Manageable Third Downs Key

Doug Chapman, making his first start at running back, gained postiive yardage all game long and put the Vikings offense in better position to convert third downs.

NFL teams convert about 50 percent of third-down plays, but that is the overall statistic. On third-and-1, the conversion rate is about 80 percent and every yard you add on to that, the effectiveness rate drops in direct proportion.

The turning point in the Vikings' win over Green Bay came consistently throughout the game every time Minnesota's offense put itself in manageable third-down position, whereas the Packers didn't have that luxury.

After a lackluster first quarter, the Vikings faced only one third-down situation that was longer than 4 yards — and the team made good on three of five chances in scoring 20 second-quarter points.

Meanwhile, the Packers had far less opportunities. In the first half, Brett Favre faced eight third-down plays. He converted just two of those and, of those eight third-down chances, only two of those were from less than 7 yards and created the situation where the Packers had to become one-dimensional.

"We were able to do things with our running game today that gave us a different look on offense," Cris Carter told VU. "We kept getting yards on first and second down that made it easier to get short-yardage plays on third down. With the offense we have now, we need to keep getting those types of situations and we were able to get them."

By contrast, the Packers weren't. In the second half, the Packers had become so one-dimensional that they were forced to pass and, when faced with a pair of third-and-long situations, failed on both attempts and allowed the Vikings to salt the game away.

"It was very disappointing today," Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman said. "We came into this game very confident. Offensively, we could not get it going early. We missed out on some opportunities and really put our defense in some bad situations. It was a long day for this football team."

A long day, in large part because the Packers were asked too often to convert first downs in situations where the team had little or no option but to pass. The Vikings, on the other hand, were able to keep the Packers off-balance by complementing the pass with the best rushing performance of the season and making third-down situations much easier to handle, creating the turning point of the game. VU

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