The Pat Shurmur era of offense for the Minnesota Vikings has officially begun. Coming off the surprise resignation of Norv Turner, Act II of the Shurmur offense will be on display Sunday.
For a one-game sample size, it would appear that the Shurmur File is centering on the short pass – the really short pass.
Shurmer was asked at his weekly coordinator press conference whether his offense can remain unpredictable with so many short passes. It didn’t take him long to inform the masses that what you saw last week won’t necessarily be what you see this week.
“I guess I would look at it a little differently,” Shurmur said. “We feel like we can throw the ball deep. I think everybody has kind of tied it to the West Coast roots, but there’s a controlled passing game element to that. But there’s also the ability to throw the ball deep when shots provide. We actually did throw the ball deep a couple times. We just didn’t connect on them. So, we’re just going to try to do what we can to score points, and sometimes you’re able to get the ball down the field a little better against some teams and not so much against others.”
One of the elements that immediately signaled change was that the Vikings threw on first down. Although not accurate, Vikings fans could pass a polygraph test if asked the question “how often do the Vikings run on first down?” and their answer would be “90 percent” and the examiner would say they passed with flying colors.
While exaggerated, there was an element of truth to it. By going away from the standard Vikings M.O., Shurmer forced defenses to respect the pass option on first down, which loosens things up when the Vikings opt to revert to form.
“I think you’ve got to be somewhat multiple,” Shurmur said. “The defense can’t always know what you’re doing. So, it’s either a run or it’s a pass, and I think we were able to complete a few of them, which helped keep drives alive. We got an explosive play on a couple of them, and so, it’s just trying to keep the defense off balance. I think it helps everyone, the blockers. It helps the guys running their routes, if there’s a little bit of unpredictability.”
Shurmer isn’t reinventing the wheel with the short passing game. Watch Tom Brady and just about every lesser quarterback swimming in his wake. The short passing game is often a replacement for run plays. A run can be expected to gain 4 or 5 yards on average (for the best teams). A short pass can often accomplish the same thing.
“Some of the short passes actually kind of fit into the run-game mode,” Shurmur said. “The ball gets put out on the perimeter, sort of like a sweep play. It’s how you want to look at it. It’s important for running backs to be able to catch. Fortunately, we have a group of backs here that do a nice job catching the ball.”
He isn’t tipping his hand at what will happen when Mr. Shurmur Goes to Washington. When asked if he believes the short-game intensity shown against Detroit could be consistent from week to week – and apparently expecting Shurmur to show his cards to the table – he was haviing none of it, but did express a pocket pair.
“I don’t know,” Shurmur said without a “tell”. “I guess we all develop a blueprint, but I think we want to try to be unpredictable in some ways. But we want to use the strengths of the players we have and also try to protect the quarterback along the way. But all that being said, it’s our job to score points, and we just discussed a couple areas where we didn’t get that done.”
So, what did Shurmur actually say?
Everything required to appease the fan base.
Get your popcorn ready for the sequel. Sometimes they can be better than the original. One thing is sure. The Redskins defensive staff is expecting one thing. Whether they get it or not will be Sunday’s plot twist.