How Vikings got to 4-0 is most important

The Vikings finished the preseason 4-0, but it’s how they dominated that’s more important and should build confidence.

When a team thrives in the preseason, it takes on added importance. When a team sucks out in the preseason, it’s meaningless. That’s the beauty of the preseason. It’s a Bizarro World in the preseason, where everyone except Adrian Peterson plays.

But what the Vikings accomplished in the preseason shouldn’t be overlooked. Since the NFL went to four preseason games in 1978 (when Bud Grant was still the coach of the team), the Vikings have gone 4-0 in the preseason just four times – 1992, 1998, 2001 and 2014.

It’s an achievement and, just more important than the fact they did it, it was how they did it that made the biggest impact.

In the opener, the defense was throwing a shutout until 1:25 remained in its 10-6 win over Oakland. In the second game, Teddy Bridgewater orchestrated a game-winning drive that gave the Vikings a 30-28 win with 18 seconds left in the game – a reversal of a familiar 2013 trend.

In the game viewed as the most important – Game 3 at Kansas City – the Vikings dominated the Chiefs 30-12 and, in the game in which no starters started, the Vikings had a nearly two-to-one time of possession edge.

Simply erasing the 4-0 preseason won’t be easy, because, by any measure, it was as successful as any in team history. Do the records count? No. Could they be an important building block for a new head coach and a much different assistant coaching staff? No doubt about it.

Don’t take our word for it. Let the numbers speak for themselves.

  • The Vikings had a team passer rating of 104.0, completed 71 of 110 passes for 810 yards with seven TDs and one interception. Bridgewater led the way with a passer rating of 111.2, followed by Matt Cassel (103.3) and Christian Ponder (89.2). Opponents had a passer rating of a brutal 66.4, completing 79 of 133 passes for 813 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions.

  • The Vikings ran the ball 126 times – an average of 31.5 rushes a game – averaging 4.7 yards a carry.

  • In four games, the Vikings had just one turnover. They had six takeaways.

  • The Vikings punted 16 times in four games. Their opponents combined for 10 punt return yards.

  • Despite missing two field goals beyond 50 yards, Blair Walsh was 11 for 11 on field goal attempts inside of 50 yards. Vikings opponents combined to make just 2 of 4 field goals and both of those were from inside of 30 yards, meaning that both were red zone stops deep in Vikings territory.

  • The Vikings had nearly a four-minute time of possession edge – 31:55 to 28.05.

  • The Vikings had one of the worst statistical defenses in the NFL last year. In the preseason, they allowed just 286 yards a game – 48 yards less than the Vikings offense averaged.

  • The Vikings ran for 598 yards on the ground without Peterson – an average of 150 yards a game.

  • At a time when penalties were being called at record levels, the Vikings were flagged just 26 times – an average 6.5 a game and almost half the league average.

  • The Vikings allowed more points than any team in the NFL last year. In the preseason, they outscored their opponents 89-49.

  • In the first three quarters, when games were still up for grabs, the Vikings outscored their opponents 69-26 – 27-9 in the first quarter, 22-10 in the second and 20-7 in the third.

    In the big picture of things, the 4-0 preseason may mean nothing. That’s why you have to look up preseason win-loss records. They don’t come immediately to mind because, in the final analysis, they don’t count. When the regular season starts next week, it won’t matter who went 4-0 in the preseason (or 5-0 if you’re the Giants) or 0-4. Everybody will be 0-0.

    But for a new coaching staff looking to get players to buy in, they haven’t lost yet. No other first-year coaching staffs have that going for them.

    Enjoy the holiday weekend. The Vikings rocked August. September? Get your popcorn (and beverage of choice) ready.


    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.
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