Knowing they need every advantage to win on the road, the Vikings have limited their penalties to increase their chances.
In their first road game of the season, the Vikings had 11 penalties for 105 yards in a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Since then, however, the Vikings have averaged only four penalties for 48 yards in their road games.
The league average is 6.4 penalties per game for 54 yards. Overall, the Vikings have the fourth-fewest penalties with 75 (the Atlanta Falcons have a sizeable lead on everyone with only 50) and the sixth-fewest penalty yards with 680 (the Falcons have only 380).
“If you look back we have not, in the time I’ve been here, been very good when it comes to penalties. For us to be in the top five this season, credit to our players,” head coach Leslie Frazier said. “We really emphasized it in the offseason, but that’s not unlike any other year that we’ve emphasized it.”
Frazier also credited the Wilf ownership group with being willing to spend money to bring officials into practices to keep the players mindful of trying to practice penalty-free in order to reduce the number on game days. It was an idea Frazier got from another coach in the NFL.
“One of the things I did – because I was really concerned about penalties, always have penalties and been near the bottom of the league in that area – I was talking with some other coaches around the league just to get a feel for trying to get some ideas in how we can improve this. One of the coaches I talked with mentioned that they had tried to use officials in practice and he saw a dramatic decrease in their penalties,” Frazier said. “I said, ‘Man, that’s not a bad idea. Maybe that might help us.’ I talked to our ownership about it because those (officials) aren’t going to volunteer their time, and they were willing to support it. I think having those officials there has helped us, along with our players just being more conscious, but probably being more conscious because those officials are there and they will call penalties in practice. I think that’s helped us.”
Last week at St. Louis, the Vikings had only three penalties for 49 yards. It tied for the second-fewest they have had this year. Not surprisingly, perhaps their most impressive win of the year came when they had only one penalty, against San Francisco.
The Vikings have also received assistance from former NFL official Bernie Kukar.
“He’s helped tremendously, meeting with our coaches, giving little mini clinics in training camp with our team and our coaches. It’s helped a lot,” Frazier said. “If our ownership had balked at that, it may not have increased and became as good as it has. But, I think where we are penalty-wise is a direct reflection of the commitment that was made from the top, then our players understanding the importance of it.”
Over the course of the season, the Vikings have 166 fewer penalty yards than their opponents. Perhaps one of the most impressive on the team has been Matt Kalil, the rookie left tackle who has been called for holding only once, which was declined, and a false start once. In total, Kalil has had only four penalties. By contrast, right tackle Phil Loadholt leads the team with eight penalties. Only one of those was a holding call, but he has had four false starts and two illegal formations.
Defensively, Jared Allen and Everson Griffen are the biggest offenders with seven penalties apiece. Two of Allen’s penalties have been offside while Griffen has been flagged for that penalty five times.
The Vikings had a visit with DT Brian Price after giving him a workout earlier in the season, according to NFL reporter Adam Caplan. Price is a 6-foot-1, 303-pound defensive tackles out of UCLA. He spent 2010-11 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, appearing in 19 games over the two seasons, including 14 starts in 2011, when he had three sacks.
The Vikings tried out DeMarco Sampson and Isaiah Williams, according to Scout.com’s Aaron Wilson. Sampson is a 6-foot-2 wide receiver from San Diego State that played in 12 games last year with the Arizona Cardinals and caught three passes for 36 yards. Williams, a 6-foot-3 receiver out of Maryland, also spent time with the Cardinals but didn’t have any catches.
More than likely, the Vikings are preparing for “futures contract” signings that can be made after the final regular-season game.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.