January 13, 2018 10:45 PM
KSTP's sports staff gives you a look at the three keys the Vikings need to win Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints
1. Stop the New Orleans Running Backs
The Vikings have done a tremendous job of slowing down opposing team’s running backs this season and that’ll be one of their top priorities against the Saints.
Once the Saints said goodbye to Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara took off in the Saints backfield. They became the first duo in NFL history each gain at least 1,500 yards from scrimmage. That combo was held to 68 total yards in their playoff win against Carolina last week, though.
The Vikings defense has been a nightmare for some of the top backs in the league to play against. Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell managed 91 total yards in week two, but it took 31 touches to get there. The Rams’ Todd Gurley was held to 56 total yards on 18 touches against the Vikings. Over the course of the season, the Vikings held opposing running backs to the fewest scrimmage yards in the NFL.
2. Win the 3rd Down Battle
The Vikings' third down defense was historically good in 2017. Their opponents 25.2 percent conversion rate is the best the league has seen since the NFL started tracking the stat in 1991. Despite the talent and experience of Drew Brees, the Saints offense was below average on third down this season converting only 37.1 percent of their chances – 20th in the NFL.
The Vikings offense has an even better advantage on third down against the Saints’ defense. The Vikings were third best in the NFL converting 43.5 percent of their third downs compared to a Saints defense that ranked 27th in the league by allowing 41.5 percent of third downs to be converted against them.
Both teams have changed a lot since their week one match-up, but in the Vikings 29-19 win, Minnesota converted 9 of 14 third downs, while the Saints only converted only 4 of 11.
3. Keep Case Calm
Mike Zimmer called quarterback Case Keenum “an excitable guy” at one point this season. That’s probably not what the Vikings need on Sunday. Making sure Case is cool, calm and collected would be beneficial.
Keenum is making his first playoff start and they don’t need him forcing passes early in the game. Turnovers are magnified in the postseason, so Keenum needs to take care of the football against a Saints defense that had 20 interceptions in the regular season.
Updated: January 13, 2018 10:45 PM
Created: January 13, 2018 04:28 PM
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