Eighty-four million bucks buys you a pretty good quarterback. But even a pretty good quarterback needs help in a sport where he shares the field with 21 other professionals.
For starters, he needs balance. Yes, it’s a passing league. But it’s also a pass rushing league like never before.
So a respected running game — not dominant, but simply respected — is key to keeping a Kirk Cousins upright rather than down on the ground scratching and failing to recover the latest strip-sack fumble.
Right now, the Vikings have the worst running game in the league. They’re last in yards per game (63.0), 30th in yards per carry (3.45) and are the only team without a rushing touchdown.
They’re also the most one-dimensional team. And it starts on first down, where the Vikings run the ball only 29.4 percent of the time. Only the 1-3 Colts (28.2 percent) run the ball at a lower percentage of the time on first down.
Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo shouldn’t shoulder the blame entirely. Dalvin Cook’s hamstring, and injuries and/or a lack of physical play up front have made it tough to pull the trigger on running plays.
Against Buffalo, the Vikings were down 7-0 before their first possession. Then they went 3-yard completion, incompletion, strip-sack and were down 10-0 a blink later. Then they went 2-yard run, 0-yard run, strip-sack and were down 17-0 another blink later. Then they called only two more runs the entire game and got smoked 27-6.
Collectively, the Vikings need to get angrier and move the ball on the ground on first down. It won’t be easy but it could be the first step toward having better control of games.
Even Hall of Fame-bound QBs need to run the ball more than 29.4 percent of the time on first down. The Packers with Aaron Rodgers are at 38.6 percent, which is third-lowest in the league. The Saints with Drew Brees are right behind them at 38.8 percent.
The Eagles (39.3) are the only other team under 40 percent.
The top five teams are Washington and some guy named Adrian (60.2 percent), Tennessee (58.4), New England and some guy named Brady (57.8), Seattle (52.5) and the Rams (51.3).
Those five teams are a combined 13-6. The 4-0 Rams are the best team in the league. Washington, Tennessee and the Rams lead their divisions. And the Patriots are, well, the Patriots once again after blowing out the undefeated Dolphins on Sunday.