Vikings Win Key Stats In Big Quarter

The Vikings obviously won the battle of scoring in the second quarter, but they were able to do that thanks to reversing some negative trends from the rest of the season during a 15-minute stretch against the Detroit Lions. They're lucky they had that stretch, as they were outscored 7-6 in the other three quarters. After that in-depth analysis, get notes and quotes on Michael Bennett, Ciatrick Fason and more.

After a tumultuous first two months to start the 2005 season, head coach Mike Tice has come to this conclusion in the last two weeks: The Vikings need to start having more fun. He admits that comes with winning, which has been in short supply lately, but for at least 15 minutes of game time Sunday, the Vikings were have a sweet time of things.

They reversed a second-quarter trend this season that saw them getting blown away 94-10 before they ran up against the Detroit Lions, who had also been badly outscored in the second quarter, 68-31 before Sunday. In the span of seven offensive plays, the Vikings put up three touchdowns.

"I've talked so many times that a significant factor in this league and a significant stat is normally – and the high percentage, I can't quote you a percentage – I want to say 80 percent of the teams that win the second quarter win the game for a couple of reasons," Tice said last week. "One, it is so hard to come back in the league and win. Why that is we'll continue to look at that. Every week we look at the plays we're calling and where we're calling them. We look at the ways we are setting up and breaking tendencies. We'll continue to look at that."

There were a number of factors that contributed to the Vikings' 21-7 second-quarter domination over Detroit – things that Tice preaches often that the players finally executed.

1) Penalties: The Vikings had their best game of the season in the penalty department, committing only three penalties for 18 yards. In the second quarter they had none. Detroit had a good game in the penalty department as well, committing six for 31 yards and one for 5 yards in the second quarter.

2) Third-down conversions: While this was one of the few sore spots for the Vikings in the context of the whole game, the second quarter was a stark contrast compared to the rest of the game. The Vikings feel like converting about 50 percent of the third downs is a good goal. For the game, they converted only three of 12 third-down attempts – but all three of those successes came in the second quarter.

Rookie wide receiver Troy Williamson was responsible for two of those conversions on one drive. In the middle of the Vikings' first touchdown drive, he caught a 12-yard pass on third-and-8. Later in that drive, he pulled in a 6-yard reception at the 3-yard line. Two plays later, the Vikings had their first touchdown of the game.

Wide receiver Nate Burleson was responsible for the third and final successful third-down conversion of the second quarter when he deflected and then hauled in a 15-yard touchdown pass on third-and-14. That reception gave the Vikings a commanding 24-0 lead.

As it turned out, all three of Williamson's catches came in the Vikings' red-hot second quarter, and Burleson's touchdown was his only reception of the game.

3) Red zone efficiency and turnovers: These two categories went hand-in-hand for the Vikings against Detroit.

Entering the game, the Vikings were 30th in the league in red zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on only 28 percent of their trips inside the red zone.

Turnovers created two of those opportunities for Minnesota in the second quarter.

"Any time you can get a turnover in a game, especially when the defense gives you the ball with a short field, you have to score points," quarterback Brad Johnson said.

They did.

Leading 10-0, cornerback Brian Williams came hard on a blitz, sacked quarterback Joey Harrington and caused a fumble that Kevin Williams recovered and returned to the Detroit 14-yard line. Three plays later, rookie running back Ciatrick Fason was scoring his first NFL touchdown.

Only two plays later, another Vikings cornerback had his hand in creating a turnover. Harrington was looking to complete a screen pass to running back Artose Pinner, who deflected the high pass in the air, where Antoine Winfield snatched it and returned it to the Detroit 11-yard line. Three plays later, Burleson was registering his touchdown.

"I think anytime our offense goes out there and puts points on the board, it gives us a chance on the defensive side to make plays," Winfield said. "We have leeway to jump routes and try to make plays."

In fact, it was Winfield who expressed his displeasure with the schemes the Vikings ran last week, especially the fact that they didn't carry over their week of preparation into the Carolina game.

"I said what I needed to say. The coaches changed the game plan," Winfield said.

His interception created the third straight trip inside the red zone that the Vikings turned into a touchdown. They failed to get touchdowns in two other jaunts inside the Lions' 20-yard line, but their 60 percent efficiency rate was far better than the 28 rating with which they entered the game.

Another negative trend from the first seven games that the Vikings reversed was their turnover ratio. They entered the game tied for 27th in the league with a minus-8 turnover ratio while Detroit was tied for ninth at plus-5. Sunday, the Vikings got two interceptions and recovered a Harrington fumble while the Vikings' only turnover came when Johnson was sacked and fumbled the ball.

"That's something we said during the week – we need to get more turnovers," said safety Darren Sharper, who had the game's final interception. "We need to find a way to get the ball, whether it's a fumble, interception or whatever. We need to find a way to get the offense back on the field. The way our offense was clicking today, the more chances we gave them, the more opportunities we'll get points."

As it turned out, the Vikings scored three touchdowns in seven offensive plays in the second quarter. It's easy to have fun when that happens.


With Moe Williams out of action with a sore back, the Vikings' other running backs received more action Sunday. When Mewelde Moore sprained his wrist on what was believed to be the Vikings' first play from scrimmage, it set the wheels in motion for Michael Bennett and Ciatrick Fason on the Vikings' first few drives.

After Moore got the initial carry of the game, Bennett ripped off consecutive runs of 11, 6 and 10 yards to get the Vikings inside the red zone. They settled for a field goal on that drive, but Bennett returned on the second drive of the game for his longest run since 2002, a 31-yarder.

"I talked to Mike during the bye when Mike was struggling with the fact he wasn't starting and I indicated to him that in training camp I anointed him the start," Tice said, later adding, "I don't know that Mike was ever in the doghouse. I just felt and I think we all felt in the staff that Mewelde was running ball with more confidence and maybe running the ball harder to a certain point."

The Vikings went with the run early and stuck with it, rushing 35 times and passing only 22 times. Bennett led the way, with 106 yards on 18 carries.

"They had a good game plan," Lions linebacker Boss Bailey said. "They did not show anything that we did not see, but they blocked us a little differently. They were trying to cut us and get us on the ground because they know we can run well and they know we come down hill. So they really attacked us at one of our strong points. In the second half we overcame it, but by that time there was such a lead we could not dig ourselves out."

Bennett repeatedly gave praise to his offensive linemen and tight ends. They, in turn, gave praise to the playcalling.

"The thing is, it makes an offensive lineman's life a lot easier when you are given a balanced attack because when you are just pass, pass, pass, pass they are just teeing off on you," said guard Adam Goldberg. "So the run game is the offensive lineman's friend in that sense."

Bennett got the offensive game ball while Winfield, who had a team-leading 11 tackles and an interception, got the defensive game ball.


Bennett wasn't the only running back getting more opportunities. Fason received the first carries of his career. That led to the first touchdown of his career, a 3-yard run that started as a dive to the left that he cut outside and beat the coverage to the pylon.

As promised, with Williams out Fason was used as the short-yardage back with mixed success. He carried five times for 10 yards. Three yards came on his touchdown and his long run of the day, a 7-yarder came on a third-down attempt.

While he has some successes, he still has some experience to gain, according to Tice.

"I thought both backs ran the ball pretty well today, quite honestly," Tice said. "Fason has some things to learn. He might have stayed up inside on that third-and-1 (one in which he was denied), but he's young and he's a big guy and he's going to get better for us too. I think he had some success on the touchdown. It was the same play. He bounced it outside, and I think he was thinking bounce it outside all the way, and that's what happens with young guys. I think there was a nice little big hole inside."


The Vikings came out of the game relatively clean, with the most worrisome injury being a sprained right wrist to Moore. It appeared that injury happened on the first offensive play of the game, but Moore carried the ball 10 more times.

"He kind of hung in there with it for most of the game, and then it finally started to affect him, so he didn't want to put the ball on the ground," Tice said.


The Vikings deactivation list included only one regular contributor – RB Moe Williams. The other deactivations included S Ken Irvin, CB Laroni Gallishaw, RB Adimchinobe Echemandu (recently promoted to the 53-man roster), OL Anthony Herrera and Toniu Fonoti, TE Jeff Dugan and DT C.J. Mosley.

The Lions had many more regular contributors on their deactive list. QB Jeff Garcia, WR Troy Edwards, FB Paul Smith, CB Dre Bly, LBs Nate Wayne and Teddy Lehman, OL Tyrone Hopson and DT Shaun Rogers were all inactive. WR Charles Rogers wasn't activated off the reserve list, and WR Roy Williams was active but spent most of his afternoon on the sideline.

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