Being 0-4 on the road this season isn't just because the Vikings have been badly outscored. We take a look at six statistical areas within those road losses and compare them to the stark differences at home.
Why have the Vikings done so poorly on the road this season? Sure, they've been outscored 37-8 at Cincinnati, 30-10 at Atlanta, 28-3 at Chicago and 38-13 at Carolina, but in scouring the Vikings' statistics, we found a number of areas where they are performing considerably worse on the road than at home.
The early game — In each of their road losses, the Vikings have gotten behind early and big. In the road opener, Cincinnati had a 27-0 lead by halftime and 33-0 after three quarters. The Falcons led the Vikings 24-0 at halftime, and even the Bears led 7-3 by halftime. Carolina continued the trend for the Vikings by abusing Fred Smoot with Steve Smith, rendering the Panthers a 24-0 favorite at halftime.
If the team that wins the second quarter wins the game 80 percent of the time, as Mike Tice claims, then the Vikings have contributed more than their fair share to that rate. In four road games the Vikings have scored only three points — yes, three! — in the second quarter (worse yet, they've scored none in the first quarter, but that's not the Big Man's stat). In the first three quarters of their road losses — totaling 12 quarters of football — they have scored a combined 10 points.
Meanwhile, the Vikings' road opponents have scored 28 points in the first quarter, 54 in Tice's beloved second quarter and 24 in the third quarter.
How's that for getting off on the wrong foot … and arm and legs?
Quarterback rushing — While this probably isn't a big factor in any game, now that Daunte Culpepper is on crutches and Brad Johnson is wheeling and dealing behind the offensive line it may be even less important. Still, because there is a disparity in home and road games under Culpepper's tutelage, we point it out as a way of keeping the defense honest.
In his four road games, Culpepper rushed a combined five times — whether by designed run or scramble. In Culpepper's three starts at home, when the Vikings went 2-1, he rushed a combined 20 times (16 in the two wins at home under Culpepper).
Passer rating — It figures that in losses, the quarterback rating would be poor. That is true, but Culpepper's rating was dramatically worse in the four road games than his three starts at home. On the road, they were 36.4 (Cincinnati), 74.4 (Atlanta), 50.4 (Chicago) and 93.8 (Carolina). At home, he started poor (49.2 against Tampa Bay) but improved to 140.0 (New Orleans) and 123.1 (Green Bay) in his next two home starts.
Rushing game — It figures that getting blown out wouldn't be helpful to the Vikings' ability to run the ball, and that has certainly held true. In each of their three wins, the Vikings have rushed for more than 100 yards. Their top performance in their five losses was for 77 yards and their lowest was 26 yards — in the home opener, no less.
Penalties — Mental errors away from the friendly confines at the Metrodome have also contributed to road blowouts. The team has averaged six penalties per game in the Metrodome but 10.5 far from home, including 11 and 14 in back-to-back road losses to Atlanta and Chicago.
Defensive movement — The trouble hasn't been limited to just offense. Minnesota's defense has the ability to give up more first downs on the road as well. They have yielded 23.25 first downs per game on the road. At home, they are more stingy, giving up an average of 16.5.
It's confounding to think how badly the Vikings have lost on the road, but a look at the statistics shows some of the areas they will have to improve if they intend to reverse the trend in order to climb back into the playoffs with a push in the second half of the season.