The Vikings are becoming increasingly frustrated by the number of penalties they are committing and where they are happening.
One of the sayings Vikings coach Brad Childress has used on several occasions is that he doesn't want "the Vikings to beat the Vikings."
His point being that sloppy mistakes and mental errors will not be tolerated. So far, though, the message hasn't been getting across.
Minnesota was called for a season-high 12 penalties in a 17-12 loss at Buffalo on Sunday and is averaging 9.5 penalties per game. Two fourth-quarter penalties in the Buffalo game stood out as the type that Childress has said he won't tolerate.
The first came as the Vikings went for a two-point conversion after pulling within five points of the Bills. Set up for the attempt, right tackle Marcus Johnson was called for a false start, moving the ball back to the 7-yard line. Brad Johnson
then threw an incomplete pass to Travis Taylor
The second came on the next series with Buffalo facing a crucial third-and-1 from its own 38. As Bills quarterback J.P. Losman
barked out the signals, defensive end Kenechi Udeze
jumped into the Buffalo backfield. The subsequent offsides call gave the Bills a first down. Buffalo's drive stalled at the 48-yard line but the Vikings had to use their final two timeouts before getting the ball back.
"I don't want to pull back anybody's aggressiveness," Childress said. "Guys have to get off on the football, but they have to get off when the ball is snapped. ... Wide receivers look at the football. There's no reason for a wide receiver to jump.
"We're not going on cadence in loud stadiums. It's just a matter of emphasizing it, and it's a matter of them holding each other accountable. Obviously I'm holding them accountable. But somewhere, my mantra has been the Vikings don't beat the Vikings. We need to clean that up. We need to clean that up because when it goes bad, it goes bad."
In two of the past three games, a penalty on the offense in the red zone has derailed what looked like a potential touchdown drive by the Vikings' struggling offense.
"They're tough," left guard Steve Hutchinson
said of the miscues. "That's where most of our problem is I think. You get into the red zone and it's either a blown assignment, which I've had in a game so far, I'm part of it, everybody has their piece. It's kind of like almost one guy doing something, just enough to back us out where it makes hard to convert, get the first down or score."
Defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin explained that his decision to blitz more than expected this season is based on making the most of the personnel he has been given. "I just want to play to the strengths of the guys that we have," he said. "It's less about the opponent really and more about what our guys do well. Those are some of the things that we do well right now. Believe me, if we're going to be a good defense, we're going to have to be able to do a lot of things well. That's one of the things that we do well right now. So you play to their strengths. We have to keep working on the things that we don't do well so we can be a complete unit."
Linebacker Napoleon Harris said members of the Vikings' defense harbor no resentment for the offense, despite the struggles of the latter group. "There isn't any level of frustration," Harris said. "This is a team game and we need to pick ourselves up on defense. That's what needs to be done. I think we have the veterans on this team that we're more than capable of getting it done. That's what we're going to focus on. We definitely feel like defensively if we had made the plays we needed to the outcome of the game would have been different."
LB Ben Leber sat out Sunday's loss to the Bills because of a sprained left knee and it's unclear whether he will play next week against the Lions. "I don't know about Ben yet," Childress said. "Obviously we didn't feel like he had all of his faculties before the (Buffalo) game when he worked out. You have to be in a position where you can push off and he can protect himself. If you listen to Ben, Ben would have had himself up for that game. You know, this is a long season. I think he needs to make sure he has all of his faculties."
LB Dontarrious Thomas played on the strong side for the first time in his career Sunday when he started in place of Leber. Thomas is considered the Vikings' top backup at all three linebacker positions. "He did fine in the snaps that he had," Childress said.
DT Kevin Williams, who struggled because of a knee problem and poor conditioning last season, has two sacks this year after registering only four in 2005. Williams had 22 sacks in his first two NFL seasons.
RB Ciatrick Fason, who had a solid training camp and impressed coaches with his quick moves, has been inactive for the past three games.
CB Cedric Griffin has moved into a rotation with Ronyell Whitaker as the Vikings' nickel back. Each played ever other series at Buffalo.
QB Brad Johnson had a season-low 63.4 quarterback rating and threw two interceptions in the Vikings' 17-12 loss Sunday at Buffalo. Johnson did put an end to streak of 12-plus quarters with an offensive touchdown when he connected with Marcus Robinson on a 29-yard pass in the fourth quarter.
RB Chester Taylor had only 10 rushing attempts for 23 yards in the loss at Buffalo. That came after he carried the ball 75 times for 275 yards in the first three games. It's unclear if Taylor lighter workload had anything to do with a sore ankle that bothered him in the week leading up to the Buffalo game.
TE Jermaine Wiggins rebounded to catch a team-leading six passes for 59 yards against the Bills after having only three receptions in the two game leading up to that. Eleven of Wiggins' 14 receptions have come in two games.
WR Travis Taylor is tied with Wiggins for second on the team with 14 receptions. Taylor would be in sole possession of second place but he was called for a questionable pass interference penalty on the Vikings' opening drive against Buffalo. Instead of having a first down at the Bills 13, the Vikings had third-and-14 at the Buffalo 28. Taylor doesn't have the blazing speed of Troy Williamson but he remains willing to go over the middle and take a pounding.
WR Marcus Robinson returned against the Bills after missing the previous game because of a sore hamstring. Coach Brad Childress reportedly wasn't happy Robinson asked out of the Vikings' victory over Carolina in Week 2 with the hamstring problem and that helped him make the decision to sit the receiver. However, Robinson shouldn't be sitting out very often. He has the Vikings only two touchdown catches on offense this season. Tight end Richard Owens caught a scoring pass on a fake field-goal attempt against the Panthers.
CB Ronyell Whitaker and rookie corner Cedric Griffin are now rotating in the nickel situation with each taking a series. Whitaker plays in the slot when he's in, while Griffin plays the left corner and Antoine Winfield moves into the slot.
WR Troy Williamson appears to be back as the Vikings' primary kick return man after being used in only two such situations Sept. 24 against Chicago. Williamson had a sore shoulder and the coaching staff did not want to take any chances. RB Artose Pinner returned four kicks in that game. Williamson, however, was the deep man on all kicks for the Buffalo game.