Kevin O’Connell Can Help the Vikings Win Games in More Ways.

UNBELIEVABLE: Chicago bears mourn one of there…..

On Monday Night Football, the Minnesota Vikings were defeated 12-10 by the Chicago Bears despite a game-winning field goal by Cairo Santos with 10 seconds remaining.

The Vikings dropped to.500 after the defeat, capping a dismal two-game run in which they turned the ball over seven times.

A team’s close loss can be attributed to a number of little things, but aside from turnovers, the main grievance voiced by Vikings supporters seems to be Kevin O’Connell’s cautious play calling.


In the last three weeks, the Vikings have had the ball with a first down and under five minutes remaining on the clock, a great opportunity to shut the door on their opponent. In each case, they have played very conservatively.

Against the New Orleans Saints, the Vikings went three-and-out three consecutive times to end the game.

They ran on eight out of nine opportunities, with the only pass coming on third-and-12. Against the Denver Broncos, they had first-and-10 at the Denver 12-yard line and went run, run, pass to gain no yards and kick a field goal.

They got the ball on the fringe of FG range against the Bears with 3:28 left and went run, run, pass to gain no yards and punt.

Given Minnesota’s stellar performance in one-score games last season, you may think this is a new phenomenon from O’Connell this season.

It really isn’t, though. In most of the Vikings’ one-score wins last year, they needed a score on their final drive because they were either tied or trailing. For the most part, that meant they couldn’t just try to run the clock out.

There are four games where they had a chance to try to run it out: against the Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, and the New York Jets. They were up by two scores in the Miami game, so we can excuse their conservative play.

In the Arizona game, they went run, run, pass, then punted. They went run, run, run against New England and New York.

Some teams can run the ball in this situation and get away with it, converting for first downs until time expires.

The Vikings have been abysmal when they try this strategy, though. It’s a struggle to gain even one or two yards, and of the eight drives referenced above, only one has resulted in a better situation than third-and-seven.

The drives have succeeded in eliminating opponents’ timeouts. However, they have always given the other team a legitimate chance to score, forcing the defense to try to make a stop. That worked in 2022 but has failed the team the last two weeks.

I want to be clear — I think O’Connell has been an excellent play-caller and play-designer for the Vikings throughout his tenure.

He helped Kirk Cousins shred the San Francisco 49ers’ defense and did an excellent job working with Josh Dobbs to create offense on the fly in the Atlanta Falcons’ game.

This piece isn’t critiquing O’Connell’s creativity or ability to sequence those plays. Instead, it’s about his philosophy of game management in these situations.

That doesn’t mean that O’Connell has to come out guns blazing, trying to throw bombs and score a TD.

With a more athletic QB in Josh Dobbs, O’Connell could have used QB run concepts against the Bears to try to gain more yardage than the under-center runs they attempted.

Quick-game concepts could get completions in bounds and keep the clock moving. Play action with rollouts and other quick-hitting throws also keep the clock moving.

Throwing incurs the risk of an incompletion to give your opponent even more time. However, you’re already giving them more than enough with failed runs. It’s time for a philosophical change here.


Some of O’Connell’s fourth-down decisions have also come under scrutiny. Two particular plays in the Broncos game spring to mind: punting on fourth-and-seven from Denver’s 47-yard line and punting on fourth-and-one from the Denver 48.

In both instances, fourth-down calculators will recommend that teams go for it. Both punts ended up as touchbacks, which means they netted only 27 and 28 yards, respectively.

O’Connell has generally been pretty consistent in terms of how he makes his fourth-down decisions.

Per, he has gone for fourth downs about 37% of the time the calculator suggests he should in both 2022 and 2023.

NFL coaches are typically conservative compared to the calculators on fourth-down decisions, and O’Connell ranked in the middle of the pack in 2023:

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