Minnesota Vikings: Establishing run game important to team’s success


Through Week 11, the Minnesota Vikings are sitting at 7-3 and in second place in the NFC North.

That’s not so bad, right?

Minnesota’s defense has stepped up all season and given the Vikings ample chances to win games, while Adrian Peterson and the ground attack on offense has been good enough to wear teams out in the second half. If you look at their wins this season, this has been the formula for success.

On the contrary, when looking at the games the Vikings have lost, one thing jumps out. The rushing attack wasn’t effective, and it forced the Vikings to become one dimensional in an attempt to play catch-up.

Peterson’s total stats in the three losses this season (at San Francisco Week 1, at Denver Week 4, vs. Green Bay Week 11) include 39 carries for 157 yards, which is just four yards per carry. However, if you take out Peterson’s 50-yard touchdown late in the Denver game, his yards per carry falls to 3.5.

More from Adrian Peterson

In games the Vikings have won, Peterson has totaled 849 yards on 169 carries, which is over five yards per carry.

Certainly, much of the blame for the poor running game in the losses is on the offensive line. In each of the Vikings’ losses, the offensive line repeatedly was dominated at the line of scrimmage, forcing Peterson to improvise and struggle just to make it back to the line of scrimmage on many occasions. Overall, the offensive line needs to be more consistent from week-to-week opening running lanes for Peterson.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater‘s numbers don’t differ between wins and losses nearly as much as Peterson’s do. The one thing I did find in common, however, was that Bridgewater exceeded 30 pass attempts in each of the three losses. Only once this season (against Detroit in Week 7) has Bridgewater exceeded 30 pass attempts en route to a win.

More from Sporting Sota

Basically, the trend that has surfaced is that establishing Peterson on the ground translates to a win. If the Vikings become one-dimensional, they become an easy team to stop on offense. It sounds obvious, and it’s probably true to a degree for every team in the league, but it’s more true for the Vikings than any other team.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner has done a pretty good job all season of feeding Peterson early and often, recognizing that this philosophy is the way to win games for this team. This isn’t a style of offense that’s going to light up the stat sheet or rank highly in the NFL, but it gets the job done.

And, in the end, that’s all Turner and head coach Mike Zimmer want.

Next: Takeaways from Vikings' Week 11 loss to Packers

Bottom line: In each of the final six games, while the Vikings will be in the midst of chasing a playoff berth and maybe a division title, establishing the rushing attack will be important and priority number one for the offense.

With the best runner in the NFL in the backfield and an offensive line that has generally been trending upward throughout the season (besides the Green Bay game in Week 11), this seems like a task that can be achieved each week.