3 Reasons Why Vikings Keep Winning, Despite Injuries and Slow Start

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

After a forgettable start to the season, the Minnesota Vikings have officially turned the ship around. They were 1-4 after their first five games. Since then, the Vikings have been red hot, winning 5 games in a row, good for the longest active streak in the entire NFL.

Recap of Minnesota Vikings win streak

The winning streak has come against a varying degree of opponent difficulty. They got a win against the Bears, one of the worst teams in the league, before opening eyes around the league with a primetime victory over the 49ers.

Then they rolled another bad division opponent… but Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles. Still, they didn’t blink. The Josh Dobbs miracle happened the next week vs Atlanta and repeated last Sunday vs the Saints.

Yeah, Chicago and Green Bay are bad football teams and Atlanta is meh. But the Saints are playoff-caliber (if Carr is their QB) and the Niners are one of the premier teams in the NFL. Still, neither could put out the fire that is the Minnesota Vikings over the last five weeks.

WkDateOpponentResultRecord
6Sun, Oct 15@ Chicago BearsW 19-132-4
7Mon, Oct 23vs San Francisco 49ersW 22-173-4
8Sun, Oct 29@ Green Bay PackersW 24-104-4
9Sun, Nov 5@ Atlanta FalconsW 31-285-4
10Sun, Nov 12vs New Orleans SaintsW 27-196-4

Winning despite injuries

The circumstances during this 5-game streak? They’ve been less than ideal, especially from an injury standpoint. First, star receiver Justin Jefferson went down with a hamstring injury, which happened during the Vikings last loss vs the Kansas City Chiefs (week 5).

Three weeks after that, Kirk Cousins ruptured his achilles and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. If that wasn’t enough, their blossoming left tackle, Christian Darrisaw, missed the win in Atlanta and their 2nd-best pass-rusher, Marcus Davenport, played in 17 snaps vs the Bears, injured his ankle, and hasn’t played since.

3 Biggest Factors to Vikings 5-Game Winning Streak

Quarterback, wide receiver, left tackle, EDGE rusher…? These are arguably the four most important positions in today’s NFL. Yet, Kevin O’Connell & Co continue to find the winner’s circle. So, what gives? How is a team that started 0-3, with most of their best players on the field, now 5-0 with them watching from the sideline?

1. Injury replacements have stepped up big

When stars go down, but wins pile up, it only makes sense that new stars must rise from the ashes. And that’s what we’ve seen from the Vikings, recently. Like, 1st round rookie Jordan Addison, who’s gone for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns in the last 4 games.

And the aforementioned, Josh Dobbs, who has become the biggest story in the league with his miraculous QB play the last two weeks. The last month of Minnesota Vikings football has been extremely entertaining to watch unfold and it’s stories like these that remind me why football is my favorite sport. Anything can happen.

Better yet, reinforcements should be arriving soon. Jefferson is back practicing with teammates and nearing a potential return. Some think he’ll be in the Vikings lineup Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Other insiders are more skeptical on a return that soon.

2. Vikings defense keeps getting better

The Minnesota Vikings are finally on their way to having a competent defense again. Defense has been a consistent weakness since the peak Mike Zimmer days. New defensive coordinator Brian Flores is getting great output out of a defensive roster with a lot of the same faces as the bottom ranked unit coached by Ed Donatell a season ago.

Every week, they keep getting better. The Vikings defense now ranks as an above average unit, in many of the most important statistics and rankings. And improved defensive play has allowed Minnesota to hang in, and ultimately win games, despite the plethora of injuries on the offensive side of the football.

3. Kevin O’Connell’s play-calling is evolving

The offensive play-calling has been amazing, so far this season. Kevin O’Connell has improved on the things he was most criticized for last season, including short yardage and second half play-calling. His new version of the Wildcat, which he showcased vs New Orleans, was beautiful. So smart, so simple.

Dobbs starts under center –> motions out right –> direct snap to single running back –> runs wide left –> touchdown.

Now, KOC was a little too conservative in the second half vs the Saints, after the Vikings jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead, and it nearly cost them the game. But I will attribute that to lingering unfamiliarity with what Josh Dobbs is capable of and comfortable with.

For a 2nd year coach that’s riding a 5-game win streak on his 3rd quarterback, there’s no doubt Kevin O’Connell deserves the love he has been getting the last couple days for NFL Coach of the Year.