Vikings’ red zone success will be tested

The Vikings have been great in the red zone recently, but that will be tested against the Jets defense.

One of the Vikings’ strengths as of late, that seem to go unnoticed, is the ability for their offense to score once it reaches the red zone. Not only score, but their ability to punch the ball into the end zone and put seven points on the scoreboard.

Since Week 9 against the Washington Redskins, the Vikings have scored on 100 percent of their trips to the red zone and have been able to get touchdowns on all the red zone drives but one in that span – they settled for a field goal once against Chicago. The problem for them is that they don’t reach the red zone very often, so they only get a limited amount of opportunities.

In the last four games, the Vikings have made it to the red zone eight times: three times against the Washington Redskins, twice against the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers, and once against the Green Bay Packers. The team realizes that they need to increase their number of red zone appearances, and they think it has to do with how they start.

“I think it just depends on how we start coming out,” said running back Matt Asiata. “Starting the game just trying to set the tempo and trying to get everybody hyped up and just keep the momentum going, and that’s what makes us play hard.”

Every time the Vikings have been able to score two touchdowns in a game when inside of the red zone they have come away with a victory. This has been tied into their recent success in the red zone because there were multiple games earlier in the season when the Vikings would get inside the 20-yard line but had to settle for field goals.

The Vikings have seemed to find a way to score red zone touchdowns on a consistent basis, and Asiata attributes a lot of that to the team just getting more acclimated to that part of their offense.

“Just getting more comfortable down there,” he said. “That’s it, just playing the game of football and just trying to execute for everybody and for Teddy (Bridgewater).”

At the beginning of the year there was a lot for the team to deal with that played a role in them not having a rhythm. Norv Turner was brought in as a new offensive coordinator, starting quarterback Matt Cassel, right guard Brandon Fusco and tight end Kyle Rudolph got injured, and running back Adrian Peterson wasn’t available because of his legal issues.

Now with all the moving pieces seemingly settling down, and with more time with the new offensive game plan, the offense seems to be more comfortable and able to score when they get inside the 20-yard line. That is the offense’s goal every game, to score when they reach that part of the field and be able to set the tempo for the team.

“That’s just our main goal is just score a touchdown on offense and try to set the tempo,” Asiata said, “and that’s something we strive to do every game, and obviously when we get down there we score.”

This Sunday the Vikings will host a New York Jets defense that has had success in the red zone. Opponents have been able to score on the Jets 95 percent of the time they reach the red zone, but have only been able to score a touchdown 65 percent of the time. It will be a good test for the Vikings once they get to that part of the field, and it could be a determining factor in the outcome.

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