The Minnesota Vikings’ offense first took the field at U.S. Bank Stadium at their own 27-yard line after receiving the opening kickoff of Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers. They didn’t waste any time moving the ball down the field, as they were able to get into the red zone in just four plays. That’s where the success ended, though.
They ran five plays in the red zone, but were unable to get the ball into the end zone. They ended up having to settle for a field goal and hope to do better the next time.
The defense came up big during the Chargers’ first drive, intercepting Philip Rivers and putting the offense in great position. They began at the Chargers 44-yard line and once again found themselves in the red zone after just three plays, where they would struggle yet again.
Blair Walsh had to come out and kick another field goal after the offense ran six plays inside the 20 and couldn’t score. Instead, they continually shot themselves in the foot by committing penalties and giving up a sack.
Scoring once the offense reaches the red zone was something head coach Mike Zimmer emphasized heading into the 2016 season, but the problem still remains. He knows they need to fix it and fix it fast if they hope to contend for a championship.
“We need to get better at it for sure,” he said. “I thought we did a great job getting down there but we gotta come away with touchdowns. We’re going to reevaluate again, we’re going to keep working at it just like we did with the running game. We gotta do better.”
Every one of his players agree with their head coach when it comes to improving in that area because they know those four or five points they lose settling for a field goal can make all the difference in a close game.
“You know, field goals don’t always win games,” said quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. “It was a great job by Blair finishing the drives for us, but we understand that touchdowns put teams away. Especially on opening drives when you go down and get points, you set the tempo of the game. Then if you go down and score a touchdown after a Harrison Smith interception, you just take all the momentum and now you continue to put your foot on the gas. We just have to continue to work and get better in that area. Like I said, we still have room for improvement, so we’re going to use this week of practice to get better in that field. Come Sept. 11 we want to make sure that we’re executing.”
Windows get a lot smaller for teams when they get into the red zone and the margin for error decreases greatly. There are a lot of bodies in a much smaller area, which means that everyone needs to be on their game if they hope to be successful.
Offensive guard Brandon Fusco believes that one of the team’s problems in the red zone may just be because they weren’t totally focused on what they were doing. One person would make a mistake on one play and then someone else would make a mistake on the next. They may not be the biggest mistakes, but even the slightest of errors can ruin a drive when they get into the red zone.
He said that to fix it, everyone has to focus on their own jobs and not try to do too much.
“Just got down there and you kind of lose focus, maybe a little bit,” Fusco explained. “Someone screwing up here, another guy screwing up there. I think you just got to do your job and not do anything more than you have to down there. It’s a team effort and getting more points on the board.”
No one on the team seems to be too worried about the lack of execution, though, because it is still the preseason and there is plenty of time for them to straighten everything out. The preseason is the time and place to work out all these kinks, so now they will head back to their practice facility, watch the tape, see what they did wrong and move on from there.
“It’s hard to know the problem when you’re on the field because things happen so fast,” said offensive guard Alex Boone. “When you stop and take a look at it you have to admit that there’s a problem in order to fix it. I think that’s something we can do.”
The Vikings have a short week this week as they will host the Los Angeles Rams for their final preseason game on Thursday. They only have one day of practice scheduled, so it may be difficult to work out the kinks in that time.
They will have a long week after that, though, and they’ll need to take advantage of the extra days of practice since it will be time for their first regular season game.