Control The Clock
The typical reason you want to dominate time of possession is to keep the opposing team’s quarterback off the field to limit their chances of scoring.
As an offensive coordinator, you might game plan long, methodical drives that rely heavily on running the ball or a short passing game, depending upon the weaknesses of a given opponent’s defense. This the the type of game plan you might reserve for the Aaron Rogers and Tom Bradys of the world. Or Pat Mahomes, as the case may be.
But the Vikings might want to employ this approach on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs even if Pat Mahomes doesn’t play in order to limit the weapons he or backup quarterback Matt Moore have at their disposal.
The Chiefs are loaded with offensive talent and that talent is super speedy. Defensive coordinator George Edwards observed:
you look at each position and they’ve got speed at each position. You look at the running back, (LeSean) McCoy, he’s great coming out, (Damian) Williams is great coming out of the backfield.
You look at the tight end, (Travis) Kelce, he’s the leading receiver right now.
And all four of the receivers that they’ve got, they’re using. You can start at the top and go down. Start with (Sammy) Watkins and (Tyreek) Hill and (Demarcus) Robinson and (Mecole) Hardman, all of those guys have great speed and do a great job of locating the ball down the field, so we’ve got to do a great job this week of being able to number one, pressure the quarterback and be disciplined in our rush lanes, those kind of things, but also on the back end, leveraging those things down the field.
Then when they throw short passes, their ability to run after the catch is also key. They’re number one in the league with that, so we’ve got to do a great job of tackling and leveraging in the open field.Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer acknowledged that time of possession could be an important factor.
Yeah, I mean they’ve had some games where the time of possession has been overwhelmingly against them, but we’re always trying to do that. We’re always trying to win the time of possession, we’re always trying to be good on third downs, control the ball.Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer
Dalvin, Dalvin, Dalvin
Here’s Zimmer discussing the effect a dominant running game can have on an opponent:
Happily for the Vikings, the Chiefs are horrible at defending the run, ranking 30th in the NFL in run defense, giving up 145 yards per game.
Will this be the game where we’ll get to see Dalvin Cook run a fly route for a deep ball? Pete Bercich breaks down how opposing offenses can isolate their running back in man coverage against the Chiefs’ linebackers. (I’ve timestamped this clip up for you to spare you some of the insufferable Paul Allen.)
Vikings Passing Game
Bercich examines how the Chiefs like to blitz, which they do quite a bit. If the Chiefs go that route against the Vikings, expect to see a healthy dose of screen passes to counter.
The Vikings have been outstanding of late executing their screen passing game, especially to Dalvin Cook, who burned Washington with gains of 15, 18 and 31 on such passes.
I am not at all confident about the Vikings ability to defend this track team.
One: Don’t sleep on Matt Moore. He’s no Pat Mahomes but he’s a savvy veteran backup who nearly beat the Packers last week. He can execute and, as mentioned above, he’s got a ton of talent around him.
Two: I wouldn’t bet on the Vikings DBs being able to keep up with the Chiefs receivers. They’ll need to press at the line to slow them down but if there are may whifs, it will be a long day.
Three: As good as Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr are, Travis Kelce and LeSean McCoy out of the backfield will be a handful to cover.
It may come down to the Vikings being able to put pressure on Moore with only their front four. The Chiefs offensive line is a bit banged up with tackle Eric Fisher and guard Laurent Duveray-Tardif missing practice on Thursday.
This game could easily turn into a shootout.