There has been a national notice of the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive ability this season, but, for those who have followed the team for any period of time knows that this isn’t something new to the Vikings experience.
Any team can play lights-out defense for a game or two, but the streak that the Vikings have strung together is no coincidence.
Things didn’t start well for Zimmer when he arrived in Minnesota. In his first five games as head coach, Zimmer had a record of 2-3, largely because his teams were giving up too many points – including games of 20, 28, 30 and 42, the last of them being a 42-10 beating at the hands of the Packers. While the defense would improve over the next couple of weeks, the Vikings lost them both and headed into the bye week with a 2-5 record.
Since then, Zimmer and his Vikings have posted a regular season record of 20-9, including wins in 13 of their last 16 games.
What may be even more telling is a stat that can’t be matched by any other team in the NFL. In their last 21 games, the Vikings have allowed opponents to score two touchdowns just once.
That doesn’t include just the Vikings defense. Touchdowns created by offensive turnovers brought back for scores and kickoff and punt returns are also factored in. Those are the kind of sustained numbers that haven’t been seen in Minnesota since the Purple People Eater days.
Since the regular season finale in Zimmer’s rookie coaching season of 2014 until today – the span of 22 games (including their playoff loss), the Vikings have allowed only one team (Seattle on Dec. 6, 2015) to score more than two touchdowns.
Whether or not that is enough to make believers that the Vikings can make a run to the Lombardi Trophy is up to speculation.
But, if they hold 95 percent of their opponents to two or fewer touchdowns, they’re going to win a lot of games. At the end of the day, that’s what it is all about in the NFL – just win, baby.
VIKINGS-TEXANS BY THE NUMBERS
- The Vikings have the 31st-ranked offense (32nd rushing, 24th passing) and the seventh-ranked defense (8th rushing, 9th passing).
- The Texans have the 25th-ranked offense (11th rushing, 25th passing) and the fifth-ranked defense (27th rushing, 1st passing).
- Of the 17 team statistical categories the NFL keeps for comparison purposes on defense, the Vikings are in the top 10 in 14 of those and Houston is in the top 10 in nine of those categories.
- Minnesota is averaging 291 yards of offense per game (227 passing, 64 rushing). Houston is averaging 335 yards a game (222 passing, 113 rushing).
- The Vikings are allowing 306 yards a game (224 passing, 82 rushing). The Texans are allowing 288 yards a game (163 passing, 125 rushing).
- Minnesota leads the league in takeaway/giveaway ratio at plus-10 (11 takeaways, one giveaway). Houston is tied for 25th at minus-3 (five takeaways, eight giveaways).
- Minnesota is 23rd in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on five of 10 red zone possessions (50 percent). Houston is 31st at 33.3 percent (three TDs on nine possessions).
- Houston is tied for 11th in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on five of 10 opponent possessions (50 percent). Minnesota is 25th at 66.7 percent (six touchdowns in nine possessions).
- The Texans are 11th in third-down offense, converting 43.5 percent of third-down opportunities (27 of 62). The Vikings are 24th at 37.5 percent (21 of 56). The league average is 40.3 percent.
- Houston is fourth in third-down defense, allowing conversions at 32.1 percent (18 of 56). Minnesota is 14th at 40 percent (22 of 55) – a drop of almost 8 percent from the previous week after limiting the Giants to converting just two of 12 chances.
- The Vikings are first in the league in first-down defense, allowing opponents just 3.46 yards – almost 2 yards less than the league average.
- Minnesota is first in average starting position following a kickoff, at the 29.2-yard line – 1.6 yards better than any other team and 4.6 yards above the league average.
- Sam Bradford is 29th in pass attempts (95), 28th in completions (66), third in completion percentage (69.5), 28th in passing yards (719), tied for 29th in TD passes (four), tied for first in interceptions (0) and third in passer rating (105.5).
- Brock Osweiler is 13th in pass attempts (146), 15th in completions (90), 23rd in completion percentage (61.6), 21st in passing yards (949), tied for 16th in touchdown passes (five), tied for 29th in interceptions (six) and 28th in passer rating (74.6).
- Bradford is fifth in fourth-quarter passer rating at 105.6. Osweiler is 19th with a rating of 81.3.
- Bradford is sixth in third-down passer rating at 105.9. Osweiler is 20th with a rating of 79.0.
- Lamar Miller is fourth in rushing with 351 yards. Jerick McKinnon leads the Vikings with 138 yards, which ranks him 34th in the league.
- Stefon Diggs is tied for sixth in receptions with 25. Will Fuller is tied for 30th with 19 receptions, along with Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. DeAndre Hopkins is tied for 50th with 17 receptions.
- Diggs is fifth in receiving yards with 372. Fuller is 12th with 323 yards. Hopkins is 42nd with 227 yards. Rudolph is 44th with 221 yards.
- Fuller and Rudolph are tied for 15th in scoring among non-kickers with 18 points – each scoring three touchdowns.
- Houston kicker Nick Novak is tied for eighth in scoring among kickers with 33 points. Blair Walsh is tied for 13th with 30 points.
- Miller is ninth in the league in yards from scrimmage with 429 (351 rushing, 78 receiving). Diggs is 14th with 370 yards (372 receiving, minus-2 rushing). Fuller is 28th with 323 yards (all receiving).
- Houston punter Shane Lechler is ninth in the league in punting average at 49.3 yards. Jeff Locke is 26th at 43.0 yards.
- Locke is 15th in net punting average at 40.6 yards. Lechler is 19th at 39.6 yards.
- Marcus Sherels is 10th in punt return average at 10.6 yards. Houston’s Tyler Ervin is 22nd at 6.4 yards.
- Cordarrelle Patterson leads the league in kickoff return average at 32.0 yards. Ervin is 12th with an average of 21.6 yards.
- Trae Waynes is tied for fourth in interceptions with two.
- Everson Griffen is tied for the third in sacks with four. Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph are tied for 14th with three sacks. John Simon leads the Texans with 2.5 sacks.