Vikings flip offensive script upside down
With no game of his own, Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark tuned in for the Minnesota Vikings’ game against Atlanta on Sunday.
“Every snap,” Clark said.
Clark was more than just a casual observer, with the Vikings coming to town for an NFC North clash on Sunday. It’s the second division showdown in as many weeks for the Packers. While dominant defenses are those teams’ calling cards, their offenses could hardly be more different.
With the Monday night games to be played, Chicago’s Week 1 run rate of just 23.1 percent was the fourth-lowest in the league. On the other end of the spectrum was Minnesota, which ran the football 77.6 percent of the time – by far the highest rate in the league.
For Minnesota, it’s been quite a change of offensive tactics. Last year, it had the fourth-lowest run rate in the league at 35.6 percent. Because of those pass-happy ways, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo late in the season and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski. For this season, Zimmer hired Gary Kubiak as assistant head coach/offensive advisor and retained Stefanski as coordinator.
Against Atlanta, Zimmer got what he wanted. The Vikings finished with 38 runs vs. 11 passes (10 passes by quarterback Kirk Cousins and one sack). Led by Dalvin Cook, Minnesota rushed for 172 yards – the third-most in Week 1 heading into Monday.
“I think it’s crazy to kind of see how they switched from last year,” linebacker Blake Martinez said. “I feel like last year they passed the ball a ton, did a lot of things in that aspect. It’s going to be another tough test for us, especially the front seven to stop the run game and make sure we’re on our Ps and Qs with our fundamentals.”
The intriguing matchup might be Stefanski/Kubiak vs. Green Bay defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Pettine played with five-plus defensive backs on every snap vs. Chicago. Bears coach Matt Nagy ignored the in-the-box personnel advantage and threw the ball all over Soldier Field with horrid results. With Minnesota’s rushing prowess, Pettine might have to formulate a different game plan. That means a second inside linebacker; against the Bears, rookie Ty Summers and newly added B.J. Goodson played zero defensive snaps.
“I think it just comes down to understanding the defensive play that we call and then understanding where our weakness is within that play and when you can play fast and when you need to play slow,” Martinez said. “It will allow you to be one to two steps quicker. If there’s a little guy in there or a big guy, or whatever it ends up being, you’re able to beat the guy to the punch and make plays in the backfield before Dalvin Cook gets going.”