Ineffective Blitz Creates Conundrum for Vikings Defense
The Minnesota Vikings fell to 10-3 on Sunday afternoon after losing to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Neither Ed Donatell nor his defense deserve all of the blame, in the loss. But let’s be real, they deserve most of it.
Could Kevin O’Connell have called smarter plays and managed the game better, as a whole? Of course. But the defense gave up 464 yards to the Lions’ offense. It was their 5th-straight game allowing over 400 yards, a franchise record.
It’s not just yards allowed where the Vikings’ defense struggles. They rank at or near the bottom of nearly every defensive metric on the internet. Classic, advanced, efficiency… it’s all bad.
The Vikings rank as follows:— Dustin Baker (@DustBaker) December 12, 2022
???? 32nd in Total Yards Allowed
???? 32nd in Passing Yards Allowed
???? 27th in Yards per Rush
???? 27th in FG Kicking %
Sadly, none of that sounds like a team ready to make noise in the postseason.
The Vikings are allowing 9.23 Y/A playing off coverage this year—unsurprisingly, the worst rate in the NFL. You know what they say about the definition of insanity… pic.twitter.com/yRMofZSg8B— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) December 12, 2022
Pressure is the problem
So what’s the underlying problem for the Minnesota Vikings defense? Well, there are plenty. But the most glaring issue goes back to the core of what makes a good defense in 2022. How much pressure can you get on the opposing quarterbacks?
Early on this season, the Vikings relied on their front 3-4 pass rushers to get that job done. That’s why ZaDarius Smith and Danielle Hunter rank at or near the top of the NFL in QB pressures with 70 (1st) and 49 (11th), respectively, according to PFF.
Send the blitz!
But recently, pressure has been harder to come by because opponents are stacking their protection packages against Hunter and Smith. To combat that extra attention, the Vikings are sending more blitzes.
Ed Donatell has sent blitzes just 17.3% of the time in 2022, good for 24th in the NFL. Against the Jets and Lions the last two weeks, however, that’s up to 32%.
The problem? It’s not working. Against the Jets, the Vikings defense managed just 15 total pressures, though they did hit the QB 7 times and sacked him once. Versus the Lions, the lack of total pressures (14) was more noticeable. Probably because they managed just 3 hits and 0 sacks on those pressures.
Well that's the thing. The Vikings blitzed on a season-high 31.7% of the snaps yesterday, but got cooked for 10/13/101/1 because they only created pressure on three of their 13 blitzes. https://t.co/hgvmIPcHEm— Eric Thompson (@eric_j_thompson) December 12, 2022
Vikings blitzed a season-high 31.7% of the time vs. Jets. Season rate is at 19.9%, 8th-lowest in NFL. Asked DC Ed Donatell today how he considers whether to blitz, and got what I think is the most succinct summary we've heard of his defensive approach with this roster …— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) December 8, 2022
Fixing the pass rush and finding a way to get more pressure on quarterbacks is what can most quickly turn the Minnesota Vikings defensive struggles around. It creates late downs with distance, turnovers and game-changing plays.
But if Ed Donatell is going to send pressure, he needs to make sure it gets home far more often. If not, the Vikings are better off keeping that extra defender in coverage. Or… finding a new defensive coordinator and/or play caller.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan