Notebook: The Most Troubling Statistic

The Vikings offense has actually risen five spots in the rankings since it was last on the field, but there is one area in particular where both of their quarterbacks need to improve dramatically. See what the head coach and others had to say about that, and get other team notes and quotes from Winter Park Wednesday.

The Vikings didn't even play a game on Sunday and yet they surprisingly moved up the NFL rankings on offense. After they had completed their third straight loss last weekend against the Green Bay Packers, the offense was ranked 24th in the league. Now, after a week off and no interceptions thrown by Vikings quarterbacks, the team's offense is ranked 19th in the league, averaging 250 yards per game.

But defenders are quick to point out that yardage isn't the way to judge how well an offense is firing – the true test of a defense or offense is points scored. In that category, the Vikings are averaging 16.8 per game, 24th in the league. They are also one of the worst in the league in converting third downs, running at 35 percent efficiency right now – 25th in the league.

Still, safety Darren Sharper was trying to keep a positive spin on the situation before leaving for a mental break during bye week, saying that were signs of life.

"It's good to see the play that Sidney Rice made (an acrobatic touchdown catch against Green Bay), going up and getting the ball and making a spectacular catch and showing explosiveness," Sharper said.

The Vikings are set to return to Tarvaris Jackson, the 34th ranked quarterback in the league in passer rating at 40.0 – one spot behind the Bears' Rex Grossman – despite veteran backup Kelly Holcomb putting up slightly better statistics with his 70.9 rating. The real problem in Jackson's rating is his four-interception game that helped the Detroit Lions pull off a 20-17 overtime win on Sept. 16. Without those four major miscues, Jackson and Holcomb would be even with one touchdown and one interception so far this season.

Neither quarterback has completed more than 54 percent of his passes, but perhaps the most startling statistic when it comes to the Vikings offense in general – and their quarterback situations specifically – is their completion percentage on first down.

"And it should be your best down throwing the football – first down should be your best percentage," Childress said this week. "Probably because there are a number of shot plays there on some of those first downs, some of those deep throws up the field in the middle of a drive or at the beginning of a drive or after a turnover. I might attribute it to that, but that should be typically your best down to throw the football when you can be 50-50 run or pass. They don't know if you are going to run or pass unless you have a strong tendency, which we don't either way."

The team's third-down percentage might be so low because neither Holcomb nor Jackson has competed better than 27 percent of his first-down passes.

"I would think that would be the highest percentage play because you can either run or pass on first down. On third down, if it's third-and-long, everyone is going to throw the ball," cornerback Antoine Winfield said.

Meanwhile, Holcomb and Jackson are tied for 29th in the league with only four completions of 20 yards or more – the shots down the field Childress referred to – and each of them only has one of 40 or more to his credit, leading to the theory that this offense needs to become more explosive.

But completing just better than 25 percent of first-down passes when they are taking their chances down field would indicate that the coaches are trying to open up the offense as much as they can, but incompletions on first down will only lead to more third-and-long situations.

The major separator in the two performances between Holcomb and Jackson so far – where each of them has started two games – is sacks. Jackson has taken only one sack so far this season while Holcomb has succumbed to the pressure nine times.

But if Jackson does return to action this week, it might not be at 100 percent – he is recovering from a groin strain suffered on Sept. 16.

"The big factor is can he play, can he play at a high level, can he protect himself, and can he move, can he make all of the throws? So that stands alone and we won't get to the next step," Childress said when asked what Jackson would have to show this week in practice in order to play.

And mobility against the Chicago Bears, who are tied for third in the league for sacks per pass play, should be at a premium. As a team, the Bears have 17 sacks, with defensive end Mark Anderson and tackle Tommie Harris leading the way with four each. End Adewale Ogunleye and linebacker Brian Urlacher each have three.

"Their speed-rush guys Ogunleye and Anderson, and then being able to change up with (Alex) Brown just coming off of the edge, that's how that defense has been set up," Childress said. "Schematically it has similarities to our defense. They have an active three-technique in there in Tommie Harris."

NOTES

  • For the Vikings, QB Jackson (groin), S Dwight Smith (hamstring) and LB Ben Leber (ribs) were all limited in participation in Wednesday's practice. For the Bears, WR Bernard Berrian (toe), DT Tommie Harris (knee), T John Tait (ankle), CB Charles Tillman (ankle), CB Nathan Vasher (groin) and DT Darwin Walker (knee) did not participate in practice. G Ruben Brown was limited in his participation.

  • Running back Mewelde Moore, the subject of trade rumors to Tampa Bay, was also practicing, so no trade yet. The Bucs did sign running back Zack Crockett on Wednesday, and worked out former Vikings running back Ciatrick Fason, along with Tony Fisher and Kevan Barlow earlier this week.

  • The Vikings signed cornerback Dee McCann (formerly of the Detroit Lions and then West Virginia in college) to their practice squad.

  • From the looks of it, Pat Williams (defense), Steve Hutchinson (offense) and Aundrae Allison (special teams) should be captains for Sunday's game.

  • The New Orleans Saints worked out former Vikings receivers Billy McMullen and Travis Taylor on Tuesday. They also worked out a couple of running backs and a number of kickers, but none of them with Vikings ties.
  • Last weekend against the Miami Dolphins, former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, now with the Oakland Raiders, was only the second player in NFL history to rush for three touchdowns and throw for two, joining Jake Plummer.

  • Childress, who grew up in Illinois, said there will be a "tribe of Childresses" attending the Bears game, but he won't be joining them for a pregame tailgate. "I stay away from them. They're there for fun and I'm there for games. There happens to be fun and games that they like to involve themselves in."

  • Reading between the lines, does this Childress quote mean more touches for Adrian Peterson? "Without giving you a game plan and are we going to have to make changes personnel, we need to do what has been good to us and probably do more," Childress said.

  • Childress' humorous dissertation on the broken foot suffered by defensive end Darrion Scott, ending his season: "That's what we call a Jones fracture, named after Sir Robert Jones, so obviously no relation of Lisfranc, the Frenchman. I assume Sir is an English term, and the description is in an area (where) it usually happens without direct impact and it's named after him because he suffered one of those actually while he was dancing. Otherwise known as an avulsion fracture or a stress fracture, typically that takes a screw. He is going to have surgery here tomorrow with Dr. Boyd and then it requires a while for it to heal.

    "People that you know that have had that … Derrick Burgess had two of those when we were in Philadelphia. After he had two of those, then he also blew an Achilles tendon. He was the sack leader last year in the National Football League. I've seen those things happen. It happened to Hollis Thomas once running down the ramp at the Vet for introductions. As a matter fact, it was Sug (Eric Sugarman) that came up and said Hollis Thomas is out. How is he out? He's got a fracture in his foot during introductions, so most unsettling. You are afraid somebody is going to get hit with fireworks and they fracture their foot running out for introductions. So what I am telling you is it can happen and it was in a one-on-one pass drill. Nobody ended up going to the ground. He just felt something."


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