Few expected the Minnesota Vikings to start the season 5-0 after quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's season-ending injury, but that's exactly what has happened. Here are five observations from the team's 5-0 start.
Getty ImagesGrant Halverson
Minnesota's defense has dominated opponents so far
The Vikings rank in the top 10 of nearly defensive category, including first in points per game (12.6), tied for first in sacks (19) and fourth in total yards per game (287.6). The unit has yielded just seven touchdowns through five games and is second in the league in turnovers forced with 12. The defense has held top quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning and Cam Newton in check and hasn't yielded more than 339 yards in a single game. Minnesota has not allowed more than two touchdowns in its past 10 games dating back to last season, going 8-2 over that stretch.
Sam Bradford and the offense have done enough to win, specifically by not turning the ball over
Minnesota ranks 30th in yards and last in the NFL in rushing yards, but the offense has not turned the ball over this season. Bradford has completed 70 percent of his passes in his four starts and has thrown six touchdowns. He was especially effective in the first half of Minnesota's 17-14 win over Green Bay in Week 2, completing 16 of 23 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown, and the first half of the 31-13 win over the Texans this past Sunday, completing 13 of 18 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown. Bradford ranks second among qualifying quarterbacks with a quarterback rating of 109.7 and second in completion percentage.
Special teams have played a key role in the hot start, though Blair Walsh's struggles are concerning
Marcus Sherels has two punt-return touchdowns, including one in the second quarter against Houston in Week 5 that gave Minnesota a 24-0 lead. In Minnesota's 25-16 Week 1 win over Tennessee, Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff of the second half 61 yards, catalyzing the team after a poor start. Punter Jeff Locke ranks second in the NFL with 13 punts inside the 20-yard line. Only kicker Blair Walsh has really struggled among Minnesota's special teams players, missing three of 12 field-goal attempts and two of 12 extra-point attempts.
Associated PressAndy Clayton-King
The offensive line is struggling
The unit has allowed 27 quarterback hits this season, while allowing Minnesota's rushers to average just 2.5 yards per carry, last in the league. This comes after an offseason in which head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman prioritized fixing an offensive line that struggled in 2015, signing guard Alex Boone and tackle Andre Smith and bringing on Tony Sparano as offensive line coach. Minnesota entered training camp with nine lineman who had been starters for at least one full season, but the team lost tackle Phil Loadholt to retirement and released center John Sullivan. Left tackle Matt Kalil is on injured reserve with an injured hip, guard Mike Harris remains out with a non-football illness. Smith is on injured reserve after sustaining a triceps injury Sunday and guard Brandon Fusco has a concussion, forcing T.J. Clemmings, Jeremiah Sirles, Zac Kerin and Nick Easton into bigger roles. It remains to be seen how Jake Long, signed Tuesday off the street, can help after being a reserve last season in Atlanta.
Jim DedmonJim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Injuries don't appear to be affecting the Vikings ability to win
The Vikings have placed starters Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, Matt Kalil and Andre Smith on injured reserve but have continued to win games. Meanwhile, Stefon Diggs, Sharrif Floyd, Rhett Ellison, David Morgan, Xavier Rhodes and MyCole Pruitt have missed time because of injuries. The team has continued to win despite the losses, however, with backups filling in admirably.
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