The Vikings in 2021 finished tied for fourth in the NFL with 51 sacks while allowing just 30 — numbers suggesting that more often than not they were winning the key battles at the line of scrimmage, at least in passing situations.
But lurking within those numbers was an overall feeling that those numbers weren't telling the real story. The offensive line was subpar and the defensive line, minus Danielle Hunter, wasn't able to get consistent pressure in key moments.
The numerical expression of that feeling shows up in a different, perhaps more telling set of statistics: ESPN, using NFL Next Gen stats, created metrics called "pass rush win rate" and "pass block win rate." The methodology: If a pass rusher beat his block in less than 2.5 seconds, he was credited with a win. If a pass blocker held his block longer than 2.5 seconds, the win went to him.
In talking about these numbers and the Vikings' pass rush as a whole in 2022 with Andrew Krammer on Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast, it became even more clear: the real key for the Vikings this season will be improving their ability to both consistently get and stop quarterback pressure.
As a team, the Vikings ranked No. 29 in the pass rush win rate metric in 2021, as they were deemed to have won just 34% of their individual rushes. And on the flip side, they ranked No. 25 in pass block win rate.
That they still managed to secure 51 sacks and still managed to have a productive pass offense is largely a testament to a combination of schemes and individual talent.
In case you are curious, new Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell came over from the Rams — a team that ranked No. 1 in both pass rush win rate (53%) and pass block win rate (68%) last season while winning the Super Bowl.
Now, having a game-wrecker like Aaron Donald will make a lot of team stats look good. He had by far the highest individual pass rush win rate of any defensive tackle in 2021.
But if the Vikings can import any of the principles of the Rams' modified 3-4 defense and incorporate them into the pass rush, it could bode well for them. Same goes for scheme adjustments in pass protection.
Both would go a long way toward keeping Kirk Cousins clean and keeping an inexperienced secondary from being exposed.