Consistent Touchdowns Last Frontier

The Vikings offense finally broke through with three touchdowns Sunday in Seattle, and players are feeling like that was the last hurdle for them to overcome in their new offensive scheme this year. See what Brad Childress, Brad Johnson and Travis Taylor had to say about it.

Since the statistics started to pile up the beginning of the season, head coach Brad Childress has insisted he doesn't lose sleep over the Minnesota Vikings' red zone offense.

Sunday's performance, when the Vikings scored three offensive touchdowns against the Seattle Seahawks, is further reason Childress won't have to worry about sleep disorders while most of the country sets the clock back one hour this weekend.

Minnesota's offense, it would appear, is doing OK.

"I think we've been playing pretty solid every game," said quarterback Brad Johnson. "Seattle, with what they've done at home – with their home record winning 12 in a row and going to the Super Bowl last year – it was a big win for us. More important than that, I think we're just playing better. More than just beating somebody, I think we're playing better."

The offense is certainly playing better than most observers perceived before the Seattle game. But after the team's 332 yards of total net offense on Sunday, the Vikings now possess the 12th-ranked offense in the league.

Head coach Brad Childress, who doubles as the offensive play-caller on game days, says the players are gaining a better understanding of his system.

"I think it's more comfort in the system, and they continue to grow in that. They learn something different every week," Childress said. "We just keep hammering the fundamental things, and there are still things fundamental that we can do better. Just comfort level and what they can do, what's flexible, what's not flexible. This offense has tremendous flexibility, but yet there are some things that are rigid and you need to know where those lines are so to speak."

Even so, it wasn't like the offense was broken before the team put up 31 points in Seattle, six of those coming on a defense touchdown. It was only against the Chicago Bears, the league's second-ranked defense, that the Vikings offense failed to produce at least 300 yards – and Minnesota players still feel like they gave that game to the undefeated Bears with a fumble late in the game.

What was a problem for the Vikings offense before last weekend was translating yards into touchdowns. In Seattle, Marcus Robinson scored on a 40-yard reception, Jermaine Wiggins caught a 15-yard halfback pass from Mewelde Moore for a touchdown, and running back Chester Taylor scored the franchise's longest touchdown on a 95-yard run.

"It's always good to get into the end zone. Marcus scored and Chester scored, so anytime you're putting up points, the way our defense is playing we're almost unstoppable," said receiver Travis Taylor. "If we continue doing what we're doing on offense, putting up points and scoring 14, 21 points a game, we're going to be a hard-to-beat team."

Granted, Taylor had suffered a concussion the day before issuing that statement, but with the way the Vikings defense has been playing, he might be right. Scoring offensive touchdowns consistently might be the last piece of the puzzle in making the Vikings a complete team.

"I think it is. If we continue to score points, we're going to be a hard team to beat. That was really the only phase of the game that was lacking," Taylor said. "It takes time to get into the system and get used to anybody. We've got a running back in Chester Taylor that can run the ball 25, 30 times so you've got to take advantage of that."

Johnson said he was never really too concerned with the team's lack of touchdowns because he knew they were moving the ball well.

"I don't read too much into (the previous touchdown drought) because I think we moved the ball really good this year. I keep talking about the penalties we've had in the red zone. That's been the problem. There hasn't been anything else to it," Johnson said. "(Sunday), to score on three drives of over 80 yards, that does not happen in the NFL too much and to not turn the ball over, that was big."

The fact that the Vikings avoided any procedural penalties at Qwest Field made it all the more impressive for the team that was once the most penalized bunch in the league.

"That was the loudest stadium I've ever been in. Sometimes we were late getting off the ball because it was so loud. Even (center Matt) Birk couldn't hear me do the snap cadence," Johnson said. "We stayed away from the penalties. We did have one red zone penalty, which we ended up scoring on the Mewelde pass, but (Sunday) we did a great job. We're getting better and better up front, playing together and communicating better from week to week, and they're doing a great job in protection schemes and the run-blocking schemes too."

But there is still one question that seems to irk Johnson. Ask him about people's perception of this being a conservative offense and the 15-year veteran almost bristles.

"When you look at the big, explosive plays we've had, we're one of the better teams as far as explosive plays. If you want to come see 50-yard bombs, then let's check the coverage. Let's check the win-loss record after it's over. That's what I look at," Johnson said. "The coverage dictates where the ball goes at all times. I think we've taken shots. We had a big one (in Seattle). We loosened them up at different times and I'm going to throw where the coverage takes me."

The Vikings just hope that continues to be in the end zone.


  • The Vikings were dealing with a rotation of wide receivers they weren't expecting in Seattle. Troy Williamson was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a concussion, Travis Taylor also suffered a concussion at some point and continued to play, and Robinson had a lower back contusion that limited him.

    "We had guys out of place at different times," Johnson said. "They knocked (Williamson) out and Billy McMullen goes to X and then Marcus got knocked out for a little bit and then Travis got dinged up, there was a lot going on that people don't know about. Then you've got Bethel Johnson coming in as a new receiver in the first week playing a lot of plays. There was a lot that was taking place with personnel packages and guys – were they playing X, were they playing Z, were they playing in the slot? I thought our receivers adjusted well as far as injuries took place."

  • The Vikings have been involved in four games this year that were decided by five points or fewer. While it might help them deal with pressure situations later in the season, Johnson said he'd rather not get put in that situation too much.

    "You don't want to put yourself in too many of them. But for us, defensively they're playing with a lot of confidence right now and shutting people down with the run and creating turnovers," Johnson said. "At the beginning of the year they were getting off the field on third down. The last few games, now they're creating turnovers and scoring. Offensively, we've had three game-winning drives and we feel like we're getting better and better from week to week."

  • The Vikings may be pleased with their 4-2 record to date, but the league is 7-0 so far in selling out games this season. By Week 5, the NFL had broken its previous record of four consecutive weekends of sellouts. Last weekend's sellout enabled every game to be televised in the home-team market for an unprecedented seventh week in one season. The NFL is on pace to set an attendance record for the fourth consecutive season. Through six weeks, the league was averaging 67,704 fans. The league's season record is 66,455, set last year.

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