The Vikings' formula for success in 2019 is a bit unconventional for the modern NFL. Instead of putting up gaudy passing numbers, Minnesota is relying on Dalvin Cook and their staunch defense to carry them to victories.
It's against the grain, but it's working now and it has in the past – even in the passing-crazed NFL of the last decade – for teams that go on to win a Super Bowl.
Before we compare those teams, let's take a look at where the offense and defense stands for the Vikings through three weeks.
- Passing offense, 494 yards, 31st in the NFL
- Rushing offense, 581 yards, 2nd in the NFL
- Passing defense, 677 yards, 11th in the NFL
- Rushing defense, 305 yards, 13th in the NFL
The defense is playing well, but not on the elite level like it was in 2017, when they were the No. 1 unit in the league. But they've also gone against two former MVPs in Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers.
Now look at the past Super Bowl-winning teams that used a similar formula to this year's Vikings team.
- Passing offense, 3,236 yards, 26th in the NFL
- Rushing offense, 1,626 yards, 4th in the NFL
- Passing defense, 2752 yards, 1st in the NFL
- Rushing defense, 1,26 yards, 7th in the NFL
This was the beginning of the Legion of Boom defense in Seattle, and before Russell Wilson became a top-five quarterback.
Their ground-and-pound offense and smashmouth defense is what carried them to a Super Bowl win over the Denver Broncos, who at the time had a historic offense led by Peyton Manning. Speaking of the Broncos...
- Passing offense, 3,970 yards, 14th in the NFL
- Rushing offense, 1,718 yards, 17th in the NFL
- Passing defense, 3,193 yards, 1st in the NFL
- Rushing defense, 1,337, 3rd in the NFL
It's amazing the 180 the Broncos took in a two-year window. Peyton Manning was a skeleton and even though their passing attack was average, they were 28th in touchdowns thrown (19) and were 32nd in interceptions (23).
Brock Osweiler started seven games that season and they still won the Super Bowl because of their amazing defense.
Now let's go back in time a bit to other teams in the millennium that pulled off Super Bowl wins with similar styles.
- Passing offense, 3,154 yards, 21st in the NFL
- Rushing offense, 2,146 yards, 4th in the NFL
- Passing defense, 3,317 yards, 11th in the NFL
- Rushing defense, 1,563 yards, 10th in the NFL
The makeup of that Giants team is probably the closest to the current Vikings squad. They had a solid – but not elite – defense and a staunch rushing attack led by Brandon Jacobs.
Even Eli Manning had a pretty rough regular season: 23 touchdowns, 20 interceptions, 56 percent completion percentage and a passer rating of 73.9. Yikes.
They also had a ton of breaks go their way, including Brett Favre's overtime interception (his last pass attempt as a Green Bay Packer) in the NFC Championship game and of course, the infamous catch by David Tyree in the Super Bowl to defeat the undefeated Patriots.
Breaks like that historically have not happened for the Vikings. In fact, they're usually on other side of it, which is what made the Minneapolis Miracle so special.
- Passing offense, 2,815 yards, 22nd in the NFL
- Rushing offense, 2199 yards, 5th in the NFL
- Passing defense, 2,997 yards, 8th in NFL
- Rushing defense, 970 yards, 1st in the NFL
A couple of running backs in Jamal Lewis and Priest Holmes were the team's bread and butter on offense. Trent Dilfer and Tony Banks split time at quarterback.
But it was Ray Lewis, Rod Woodson, Rob Burnett and the shell of Tony Siragusa that led the way on defense to their Super Bowl win over the Giants.
So yes, it's possible for teams to win a Super Bowl without a pass-first mentality, but the Vikings defense needs to be even better than it is performing now for it work in the long run.
And even though Kirk Cousins has his faults, there have been worst quarterback performances in the regular season and their teams still went on to win the Super Bowl.