Every Wednesday morning (usually), beat writer Matt Vensel will share five Vikings stats that actually mean something heading into that week’s game.
25.7 — percentage of drives with a takeaway for the defense
Coach Mike Zimmer stressed before the season that he wanted to see the Vikings take the ball from their opponents more often. So far in 2016, they have nine takeaways after picking off Panthers quarterback Cam Newton three times in last Sunday’s 22-10 win. According ESPN, the Vikings have notched a takeaway on 25.7 percent of their defensive drives. The Panthers led the NFL last season with a 19.4 percent takeaway rate and nobody else was above 16.7. So the Vikings defense is stealing the ball at a ridiculous rate. It’s very likely unsustainable, but it sure has been fun to watch.
9 — games with five-plus sacks for the Vikings under Zimmer
The Vikings racked up eight sacks of Newton, the reigning league MVP, in Week 3, giving them a league-high 15 through three games. The sack party was nothing new for the Vikings, who have thrown a number of them since Zimmer was hired. In 35 regular-season games under Zimmer, the Vikings have had at least five sacks in nine of them. They have totaled 99 since the start of 2014, second in the NFL to only the Broncos, who have 105.
14.3 — QB pressure rate for defensive end Danielle Hunter
Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen leads the Vikings with four sacks, but Hunter, his young teammate, has actually been a more efficient pass rusher. Hunter, who already has three sacks in his age-21 season, has put pressure on the quarterback on 14.3 percent of his pass-rushing snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Only six qualifying defensive linemen have a better pressure rate. Griffen, meanwhile, ranks 11th in the league at 12.6 percent and Tom Johnson is one of the top defensive tackles at 11.5.
13 — second-half points allowed by the Vikings defense in 2016
The Vikings have spotted their opponents an early lead in each of their three wins this season. They trailed both the Titans and Panthers by a 10-0 deficit and allowed the Packers to score the first touchdown at U.S. Bank Stadium. But in the second half in each of those games, the Vikings put the clamps on. They have allowed only 13 second-half points, and six of them came in garbage time in their season-opening win. Only the Ravens, Chiefs and Eagles defenses have been stingier in the second half so far.
46.5 — third-down conversion percentage for opposing offenses
If there is one major area for improvement during this tremendous start for Zimmer’s defense, it is their performance on third down. While their pass rushers have feasted on 3rd and long, the Vikings have actually struggled on third down overall. They have allowed their opponents to convert on 20 of their 43 third-down plays. Only three defenses have a worse rate. If the Vikings can find a way to fare better in those situations, look out.