Notebook: Overcoming the Bad Stats

The Vikings' most persistent thorn on offense has been red zone penalties, but Sunday in Qwest Field they overcame another one to score a tricky touchdown. They also fought through the loss of their top receiver and finally found a return game. Get those notes and more following Minnesota's impressive 31-13 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

All year, the Vikings have been bemoaning their penalties in the red zone.

In the third quarter, it looked like it could haunt them again. Richard Owens brought them to the 7-yard line with a 15-yard reception, and facing first-and-goal it appeared Chester Taylor picked up 5 yards, but Marcus Johnson hauled down his opposition and the holding penalty back the Vikings up to the 17-yard line.

When the offense gained only two yards on two plays, it looked like the Vikings would be calling on kicker Ryan Longwell again. The Vikings had entered the game ranked 31st in the NFL scoring touchdowns once inside the red zone, and when Mewelde Moore experienced a congested right side of the field after taking a handoff, it looked like another red zone failure in the making. However, Moore pulled up, threw his first pass as a professional and found Jermaine Wiggins for a 15-yard touchdown.

Turns out, the holding call on Marcus Johnson would stunningly be the only offensive penalty of consequence in the game for the Vikings, who avoided the temptation for false starts in the noisy Qwest Field.

The defense had three penalties in the fourth quarter – illegal hands to the face on Fred Smoot that turned a third-down incompletion into a first down for Seattle, a Kenechi Udeze encroachment that picked up another first down for Seattle and a roughing-the-passer penalty on Ray Edwards on the play following Udeze's encroachment.

In all, the Vikings had five penalties for 45 yards, significantly cutting down on their 8.6 penalties-per-game average, which was the worst in the league entering the weekend.


In early March, the Vikings were expecting their top two receivers to be Koren Robinson and Nate Burleson. Robinson, who was beginning to emerge in Green Bay's offense the last couple weeks, was suspended by the league for at least one year last week and Burleson took a free-agency poison-pill trip to Seattle.

Burleson didn't have a single catch against the Vikings on Sunday, but he was thrown to twice.

When the Vikings' Troy Williamson was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a concussion, it left Travis Taylor, Marcus Robinson, Billy McMullen and newly signed Bethel Johnson to shoulder the load.

Brad Johnson hit nine different receivers Sunday, but Marcus Robinson was clearly the favorite deep threat in Williamson's absence. Robinson took Williamson's place on a post-and-go route that resulted in a 40-yard touchdown two drives after Williamson left the game. Robinson finished the game with four catches for 77 yards and had another long pass knocked away with a jarring hit from safety Ken Hamlin, who earlier had the hit that resulted in Williamson's head knocking off the ground and throwing him unconscious for about 10 seconds.


The insertion of newly acquired wide receiver Bethel Johnson into the return game created a spark.

Williamson had been performing those duties the majority of the time, and entered the weekend ranked 18th in the league with a 23.3-yard average on 13 kickoff returns. Johnson averaged 31 yards on four kickoff returns with a 49-yarder. The NFL's leader entering the weekend was Cleveland's Josh Cribbs at 28.2 yards.

The Vikings also improved dramatically on punt returns. Mewelde Moore's 7.1-yard average was 26th in the league before Sunday's games, but at Qwest Field he averaged 16.5 yards, including a 40-yarder. Chicago's Devin Hester was the league leader after Week 6 with a 13.6-yard average.


The Vikings joined rare company by knocking off the Seahawks at Qwest Field. Seattle was 23-3 in its last 26 games at Qwest, and the Seahawks' .889 winning percentage there was the best in the NFL since Week 16 of the 2002 season.


While it is easiest to think of the Seahawks and Vikings exchanging Steve Hutchinson for Nate Burleson because of the perceived value of Burleson's contract, the Seahawks really ended up exchanging Hutchinson for linebacker Julian Peterson.

Without losing Hutchinson, the Seahawks likely would not have been able to afford the free agent contract of Peterson, who was given a seven-year, $54 million contract with an $11.5 million signing bonus.

At the end of the first half, it was Peterson who stopped a Vikings offense that looked like it was finally catching its groove.

In the final drive of the half, Peterson came on a delayed blitz that resulted in a 6-yard sack of Brad Johnson on second down. The Vikings still converted that first down, but Peterson ended the half with an 11-yard sack of Johnson two plays later to keep the Vikings from crossing midfield.

After going two games without giving up a sack, the Vikings allowed four sacks by Seattle, but only one in their dominating second half.


At the beginning of the second quarter, the Vikings were trailing 7-3 and Seattle had just missed converting third-and-4 when tight end Jerramy Stevens had a diving sideline reception that came up 1 yard short. That brought on Josh Brown for a 39-yard field goal attempt. As Brown went to kick, the Vikings challenged the reception, and Brown's kick went wide left after the whistles blew. When Stevens was ruled to have dropped the ball, Brown's 42-yard attempt was good for a 10-3 Seattle lead.

While the whistles likely disrupted Brown, had the officials not overturned the call the additional time to think about the move might have inspired Mike Holmgren to go for the first down.

Later in the second quarter, Vikings coach Brad Childress made another interesting decision. The Vikings got into Seattle territory with Moore's 40-yard punt return, but they were quickly faced with fourth-and-3 from the 38-yard line. Childress elected to go for the first down, but Brad Johnson's pass for McMullen sailed high.

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