Tom Dahlin/Viking Update

Minnesota Vikings’ running woes exploited in ‘stuffs’

The Minnesota Vikings are getting stuffed at a high rate and blame is shared by many. We break down some of the breakdowns by the numbers.

The Minnesota Vikings’ running game is hitting historically bad lows. They are averaging just 2.7 yards per rush and on Sunday it only got worse with a 2.2-yard average.

Especially noticeable are the struggles in short-yardage situations. Against the Washington Redskins, the Vikings tried three straight runs from 1-yard line before the third one finally got them into the end zone. They seem to be struggling for answers.

“I think there’s just penetration. We need to move our guys off the ball,” fullback Zach Line said. “It’s one of those things we talk about in the end zone – we’ve got to want to put the blockers’ feet in the end zone so the running back can just fall in. Just better execution.”

The Vikings are 28th in the NFL in third-down efficiency, converting 39.4 percent of third downs, but short yardage seems to be the biggest issue.

“I went back in the last four ballgames and offensively we’re 5 out of 13 in third-and-1 or fourth-and-1, and defensively we’re 0-for-4,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “So consequently we have not been able to get off the field defensively in some of these situations and offensively we haven’t been able to sustain drives.”

http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1728365-vikings-why-aren-t-blitze...

Despite their lack of success on third-and-1 and running the ball, the Vikings have run the ball 72 percent of the time in that situation. However, it might show an understandable lack of faith in the running game that they have run the ball only 29 percent of the time when they have been in third-and-2 situations.

“I don’t think it’s physical. I think guys are working. Guys are trying to make their blocks,” Line said. “It’s just sometimes the wrong place, one guy here, one guy there falling off. Keeping our feet. It’s a whole group effort that we’re going to keep working at.”

Zimmer said it is a combination of physically getting beat and some of it being missed assignments.

“It’s a little of both. We had a couple of mental errors on one,” he said. “Sometimes you get in those short-yardage situations and all of a sudden you get a different look. And you get some stunts in there and they happened to hit them right. If you hit them wrong, then it could be a big play.”

There haven’t been many of those this year, although Zimmer pointed to runs of 9 yards and 13 yards on Sunday. But, consider this: Through 10 games, the Vikings have had only two runs that went for more than 15 yards and neither of those was longer than 30 yards. They have had more interception returns (three) longer than 15 yards than running plays.

[FOR RECENT VIDEOS, CLICK HERE]

“I just think we need to relax, just do your job,” Line said. “Like Coach Zimmer said this morning, everybody is trying to do too much. So we’re just going to take a deep breath, come back on Wednesday and just keep doing what we do, but just keep focusing on your job and when you have a chance to make a play, make a play.”

The analytics site Pro Football Focus put the blame on the running backs for the poor showing in the Redskins game. PFF gave four of the five offensive linemen positive grades of 70 or higher when run blocking and there are instances that support that assessment from film review.

On the second play of the game, Jerick McKinnon appeared to make a bad read and was dropped for a run of minus-2 yards. On the next series, Ronnie Hillman was dropped for a 6-yard loss, but that was mostly due to Stefon Diggs missing a block that blew up the outside run. On the next series, one play after McKinnon had a game-high 13-yard run for the Vikings, Hillman missed a hole to the outside and was stopped for a 2-yard run.

So is it the running backs missing holes that are there or the offensive line being unable to create running lanes?

http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1728374-vikings-release-kicker-bl...

“Well, there’s a little of both when you’re talking about all this stuff,” Zimmer said. “Our issue is that we had three runs from the 1-yard line, on the goal line. And then we had, I don’t know, two other third-and-ones. So, now you’ve got five runs that you get nothing. That brings your average down quite a bit when you start talking about some of those things. So, it’s not all about the average and we’re trying to fix it.

“We’re trying to make sure that we get there. Sometimes we get them blocked, and we don’t get up on the safety, we don’t break a tackle. Sometimes we don’t get them blocked. So, it’s a combination of things right now, but some of these quick throws that we’re using are a lot like runs as well.”

And, of course, Matt Asiata was stopped twice for no gain on 1-yard line before finally breaking through for the touchdown. Asiata has actually been stuffed for no yards or negative yardage on 7.5 percent of his runs (six of 80), according to STATS LLC.

McKinnon, however, has been stuffed on 18.5 percent of his runs (15 of 81). Despite sharing the rushing load with Adrian Peterson in the first two games and then with Asiata, Hillman and others after Peterson’s knee injury, McKinnon’s 15 stuffs tie him for 13th in the league.

“That’s going to be one of the big emphases this week is try and figure this out and get back to being a lot more successful,” Zimmer said. “We should be more successful there. We got knocked back a few times. There were a couple times where we probably should have made it. Anyways, we haven’t gotten it. So, when you talk about eight third-and-ones or something like that on offense, that’s a lot of possessions there that you lose throughout the course of a game.”

 

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McKinnon, however, has been stuffed on 18.5 percent of his runs (15 of 81). Despite sharing the rushing load with Adrian Peterson in the first two games and then with Asiata, Hillman and others after Peterson’s knee injury, McKinnon’s 15 stuffs tie him for 13th in the league.

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“That’s going to be one of the big emphases this week is try and figure this out and get back to being a lot more successful,” Zimmer said. “We should be more successful there. We got knocked back a few times. There were a couple times where we probably should have made it. Anyways, we haven’t gotten it. So, when you talk about eight third-and-ones or something like that on offense, that’s a lot of possessions there that you lose throughout the course of a game.”

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The Minnesota Vikings’ running game is hitting historically bad lows. They are averaging just 2.7 yards per rush and on Sunday it only got worse with a 2.2-yard average.

Especially noticeable are the struggles in short-yardage situations. Against the Washington Redskins, the Vikings tried three straight runs from 1-yard line before the third one finally got them into the end zone. They seem to be struggling for answers.

“I think there’s just penetration. We need to move our guys off the ball,” fullback Zach Line said. “It’s one of those things we talk about in the end zone – we’ve got to want to put the blockers’ feet in the end zone so the running back can just fall in. Just better execution.”

The Vikings are 28th in the NFL in third-down efficiency, converting 39.4 percent of third downs, but short yardage seems to be the biggest issue.

“I went back in the last four ballgames and offensively we’re 5 out of 13 in third-and-1 or fourth-and-1, and defensively we’re 0-for-4,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “So consequently we have not been able to get off the field defensively in some of these situations and offensively we haven’t been able to sustain drives.”

http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1728365-vikings-why-aren-t-blitze...

Despite their lack of success on third-and-1 and running the ball, the Vikings have run the ball 72 percent of the time in that situation. However, it might show an understandable lack of faith in the running game that they have run the ball only 29 percent of the time when they have been in third-and-2 situations.

“I don’t think it’s physical. I think guys are working. Guys are trying to make their blocks,” Line said. “It’s just sometimes the wrong place, one guy here, one guy there falling off. Keeping our feet. It’s a whole group effort that we’re going to keep working at.”

Zimmer said it is a combination of physically getting beat and some of it being missed assignments.

“It’s a little of both. We had a couple of mental errors on one,” he said. “Sometimes you get in those short-yardage situations and all of a sudden you get a different look. And you get some stunts in there and they happened to hit them right. If you hit them wrong, then it could be a big play.”

There haven’t been many of those this year, although Zimmer pointed to runs of 9 yards and 13 yards on Sunday. But, consider this: Through 10 games, the Vikings have had only two runs that went for more than 15 yards and neither of those was longer than 30 yards. They have had more interception returns (three) longer than 15 yards than running plays.

[FOR RECENT VIDEOS, CLICK HERE]

“I just think we need to relax, just do your job,” Line said. “Like Coach Zimmer said this morning, everybody is trying to do too much. So we’re just going to take a deep breath, come back on Wednesday and just keep doing what we do, but just keep focusing on your job and when you have a chance to make a play, make a play.”

The analytics site Pro Football Focus put the blame on the running backs for the poor showing in the Redskins game. PFF gave four of the five offensive linemen positive grades of 70 or higher when run blocking and there are instances that support that assessment from film review.

On the second play of the game, Jerick McKinnon appeared to make a bad read and was dropped for a run of minus-2 yards. On the next series, Ronnie Hillman was dropped for a 6-yard loss, but that was mostly due to Stefon Diggs missing a block that blew up the outside run. On the next series, one play after McKinnon had a game-high 13-yard run for the Vikings, Hillman missed a hole to the outside and was stopped for a 2-yard run.

So is it the running backs missing holes that are there or the offensive line being unable to create running lanes?

http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1728374-vikings-release-kicker-bl...

“Well, there’s a little of both when you’re talking about all this stuff,” Zimmer said. “Our issue is that we had three runs from the 1-yard line, on the goal line. And then we had, I don’t know, two other third-and-ones. So, now you’ve got five runs that you get nothing. That brings your average down quite a bit when you start talking about some of those things. So, it’s not all about the average and we’re trying to fix it.

“We’re trying to make sure that we get there. Sometimes we get them blocked, and we don’t get up on the safety, we don’t break a tackle. Sometimes we don’t get them blocked. So, it’s a combination of things right now, but some of these quick throws that we’re using are a lot like runs as well.”

And, of course, Matt Asiata was stopped twice for no gain on 1-yard line before finally breaking through for the touchdown. Asiata has actually been stuffed for no yards or negative yardage on 7.5 percent of his runs (six of 80), according to STATS LLC.

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McKinnon, however, has been stuffed on 18.5 percent of his runs (15 of 81). Despite sharing the rushing load with Adrian Peterson in the first two games and then with Asiata, Hillman and others after Peterson’s knee injury, McKinnon’s 15 stuffs tie him for 13th in the league.

“That’s going to be one of the big emphases this week is try and figure this out and get back to being a lot more successful,” Zimmer said. “We should be more successful there. We got knocked back a few times. There were a couple times where we probably should have made it. Anyways, we haven’t gotten it. So, when you talk about eight third-and-ones or something like that on offense, that’s a lot of possessions there that you lose throughout the course of a game.”

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