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Updated: January 4th, 2013 6:20pm
Vikings' ability to create 'explosive' gains again pivotal to chances

Vikings' ability to create 'explosive' gains again pivotal to chances

by Tom Pelissero
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APPLETON, Wis. -- Definitions vary, but every NFL team keeps track of so-called "explosive" plays in one way or another.

The correlation between big plays and points is too strong to ignore when analyzing how a game is won or lost.

"We track it every week," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said recently. "It's something we're always conscious of. You don't always get it accomplished, but it's something we always talk about."

In Minnesota, an explosive play is defined as any run that gains 10 yards or more and any pass that gains 16 yards or more on offense or 20 yards or more against the defense.

In Green Bay, an explosive run goes for 12 yards or more, an explosive pass for 16 yards or more regardless of whether it's for or against the Packers.

Since Mike McCarthy became the Packers' coach in 2006, the thinking has been that allowing five explosives or fewer in a game constitutes a defensive success.

On Sunday, the Vikings had 12 explosives -- including at least one on six of their seven scoring drives -- to win a shootout against the Packers 37-34 at the Metrodome.

"It's a big deal when you're trying to get points on offense," Frazier said. "You usually have to get some explosives in a drive to score some points. It's something we talk about on defense ... as well, not giving up explosive passes or explosive runs."

Only Washington had as many drives (43) with an explosive run this season as the Vikings, who scored on 63% of them (14 touchdowns, 13 field goals).

Only Kansas City (43) had fewer drives with an explosive pass than the Vikings (44), who scored on 68% of those (16 touchdowns, 14 field goals).

The strongest statistic entering Saturday's NFC wild-card playoff rematch against the Packers remains turnover margin. The Vikings are 10-0 when they have at least as many takeaways as giveaways and 0-6 when they don't.

There are other deep statistics that correlate with the Vikings' offensive success, such as their league-best 85% of drives without a penalty. But it's a good bet their chances on Saturday increase with each chunk they gain.

Here's a breakdown of the explosiveness of each offense in the playoff field, with comparisons to NFL-wide averages:

Drives with 12-plus yard runs

Vikings 24% (43)
Washington 23% (43)
San Francisco 21% (37)
Seattle 20% (34)
New England 18% (34)
Houston 17% (34)
Denver 15% (29)
Baltimore 13% (26)
Indianapolis 12% (21)
Atlanta 11% (19)
Green Bay 11% (21)
Cincinnati 9% (17)

NFL average 14% (849)
Playoff team average 16% (358)
Non-playoff team average 13% (491)

Drives with 16-plus yard passes

Indianapolis 44% (79)
Denver 41% (77)
New England 38% (71)
Washington 38% (70)
Atlanta 36% (63)
Green Bay 35% (66)
San Francisco 33% (59)
Seattle 32% (54)
Baltimore 32% (62)
Cincinnati 31% (60)
Houston 31% (63)
Vikings 24% (44)

NFL average 33% (1,958)
Playoff team average 35% (768)
Non-playoff team average 32% (1,190)

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
In this story: Leslie Frazier