Methodical Is Out, Explosive Is In

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 5, 2009 – 9:34 am

Is there anything better than watching the Vikings offense methodically drive down the field against an opponent and put together a 9-, 10- or 12-play drive that eats up a bunch of clock?

Actually, there might be. While those extended drives are a function of the offense exerting its will over the defense, they also expose the offense to costly mistakes that come in the form of penalties, sacks and turnovers.

Perhaps a better way to do it is through short drives that are highlighted by explosive plays. An explosive play is a run of 12+ yards or pass of 16+ yards. Explosive plays allow the offense to pick up chunks of yards at a time and move down the field quickly, before a great defensive play or untimely penalty can stall a drive.

A great illustration of this point came earlier this year when the Indianapolis Colts defeated Miami 27-23 on the road. In that game, the Dolphins crushed Indianapolis in time of possession by a 45:07 to 14:53 margin. Yet it was the Colts who came out on top because they were able to strike quickly with explosive plays – they had TD drives of 1, 4 and 6 plays. The Dolphins, meanwhile, had a 14-play drive that ended with an interception, a 12-play drive that resulted in a missed FG and 10- and 13-play drives that ended with FGs.

Statistics through 3 games show that the Vikings are better off when they have shorter drives that feature explosive plays. Of the Vikings 10 TDs this season (including Percy Harvin’s 101-yard TD return), the average number of plays per TD drive is 5.7, including a pair of 1-play drives against the Browns and Lions (there was also a 0-play drive – Harvin’s return).

On the flip side, the Vikings have had a number of long, time-consuming drives that didn’t result in TDs. Against Cleveland, the Vikings had a 12-play series that resulted in a FG. In Detroit during Week 2, the Vikings had 10- and 9-play drives end in FGs. And last week against San Francisco, the Vikings punted after a 9-play drive and kicked FGs after a pair of 7-play drives.

Of course it’s important to salvage drives with FGs, but clearly an explosive play or 2 in those longer non-TD drives would increase the likelihood of the Vikings capping the series with 7 points rather than 3, even though the drives had fewer plays and didn’t consume much time.
So while it’d be great to see the Vikings churn out a bunch of 10-play drives tonight against the Packers and dominate time of possession, it seems more effective for the Vikings to manufacture shorter drives that are more explosive.

Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 10 Comments »

10 Responses to “Methodical Is Out, Explosive Is In”

  1. By Vikings Fan from Afar on Oct 5, 2009 | Reply

    I can’t say I completely agree.

    To beat a well-rounded team, you need to be well-rounded yourself. We saw this with the 1998 Vikings. They lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, in the playoffs, the Atlanta Falcons mainly because the Vikings that year could not generate long, time-consuming drives that culminated in points. The Vikings that year could only generate points through explosive plays. The Vikings defense was worn down through attrition. The Bucs and Falcons had both explosive plays and time-sucking drives on their toolbelt.

    The game plan for a Vikings win this season is similar to how the game started against the 49ers. Score points early. Jump out to an early lead.

    The next step is to hold that lead. That requires keeping possession of the ball, and good defense and special teams play. Due to allowing one touchdown, plus the special teams breakdown (the blocked kick) against the Niners, the Vikings went from a 13-0, or 13-7 or 16-7 lead at halftime to a 14-13 deficit.

    Take a lead early. Shut the other team down. Keep the lead. Hold the ball. Win the battle of field position. Take advantage of opportunities. Execute plays. Keep adding to the lead little by little. That is what the Vikings want to do against the Packers tonight. That is what the Vikings always want to do against any opponent.

    If the Vikings are able to make explosive plays, great. Take them. Otherwise, just make plays, move the chains, hold the ball, score points, play good defense, and force turnovers.

    Go Minnesota Vikings!

  2. By PackCat on Oct 5, 2009 | Reply

    I disagree with the position about long drives vs. explosive ones.

    You are right, methodical drives do show the offense’s will over the opponent. But it has long term in-game benefits, such as wearing down the defense later in the game, especialy during crunch time. Miami did not lose the game as much as the fact that they were inefficient at clock management when they needed to be more conservative. They had 3 minutes and timeouts, Favre had less than half that amount of time remaining and no time outs. Favre did not look rushed and the Vikings were just better organized as a team. Methodical drives demoralize the other team and force them into mistakes of their own, because they know if they give the ball back to your offense, you can run out the clock. For example, if you run a kickoff back for a TD, it has instant momentum benefits, but it does not take time off the clock. The Vikings have been winning the clock battle and that usualy gives positive outcomes. The Miami-Indy game was a little unusual… Miami was way over-matched, but kept the game close because they kept the ball away. In a normal clock game, Indy should have won by 30 pts.

    Explosive drives have their downside as well. Longer pass plays open the door to more mistakes, like interceptions – when your leading receiver should change their nickname to butterfingers. I hope they gave BB lots of stick-em this week to practice hanging onto the ball! Also a chance of more holding penalties when the passer takes more time to make longer throws.

  3. By PackCat on Oct 5, 2009 | Reply

    Let me put it another way… In Boxing, if Tyson knocks out the opponent in 30 seconds of the first round, it seems exciting, but leaves a bitter taste with the fans, because they paid big bucks for a 12 round fight, only to feel cheated.

    The best boxing matches, are the ones that are methodical and wear down the opponent for that TKO in the final round.

  4. By mikewobschall on Oct 5, 2009 | Reply

    I understand what you guys are saying, but I think if you did the research, you’d find that explosive plays correlate pretty well with wins. If you can explode down the field and pick up chunks of yards at a time, you’re going to win a lot of games. Conversely, a team can display the ability to drive 10 or 12 plays, but that doesn’t mean their going to score a lot of TDs.

    Again, I agree that long drives show that the offense is exerting its will on the defense. And that is important, especially for a team such as the Vikings who are a run-first team. But I go back to the explosive plays part – teams with more explosive plays are going to end up with more wins. I haven’t done a complete study on it, but I’d rather have more explosive plays than long, time-consuming drives. The more plays you run, the more likely you are to encounter a sack, turnover or penalty. And those 3 types of mistakes are absolute drive killers.

  5. By Vikings Fan from Afar on Oct 5, 2009 | Reply

    “But I go back to the explosive plays part – teams with more explosive plays are going to end up with more wins.”

    Nice point.

  6. By PurplePeopleEater on Oct 5, 2009 | Reply

    One point I’d like to make is that the long time consuming drives can often open up room for the explosive plays later. Once the defense is worn down and demoralized, then the possibility for the explosive play is that much greater. Just look back to last week. The most explosive play of the game was the final play of our offense. This may very well be why Favre is so well known for his success at end of game drives, because he has already worn down the defense and opened up that much more more possibility for the game winning explosive play.

  7. By PackCat on Oct 5, 2009 | Reply

    “I understand what you guys are saying, but I think if you did the research, you’d find that explosive plays correlate pretty well with wins”

    WE think you are confusing REALITY with fantasy…
    We would all love to see AP get 1000 years and Brett throw for another 1000 yards on 11 plays each…. but unfortunately for you and the rest of society, we have to live in the real world of probabilities, and that is not going to happen. AP typically breaks one or two big plays a game, and as Favre has already shown, he is good for a few big plays as well. BUT, as far as a game plan strategy, I think you need to see the doctor about adjusting your meds. LOL

    You are fantasizing, while the rest of us are trying to be rational.

  8. By PackCat on Oct 5, 2009 | Reply

    PurplePeopleEater – Touchette!

  9. By PackCat on Oct 5, 2009 | Reply

    “teams with more explosive plays are going to end up with more wins.”

    You could say that about the Saints/Jets game yesterday, but it had nothing to do with the Saint’s offense!!!!

  10. By PackCat on Oct 5, 2009 | Reply

    “teams with more explosive plays are going to end up with more wins.”

    I think my case was proven tonight! Case Closed!

    you can throw your analyst out the window! LOL
    while you are at it, donate a pink towel to Mr Explosive Errant Rodgers, to wipe his tears away!

    Ohh and BTW, just for extra measure, the Vikes won the battle of the clock!
    Methodical sucks doesn’t it? FG’s? What FG’s?

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