Notebook: Red Zone Blues

The Vikings offense was able to move the ball decently on the Bears defense, but not once they got into the red zone, which is starting to look like a trend in the early stages of the Vikings season. Plus, get more than 25 game-day notes that helped tell the story of the game.

It's becoming the recurring theme of the Vikings offense this season – getting into scoring position in the red zone and settling for three points more often than seven points. Through three games, despite being 2-1 with almost every man in the Vikings locker room believing they should be 3-0, Brad Johnson has as many touchdown passes (one) as Ryan Longwell.

While the Vikings defense has done its job – opponents have been forced to settle for six field goals of less than 30 yards – the Vikings have had to kick four field goals from that short distance. The inability to find continuity is a troubling part to the offense.

"(Chicago) didn't let us get any rhythm on offense in the second half," center Matt Birk said. "We have a lot of things to work on. We have very high expectations for this offense and have to put more points on the board."

One area that the Vikings have seemingly gone away from has been the tight end. Jermaine Wiggins has led the team in receptions each of the last two years, but through three games he has just eight catches – five of which came in the Week 1 win over Washington. He, too, is feeling the sting of an offense that can move the ball, but hasn't become deadly at finishing off what it started.

"We had our opportunities in the red zone," Wiggins said. "But we came away with field goals instead of touchdowns. We have to change it. I'm not frustrated with (my situation), it's just what it is right now. The play-calling goes where they feel we can go after the defenses we've been playing. What are you going to do when you get knocked down? You have to get up. You'll have games like this. It's how you react that is what is important."


  • On the injury front, CB Fred Smoot had a concussion and returned, S Dwight Smith needed an IV with fluids and returned, G Steve Hutchinson had a hamstring spasm and returned, LB Ben Leber had a knee spring and Artis Hicks had a knee contusion. DE Kenechi Udeze also appeared to have leg cramps.

  • Defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin was disappointed following the game, but after holding the NFC's top scoring offense to simply field goals until the fourth-quarter fumble he was saying the Vikings need to learn from their setback and get back on the beam.

    "It's a parity league and when you play quality opponents, as we have thus far, games are going to come down to the fourth quarter," Tomlin said. "Chicago made the big plays in the fourth quarter and we have to accept that. Now we have to roll up our sleeves and get back to work tomorrow."

  • While a lot of the players were willing to answer the tough questions, coach Brad Childress made an opening statement and fielded just three questions, prompting one press box quipster to say, "The press conference was like the offense most of the day – three and out."

  • The Vikings took the Bears out of their intended game plan, as Chicago threw 41 passes as opposed to just 21 running plays – three of which came at end when Rex Grossman was taking a knee.

  • Bears running back Cedric Benson was suited up but never saw the field for a single play. Only he and backup quarterbacks Brooks Bollinger of the Vikings and Brian Griese of Chicago could say that, which may not bode well for Benson – who wasn't listed as being injured during the week.

  • The Bears wound up winning the battle for total yardage 325 yards to 286 for the Vikings. The Bears dominated the second-half yardage battle, piling up 179 yards to just 108 for the Vikings.

  • Rex Grossman's touchdown pass in the fourth quarter was the first fourth-quarter TD pass of his career.

  • Grossman came into the game leading the NFL in passer rating with 128.7. After having an in-game rating of just 64.9 against the Vikings, Grossman's season passer rating tumbled to 100.9.

  • Both teams struggled mightily on third down, finishing with identical conversion rates of 5-for-15 on third-down situations.

  • The Bears dominated the battle of field position in the punting game. Chicago averaged almost 51 yards per punt, while the Vikings' Chris Kluwe averaged less than 40.

  • The red zone woes continued for both teams. Each team got into the opposing red zone twice, resulting in four field goals and no touchdowns.

  • Ryan Longwell quietly had a very strong kicking day, dropping three of his five kickoffs into the end zone.

  • After having nine penalties in the first half, the Bears were called for just one penalty in the second half.

  • The Vikings had to burn a timeout in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but it may have been a good one. After taking a 13-9 lead, Darrion Scott wasn't on the field on first down and the Vikings had just 10 defenders on the field.

  • The interception by Antoine Winfield on the first play of the fourth quarter was his first NFL touchdown.

  • Fred Smoot got his bell run as the Bears were driving in the final minutes of the third quarter and the initial prognosis was a concussion, since he had trouble locating the Vikings sidelines despite being flanked by two medical personnel members. He returned to the game in the fourth quarter.

  • The Bears lost tight end Desmond Clark on the opening drive of the second half with a foot sprain that happened when he was untouched on a pass pattern.

  • The Bears were pretty one-dimensional in the first half, throwing 20 passes while running the ball just six times. The Vikings passed 18 times with 13 rushing plays.

  • The Vikings dominated time of possession in the first half, holding the ball for 19:29 as opposed to just 10:31 for the Bears. The Vikings had 178 total yards (36 rushing, 142 passing), while Chicago had 146 yards (14 rushing and 132 passing).

  • The referees called a very tight game and the result was obvious in the penalty department – Chicago had nine first-half penalties, while the Vikings had four for 48 yards.

  • Neither team was able to rush the ball with any consistency in the first half. Thomas Jones had all six of Chicago's runs for just 14 yards. Chester Taylor rushed 12 times for 26 yards.
  • Dwight Smith may have to be considered a third quarterback. After an interception in the second quarter, Smith ran out of bounds after a 30-yard return and fired the ball into the stands – which didn't come down until it sailed about 40 rows up.

  • The Vikings dominated the first-quarter statistics for a third straight game, holding the ball for 9:51 of the quarter. The Vikings had 110 total yards (21 rushing, 89 passing), as opposed to just 30 yards for Chicago (nine rushing and 21 passing). The Vikes were two of four on third-down conversions, while Chicago was 0-for-2.

  • Individually, Brad Johnson was 8 of 10 passing for 89 yards, while Chester Taylor was the only Vikings rusher – carrying six times for 21 yards in the first quarter. Troy Williamson led the team with three receptions for 29 yards, while Travis Taylor was the top yardage guy with two catches for 40 yards in the first 15 minutes. Grossman was 3-of-4 passing for 20 yards, while Thomas Jones had all the carries at five rushes for 10 yards.

  • The Bears showed their resolve in their opening drive by opting not to attempt a long field goal and go on a fourth-and-1 from the Vikings 34-yard line. Thomas Jones picked up the first down on a 2-yard sweep to keep the drive alive. While the Vikings stopped the Bears on the next series, it gave kicker Robbie Gould a more manageable 41-yard field goal.

  • Bears fans were evident at the game Sunday. Whenever Muhsin Muhammad would catch a pass, a chant of "Mooooose!" could be heard from the Bears fans in attendance.

  • The Bears special teams came out with a little trickery of their own on their first possession. Apparently seeing something similar to what the Panthers saw on their botched punt return, the Bears had kick returner Rashied David appear to be ready to throw a pass before tucking it under and breaking up the middle for a 35-yard return out to his own 43-yard line to start their opening drive.

  • For the third straight game, the Vikings scored on their opening drive of the game on a 31-yard field goal. It was the third consecutive week that the Vikings won the opening toss and scored – a touchdown against Washington and field goals against Carolina and Chicago.

  • The Bears had a change in their starting lineup in the secondary, but one that was expected. Rookie safety Danieal Manning got his first career start Sunday, replacing second-year man Chris Harris. However, Harris had an ankle injury that left him on the deactive list.

  • The Vikings' inactives for the game were QB Tarvaris Jackson, RB Ciatrick Fason, WR Marcus Robinson, TE Jeff Dugan, OG Anthony Herrera, OT Ryan Cook, LB Marquis Cooper and S Rashad Baker.

  • The Bears inactives were Kyle Orton (third quarterback), FB J.D. Runnels, WRs Justin Gage and Airese Curry, OG Anthony Oakley, DL Israel Idonije and Antonio Garay and S Chris Harris.

  • The attendance Sunday was 63, 754 – the 88th straight sellout dating back to 1998.

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