The Vikings offense and defense are each ranked in the top half of the league – a surprising fact to some, even some players, considering the lack of touchdowns the offense has been producing.
While the Vikings have scored eight touchdowns through five games, three of those touchdowns have been produced by the defense and one by the special teams on a fake field goal.
So while the defense is ranked seventh overall (fourth against the rush and 17th against the pass), the offense is just fitting into the top-half ranking of NFL offenses at 14th (ninth in passing and 21st in rushing).
Again, the surprising part might be that the Vikings are ranked ninth in passing, but head coach Brad Childress sounds relatively satisfied with the job that quarterback Brad Johnson has done this season, as long he keeps the interceptions to a minimum and the decision-making on the positive side.
"I think probably the most important thing is the decision-making," Childress said. "Up until the last couple of games I felt like we've done a great job of taking care of the football. Now one of those picks (Sunday), he kind of got hit in mid-stride, so you've got to take that off of him. By and large, he's done a good job with the football. I can think of a couple that he would have liked back, that weren't prudent throws, but just the decision-making and managing what he needs to manage in terms of the check-with-me at the line of scrimmage, the automatics, is it a run look or is it a pass look? Just that he is seeing things well and I think he's doing a good job of that and I think he'll continue to do that."
Like their overall offensive ranking, the Vikings rank 14th in the percentage of passes they have had intercepted (2.3 percent), but after protecting the ball well in the season getaways (one interception in the first three games), they have started to bleed a little in that category with three interceptions in the last two games. As a team, they are minus-1 in the take-away/give-away ratio, and Johnson now has four interceptions compared to three touchdowns.
The fumbles, however, are becoming more of problem for wide receiver Travis Taylor.
"I have two fumbles in three games. Coming from the receiver position, you can't do that," Taylor said in his honest self-assessment.
But, while defensive players continue to say this is a team game and they aren't frustrated with the offense, Taylor is hoping the offense breaks out of its doldrums soon.
"Our defense is playing terrific. They're keeping us in every game we've played, and that's all we ask for," he said, but … "We can't continue to rely on our defense to keep us in ballgames, but that's what they're doing. That's what they get paid to do, I guess, not give up any points, and they're doing a heck of a job with that. My hat goes off to our defense. Those guys are playing special football right now."
Actually, that's something that Travis Taylor and Chester Taylor got used to in Baltimore. Defense was the staple of the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV win following the 2000 season. During a five-game stretch that season, the Baltimore defense went five games without allowing touchdown.
Unfortunately for the Vikings' offensive players, this team is starting to remind Travis Taylor of his former team.
"It does, man. I'm tired of the defense continuing to keep us in the game," he said. "Everywhere I go, it's like the defense is great – you don't mind it, but at the same time you want to put something there on your own, demand something of yourself. You want to go out there and give it your all. I'm enjoying it, but we're going to need to score some points at some time.
"We've got to get in a rhythm. That's the biggest thing, get in a flow with the play calls and the formations, making plays and getting that momentum going."
While turnovers have become a bit more of a concern in the past two games, receiver Marcus Robinson, another former Raven, says players can't get too uptight worrying about making a mistake.
"I think guys were pressing too hard. I think guys were too worried about making mistakes instead of going out there and enjoying playing football because we've been shooting ourselves in the foot," Robinson said. "We've been fumbling and we've been jumping offside in the red zone and then getting backed out of the red zone. … You can't play this game trying not to make mistakes. You've got to play this game attacking and having fun with it. If mistakes happen, they happen. You overcome them and keep going."
For their part, the defensive players are keeping the "team" aspect intact when talking about the struggles of the offense.
"We know the offense is doing their best out there. They're executing. It's just where it will take a little time. There is a method to the madness," said defensive end Kenechi Udeze, echoing the thoughts of his head coach.
Pat Williams, who is off to a stellar start this year with 22 tackles, a sack, forced fumble and eight quarterback hurries, said at some point the defense may stumble and the offense will be there to pick up a win.
"If the offense is playing bad, we'll play bad at some point – so it's all just a team sport," he said.
But Travis Taylor knows what the fans know: "We've got to get better offense, point blank."
Turnovers Starting to Infest Offense
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