they had four takeaways (3 interceptions and a fumble recovered). One of those interceptions was run back by rookie DB Mike Hughes. The Vikings have yet to force another turnover since.
Surrendering a total of 94 points over the next three games shows how vulnerable this once daunting defence has become. The absence of veteran defensive end Everson Griffen due to mental health issues is a big loss and we wish him well in his recovery.
Lack of turnovers is clearly an issue which I think stems back to the offence not being able to finish drives with touchdowns thus adding more pressure to an already struggling defence. Time of possession is well balanced on both sides of the ball, so there’s no reason to think that the defence is tired, they just aren’t making enough plays.
Add into it all kicker Daniel Carlson being nothing short of Aguayo-esque it appears that this team needs to re-evaluate its expectations of what should have been a comfortable start to the season. Veteran Dan Bailey was picked up in the aftermath of the Carlson horror show in Green Bay but never got his chance to show what he was capable of until the Rams game after what I believe was poor coaching from Zimmer and company against the struggling Bills.
With Cook out injured it appeared Latavius Murray would just slot in and pick up the pieces. He got TWO carries for one yard. Game script dictated that he would see a huge workload and run the clock as the Vikings were +16.5-point favourites. Zimmer already had an eye on the Rams in week four and totally underestimated the Bills, as the result showed.
This game also demonstrated how much of a mess the O-Line really is, allowing the Bills to sack Cousins four times, with the veteran fumbling two of those.
Week 4 against the Rams further proved that the front seven are struggling just as badly as the secondary. Sacking Goff just once allowed him to throw for a franchise equalling 5 touchdowns and 465 yards. So, from the run game to the not so hot defence this Vikings team has a long way to go if it wishes to have a repeat of last year and a shot at winning its first Vince Lombardi.