30th Won't Cut It

The Vikings rank 30th in red zone efficiency, and they are getting as many flags as they are touchdowns once inside the opponents' 20-yard line. See the numbers to support that ascertain.

Among the Vikings' offensive problems has been an inability to score inside their opponents' 20-yard line.

Coach Brad Childress' team entered its bye week tied with Denver for 30th in the NFL in red-zone efficiency with three touchdowns in 12 trips. That's a 25-percent clip, putting the Vikings and Broncos ahead of only the Atlanta Falcons (17.6 percent).

"It doesn't concern me more than anything else," Childress said. "I know that you guys lose a lot of sleep over it. I've got tons of things that I lose sleep over. The numbers are what they are, and we'll continue to work on it."

Among Childress' worries, as well as one reason the offense is stalling, is the Vikings' tendency to take penalties in the red zone during their opening drive each game. Sunday, it was left tackle Bryant McKinnie who was called for holding with the Vikings in a second-and-9 situation at the Lions 10-yard line.

That pushed the Vikings into a second-and-19 from the Lions' 20 and the drive ended with a Ryan Longwell field goal. It marked the third time in four games the Vikings have committed a penalty in the red zone and had to settle for a field goal.

"I'm as concerned about anything is that we step backwards in terms of penalties down there," Childress said. "I think we have the wherewithal to be able to get ourselves down there. We need to be able to finish. We finished the game (Sunday with a 26-17 victory), and part of finishing is that mentality that you are never out of it."

Although receiver Marcus Robinson has caught two of three touchdown passes by quarterback Brad Johnson this season, Childress bristled a bit at the suggestion that Robinson should be seeing the ball more in the red zone. Robinson, who is 6-3, had been considered a jump-ball specialist by the previous Vikings coaching staff.

"It's hard to throw a ball up to a big body when people do play two-deep on you down there, which is what we got every snap down there (Sunday)," Childress said. "We don't put round pegs in a square hole. The worst thing we can do down there is take the football and throw it into Cover-2 and throw a pick. Then we would probably be asking how come you threw it to Marcus Robinson when he was double-covered? You see a double zone, you don't throw it up there. That would be the biggest reason probably."


  • QB Brad Johnson rebounded after a poor first half against the Lions on Sunday (11 of 17 for 80 yards with one interception and a 51.1 quarterback rating) to complete 15 of 17 passes in the second half and finish with 201 yards passing, a touchdown and an 88.0 rating. Johnson's interception came in the second quarter when his arm was hit as he attempted a pass. Nonetheless, he did bounce a couple of balls and overthrow receivers at times. He has three interceptions in the past two games. Some of Johnson's struggles can be pegged on the fact his receiving corps and the Vikings' play calling hasn't been anything to brag about so far.

  • RB Chester Taylor went from having only 10 carries for 23 yards in a loss at Buffalo to rushing the ball 26 times for a season-high 123 yards in the victory over the Lions. Taylor gained 71 of his yards on 12 rushes behind the highly paid tandem of left tackle Bryant McKinnie and left guard Steve Hutchinson. Taylor's rushing total accounted for all but 12 yards of what the Vikings gained on the ground. Taylor also caught five passes, tying him with backup running back Mewelde Moore for the team lead.

  • TE Jermaine Wiggins caught three passes for 22 yards as his season total continued to fluctuate depending on coverages by opponents and how often quarterback Brad Johnson thought he was open. The previous week at Buffalo, Wiggins had a team-leading six receptions for 59 yards.

  • WR Troy Williamson appeared on pace to become the Vikings' one legitimate vertical threat early in the season. But of late, Williamson has become a non-factor. He caught only two passes for 11 yards against the Lions and has four catches over the past two games for 38 yards. Williams is tied with receiver Travis Taylor for the team lead with 18 catches. However, 10 of those came in the first three games.

  • WR Travis Taylor had four catches for 44 yards and a touchdown against Detroit but also committed a third-quarter fumble that led to a Lions field goal. It was the second time in as many home games that Taylor has caught a ball and then lost it. Considering Taylor's primary role is catching the ball in traffic, it's imperative that he hangs onto it.

  • CB Antoine Winfield, who is second on the Vikings with 37 tackles, is happy the Vikings' bye week has arrived. Winfield played Sunday's game with a painful strained thigh suffered at Buffalo.

  • LB Napoleon Harris was benched early last season after starting the first three games at strong-side linebacker. This season Harris has thrived after returning to the middle, where he is more comfortable. He leads the Vikings with 39 tackles, including 31 solo, and got his first career interception on Sunday. Harris also has six quarterback hurries.

  • Rookie DE Ray Edwards, who has seen his playing time increase since Erasmus James was lost for the season because of a knee injury, has made the most of the opportunity. Edwards is third on the team with two sacks, one behind veteran defensive tackle and team-leader Kevin Williams.

  • LB E.J. Henderson had a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Lions on Sunday, marking not only his first TD but also his first interception.

  • P Chris Kluwe ranks 32nd and last among NFL punters with a net average of 34.8 yards so far this season. He had a net average of 44.1 yards last season as a rookie.

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