Vikings’ Ed Donatell To Remain Play-Caller

Sunday marked the continuation of a troubling streak for the Vikings on the defensive side of the ball, but it will not be enough to warrant a significant change on the sidelines. Head coach Kevin O’Connell said defensive coordinator Ed Donatell will retain play-calling duties despite the unit’s struggles.

“You know you’re always looking at things that you think might be — what could be a possible answer to help the guys play better and be more consistent,” O’Connell said, via Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, when asked about changing play-callers, “but as of right now, no, that’s not something I’m considering.”

During their Week 14 loss to the Lions, the Vikings allowed 400-plus yards to an opponent for the fifth consecutive game — the longest such streak in franchise history. Minnesota now ranks last in total defense. Allowing 403.7 yards per game, the Vikings are on pace to set a new franchise record here as well.

Donatell, 65, has been a defensive coordinator for multiple teams prior to moving to the Twin Cities — with the Packers, Falcons and Broncos — but the longtime NFL assistant spent the past decade working under Vic Fangio. The well-regarded defensive mind ran the defenses for the Broncos, Bears and 49ers dating back to 2011, minimizing Donatell’s role to some degree. With O’Connell an offense-oriented coach in his first year leading a team, Donatell’s influence on defense has expanded.

The Vikings have not dealt with the kind of injury issues select other contenders have. Minnesota has seen both Danielle Hunter (25 missed games since 2020) and Za’Darius Smith (16 absences last season) rebound from their recent injury-plagued stretches to be available for each game. Hunter and Smith have combined for 16.5 sacks, while Patrick Peterson — Pro Football Focus’ eighth-ranked cornerback — is having his best season in years. The Vikes’ 20 takeaways also sits seventh in the league, but the team has still slipped defensively.

Minnesota remains four games up on Detroit in the NFC North and is on track for its first division title in five years. The team also faces just one opponent with a winning record the rest of the way (the Giants, in Week 16). But the Vikings have a month to make sufficient adjustments defensively, as they will be a tough sell against top-caliber NFC opposition come playoff time if their defense continues on this course.

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