The Vikings are ranked 2nd in the NFL along with the NY Giants and Arizona Cardinals in TDs on 1st offensive possessions with 3, and they are ranked tied for 3rd with Arizona in total points on 1st offensive possessions with 21.
With a solid defense and one of the league’s best rushing attacks, getting off to an early lead is a key tactic in winning for the Vikings.
But one way to offset an advantage derived from offensive success on the 1st possession is to quickly punt the way on ensuing possessions throughout the game. As Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress likes to say, possession of the football is what both teams are fighting over.
With a 6-0 record and as the 2nd highest scoring team in the NFL, the Vikings are looking good in 2009. But Childress and players in the Vikings locker room would be the first to tell you that there are plenty of areas that need improvement.
One of those areas, in spite of the Vikings high success rate on 1st possessions, is actually possessing the ball. The Vikings have had 69 offensive series in 2009, and 23 of them have been 3-and-outs, which is 3rd highest in the NFL. Making up the 23 three-and-out series are 21 punts, 1 TD and 1 INT.
So what’s been happening? Your 1st reaction might be to blame the play-calling and an ultra-conservative offense. But that’s not actually the case. There are 2 culprits that have led to the Vikings 23 three-and-out possessions – sacks and negative rushing plays.
Of the Vikings 23 three-and-out series, 10 of those drives have had sacks and 3 of them have had negative runs. These sacks and negative runs put the offense behind schedule in their down-and-distance strategy. While every play is schemed to go for a TD, certain plays fall into certain down-and-distance categories. So it’s important for offenses to stay in manageable down-and-distances to sustain scoring drives and call plays that have been installed in the game plan.
Just a few stats I wanted to pass along. So the next time the Vikings go with a “conservative” play call on 3rd down, consider the fact that the ultimate outcome of a punt might have been determined not because of the 3rd-down play-call but because of a negative play on either 1st down or 2nd down.
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