July 30, 2021; Eagan, MN, United States; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer takes the field at training camp at the TCO Performance Center. Mandatory credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
The Minnesota Vikings can even set their record 2-2 against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 with a win, marking a season turnaround that felt like a long shot when kicker Greg Joseph pushed a winning field goal wide to the right two weeks ago.
The question is simple: Stop the flight.
That may sound like a 90s football slogan — and it is — but the way the Vikings and Browns play football, the mantra applies to Week 4. Cleveland has the best one-two combo when walking back into the NFL – Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Kansas City Chiefs let Hunt go a few years ago due to legal shenanigans. But since then, he’s behaved and revived his career in Ohio. And then Chubb, well, he’s a Top 5 halfback in the world. His rise to power came in 2018 when the Browns traded Carlos Hyde for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Hyde, who was more productive then than now, got a lot of attention in the attack from then-rookie Baker Mayfield. Sending him to the Jaguars paved the way for Chubb, and the Georgia alumnus never looked back.
Speaking of alumni, Cleveland is led by Kevin Stefanski, a Vikings long-timer. Under his tutelage — just 19 games to date — the Browns are 12-4 (.750) when they eclipse 100 yards as a team. That means they often make the 100 meters and are victorious when they do. So far in 2021, Cleveland has been rushing football 53.4% of the time on offense, the second most in the NFL behind the New England Patriots. They run the ball – it is cut and dried.
On the other hand, Minnesota finds huge success when it stops the run under head coach Mike Zimmer. The Vikings skipper has now been in charge for no less than eight seasons. When Zimmer Holds Opposing Teams below 100 team rushing yards, Minnesota is 43-8-1 (.837). In those situations, they win 85% under Zimmer. With that parameter, “record when teams rush under 100 yards,” Vikings .837 win rate is the third best in the NFL since 2014. Only the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints win more often when they make the hasty charge. crush the opposition.
Based on the sheer number of great traffic jams in this game – Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt – Sunday’s game is about the closest thing to “old school football.” Both teams are self-proclaimed run-first operations, so expect transfers to be maxed out. However, the Vikings and Browns can also throw it if needed. Kirk Cousins is currently anchored in one of the best three-game sets of his career, reducing eight touchdown passes to no turnover. For Cleveland, Baker Mayfield’s 102.1 passer rating is also impressive. Although his three touchdowns in three games are on the teen side. But that’s because he gives the ball to Chubb and Hunt to the fullest.
If the Vikings can stand 2-2 before bedtime on Sunday, they are in beautiful historic shape. In each of the last three seasons that the team has reached a 2-2 record, Zimmer’s couple has made it to the playoffs: 2015, 2017 and 2019. It’s almost like an internal rite of passage.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007 host a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawho and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Guilty pleasures listed: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos’ and The Doors (the band).