The Vikings' first-team offense has moved the ball in its first two preseason games, but not far enough. Finishing drives with touchdown is becoming a primary goal for the third preseason game Saturday, when the starters are expected to see their most significant action to date.
"It's one of the things we talked about in our team meeting [Monday]," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "Both sides of the football, being efficient in the red zone, and we came away with a couple of field goals, but we want to get some touchdowns and we all know that."
The Vikings were able to score a touchdown in the first quarter, but that was on a 64-yard interception return by cornerback Marcus Sherels. In fact, the Vikings only had one offensive drive in the first quarter, in part because of that defensive score and because of a fumbled punt return by Sherels prior to his interception return.
The offense started the preseason off with a nine-play, 33-yard drive but eventually had to punt. It was their only drive of the first half that netted multiple first downs, as the starters played only two series. On Saturday, the starters began with a three-and-out drive but then put together a 13-play, 86-yard drive that started on the 1-yard line and ended with a field goal.
"We have to be able to capitalize on [scoring opportunities]. We had a penalty, had a batted ball and we just weren't able to convert," quarterback Donovan McNabb said. "We came out with three [points], but obviously we want to be able to come out with seven. With the tough division we're in, we've got to be able to score points."
The Vikings, who have scored only 23 points in two games, are tied with Chicago Bears for the second-fewest points scored in the NFC this preseason (their defense also has the second-fewest points allowed with 21). The lack of points wasn't completely unexpected given the lack of an offseason, the installation of a new offense and a new starting quarterback.
The first half of Saturday's game against the Dallas Cowboys could provide the best measuring stick of where the offense stands against a team many consider playoff-caliber.
"Up to this point we haven't really game-planned red zone offense. We've been running the plays we ran at training camp, but this week we'll be a little more specific so hopefully we can get some of those to result in touchdowns," Frazier said.
They have also been without two of their top offensive playmakers. Their leading receiver last year, Percy Harvin, played in the preseason opener, but he and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe both missed the second preseason game with rib and hamstring injuries, respectively. They each returned to practice on Monday and are expected to play against the Cowboys.
"We've got a lot of work to be done. Anytime you're complacent and think you've got it all figured out, that's when you're going to lose," Harvin said Monday. "Still got a lot of time so we're going to get it done."
Harvin said last week he was disappointed with his rib injury because it took away practice time for him to improve on the timing with McNabb. On Monday, he downplayed the injury.
"It's good enough for me to play football, so it's good to go," he said.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's scheme calls for heavy use of tight ends, so getting Shiancoe in action for the first time this preseason will also be important.
"I think it will be great for us, just to develop some continuity," Frazier said. "We've had some moments in practice where they have all been together, but to finally get them all together in a game where we have our full complement, that's a good thing for our football team."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings offense searching for finer points
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