The Vikings‘ defense is going to take a huge hit with the loss of the Williamses (compounded by the fact that Brian Robison will now apparently miss a couple of weeks after having surgery on his knee). This means the Vikes will need stellar offensive play over the last four games if they want to make the playoffs. Asking the offense to carry more of the load might’ve seemed unrealistic early in the season, but what about now? Can the team offset the effects of a diminished up-the-middle run defense and weakened pass rush by simply scoring more points?
It might surprise you to know that the Vikings have already been scoring at a pretty prolific rate relative to the rest of the league. They are currently 13th overall in points scored with a 23.9 per/game average – but over the last six games they are actually 3rd in the NFL with a 29.0 average, a full 10 points better than they were over the season’s first six games. The Bears have contributed mightily to this uptick in scoring production by surrendering 75 points to us in 2 games. The Vikes also put up 28 on both the Texans and Packers and 31 on the Jags. Their worst game of the six was in Tampa where they only managed 13, largely because the defense couldn’t get off the field in the second half, minimizing the number of plays the offense was able to run.
Of course, there’s the little matter of what the team did to score those 29 ppg. Throw out the Tampa game because we just played flat-out terrible. Consider then that we were actually outgained by Houston and Jacksonville in games we won, scoring 28 and 31 points respectively. The turnover advantage was the big factor in both of those games – 3-1 in our favor against Houston and 5-1 in our favor against Jacksonville. Without all those mistakes by the opponent? I think it’s safe to say we wouldn’t have put up so many points. We did manage to outgain the Bears in scoring 41 the first game against them, but lost largely because we coughed the ball up 5 times to their 1. The only thoroughly dominating statistical performances were against Green Bay and the second game against Chicago – we outgained the opponent by wide margins in both cases and of course won both games. The Packer game we only won by 1 thanks again to turnovers – had we not given the ball up 3 times, all on Gus Frerotte interceptions, it probably would’ve been a blow-out. The Bears game this past weekend was the only contest that the Vikings won handily on both the statsheet and the scoreboard.
So what’s the point of all this statistical wanking? To me it’s clear – for the Vikings offense is tied to defense. We run up bigger scores in games where we force turnovers, and our offense tends to be stifled in games where the defense fails to get off the field on third down and give our offense more shots. We’ve been scoring more points the last few weeks more because of good defense and bad play by the opponent than a sudden upsurge in offensive productivity. If our defense goes downhill without the Williamses, it’s then safe to say that our offense will struggle as well. And these struggles will undoubtedly lead to even more mistakes by Gus Frerotte who forces too many passes as it is. There are teams that can play poor defense and still ring up big offensive numbers and get wins – but the Vikings aren’t one of those teams. We have to be clicking in all areas for the points, and the wins, to come with consistency. We are in for a frustrating final four games of the season.