The Vikings have a chance to 3-0 after playing the 49ers. How significant is that? In the Brad Childress era it's never been done. Plus, we go in-depth with the numbers in this game.
The Vikings will be looking to get into some rarified air for the franchise today when they meet the San Francisco 49ers – a feat that has been a long time coming.
With a win this afternoon, the Vikings will 3-0 on the season. The last time the Vikings started the year at 3-0 was in 2003. They've did it three times in the previous 11 years. Two of those years (1998 and 2000), the Vikings advanced to the NFC Championship Game. In 2003, things didn't work out nearly as well. After roaring out of the gate with a 6-0 record, the Vikings lost their next four and seven of their last 10 games.
What makes the 3-0 start more significant is that it has been a stark contrast to the starts the Vikings have had under Brad Childress. In 2006, the Vikings were 2-2 after their first four games. In 2007, they were 1-3 through four games and, at one point had a record of 2-5. They would rally to win five straight and even had a chance to control their own wild card destiny with a win Week 16 vs. Washington. They didn't and much of the blame later was put on the slow start and huge hole they had dug.
Not much changed last year. The Vikings started off 1-3 and again put themselves into a difficult position. However, the team rallied to win eight of their final 12 games and have managed not to lose back-to-back games since the first two games of 2008.
The Vikings have shown the ability to come from behind after getting off to a slow start. Their record in November and December the last two years is an impressive 12-5. They've needed that make up for lost ground early. A win today could put the Vikings on the fast track for consideration as one of the favorites in the NFC – and burying the malaise of the Septembers past.
VIKINGS-NINERS BY THE NUMBERS
It would appear the numbers say the reason both teams are 2-0 is because of their defense. The 49ers have the 26th-ranked offense (9th rushing, 30th passing), while the Vikings have the 27th-ranked offense (2nd rushing, 32nd passing). However, the Vikings have the four-rated defense (15th rushing, 5th passing), while the 49ers have the seventh-ranked defense (3rd rushing, 20th passing).
Only five teams in the NFL have yet to have a quarterback throw an interception. The Vikings and 49ers are two of those teams.
The Vikings have the league's third-rated punt return game thanks to Darius Reynaud and the fifth-ranked kick return game.
Both teams have struggled in punt coverage – the Vikings rank 31st covering punts, while the 49ers aren't much better at 26th.
Both teams are allowing far too many sacks. Based on sacks per pass attempts, the Vikings rank 31st and San Francisco ranks 30th.
San Francisco's defense is third in the league on not allowing third-down conversions (allowing just eight of 28 to be converted). The Vikings are tied for seventh, allowing just eight of 25 opponent third downs to become first downs.
Both teams have been relatively effective in their red zone offense. The Vikings are in 11th place, having scored touchdowns on five of nine red zone opportunities. The 49ers are tied for 12th, having made good on half of their chances – but just two of four. Only one team (Tampa Bay, 5-for-5) has scored a TD on every red zone chance and only one (New York Giants, 0-for-8) haven't scored a TD on any red zone opportunity.
Defensively, the Vikings have allowed opponents to score touchdowns twice on four red zone chances, while the Niners have allow two TDs on five defensive red zone challenges.
Only one offense (Seattle, 14) has fewer first downs via the pass than Vikings (17).
Thanks to the return ability of Percy Harvin, the Vikings rank second in average starting position following a kickoff with a start position of the 30.6-yard line. The 49ers are next-to-last, starting at the 19.6-yard line on average. The league average is the 25.3-yard line.
Neither team has had a 300-yard passer or 100-yard receiver. The Vikings haven't allowed a 300-yard passer, 100-yard rusher or 100-yard receiver this year. San Francisco has allowed just one – running back Tim Hightower catching 12 passes for 121 yards in Week 1.
Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore have each led the league in rushing over the first two weeks. Peterson's 180 yards in Week 1 vs. Cleveland was the high-water mark for the week and Gore has the highest total of the year with 207 yards vs. Seattle in Week 2.
Brett Favre has the third-highest passer rating in the league at 110.2 – behind only Drew Brees (132.9) and Peyton Manning (110.3). However, he has done so ranking 31st in attempts, 31st in yards and 30th in average gain. It's his 77.1 percent completion rating that has him so high.
Shaun Hill hasn't set the world on fire. He is 24th in attempts, 28th in yards, 23rd in average gain and 26th in touchdowns thrown.
Both QBs have been strong late in games. Favre has a fourth-quarter passer rating of 119.6 – seventh-best in the league. Hill checks in at 10th with a fourth-quarter rating of 102.4 – 15 points higher than his overall rating.
Hill has been a killer on third down, completing 81 percent of his passes and having a rating of 123.4, behind only Brees and Manning.
Peterson and Gore are ranked first and third in rushing, with Peterson leading the league with 272 yards and Gore behind him and Chris Johnson of the Titans with 237 yards.
Peterson and Gore are third and fourth, respectively, in yards from scrimmage. Johnson leads with 352, followed by Fred Jackson of Buffalo (328), Peterson (314) and Gore (294)
Peterson leads the NFL in first downs with 16 – 13 rushing and three receiving.
Percy Harvin leads the Vikings in receptions yards with 77, which ironically puts him in 77th place among NFL players.
If the Niners pass on third down, you can bet it will likely go to Gore or Isaac Bruce. Both are tied for third place in the league with five receptions on third down. Harvin and Chester Taylor are tied for 15th with four receptions each.
Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes leads the league in scoring with 26 points. Peterson, Gore and Baltimore's Willis McGahee are all tied for second with 24 points – each having scored four touchdowns in two games.
Kickers Ryan Longwell of the Vikings and Joe Nedney of the 49ers are tied for fifth place among kickers with 19 points each.
Darius Reynaud is third in the NFL in punt returns with a 19-yard average.
Harvin is third in the league in kickoff return average – a strong 29.7 yards per return.
Chad Greenway is tied for third in the league with two interceptions, behind Darren Sharper of the Saints and Michael Huff of the Raiders – who each have three.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.