Vikings run-pass ratio on third-and-five (or shorter) was out of whack
A commitment to running the ball manifests itself in a variety of ways. One key aspect of the run-pass mix comes on third and short.
When the distance to earn a first down is relatively small (for these purposes, five yards or less), the offense can run or it can pass. The possibility that it will be either a run or a pass keeps the defense on its toes. But when an offense has opted to pass on the vast majority of third-and-short plays, a defense will be more inclined to defend against the pass -- and better equipped to shut down the drive.
For the Vikings, their run-pass ratio on third and short has been out of whack.
Based on the official NFL game book for the 13 games played by the Vikings in 2018, the Vikings have run the ball on third and five, or shorter, only 13 of 80 times. On the other 67 occasions, the Vikings either threw the ball (59 times), took a sack (eight times), or the quarterback scrambled (once).
Against the Seahawks, the Vikings ran three times on third and short, passing four times. That was by far the highest run ratio on third and short this year.
In the first four games of the season, which produced a 1-2-1 record, the Vikings threw the ball 27 times on third and short, and they ran the ball only once.
The Vikings may have spotted the trend during the bye week. Before the two-week break between games, they ran five times on third and short and passed 48 times (9.4 percent runs). Since then, the ratio has become eight runs and 19 passes (29.6 percent runs).
Over the final three games of the regular season, it will be very interesting to see whether the Vikings opt to run or pass on third and short. In order to maximize the success rate, and to extend drives as long as possible, the ultimate goal will be to convert as many of those opportunities as possible.
Which means that interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski likely will need to dial up a run in those spots far more frequently than former offensive coordinator John DeFilippo did.