Vikings fans often lament what they perceive as predictability and a conservative approach from the team's offensive play calling — particularly when it comes to running the ball in long yardage situations.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is a believer in the running game and voices his frustration when he doesn't feel like the offense is running the ball enough — as he did after Sunday's 37-10 loss to the Packers, a setback that ended the team's playoff chances and further called into question Zimmer's job status.
As Andrew Krammer and I talked about on Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast, there is perception and there is reality. Let's dig into a few helpful facts to see where this all sorts out.
The wonderful Sharp Football site supplies us with some important data:
*In all situations this season, the Vikings have thrown the ball 59% of the time and run 41%. League average is a 58/42 split, so they are right around that mark.
*The Vikings have thrown on first down 48% of the time this year. League average is 49%. Again, right around average.
*On 2nd-and-8 or longer, the Vikings have run the ball 35% of the time. League average is 31%, so the Vikings are a little above that but not way above it.
*In the first half against Green Bay, the Vikings ran the ball just eight times with throwing 16 times while falling behind 20-3. Their 67% pass rate was the seventh-highest in the league during the first half of Week 17.
That would seem to support Zimmer's narrative. When you're starting a backup quarterback (Sean Mannion) and one of your best players is running back Dalvin Cook, why not make him the focal point of the offense?
The problem is that nothing about the offense was working. The Vikings had what Sharp Football deems a "successful" play on just 25% of runs AND 25% of passes in the first half of that game.
I don't know if better balance would have helped. I do think a better quarterback would have helped.
*At the end of the day, it seems to come down to specific situations and outcome-based judgments — and not overall trends — that frustrate fans and Zimmer.
Perhaps it's more a matter of opinion than a matter of fact when it comes to who is right or wrong about run frequency.