Improvement Over the Bye?

Vikings coach Brad Childress outlined several areas where the Vikings needed to improve. They had a bye week to think about it and will put their newfound wisdom to the test Sunday against the Chicago Bears.


The Vikings entered their bye week with a 23-16 loss against NFC North rival Green Bay. Minnesota is hoping to resume its season by avoiding a similar fate against another division foe this Sunday in Chicago.

The assignment won't be an easy one for the 1-3 Vikings, who will travel to Solider Field to play a Bears team that came from behind to defeat the Packers on Sunday night.

If Minnesota has any chance of saving its season, the turnaround is going to have to begin with this game. A loss to the Bears would put the Vikings three games under .500 with a game against the undefeated Cowboys in Dallas coming up next.

Coach Brad Childress and his staff spent much of their time during the bye week looking at what went wrong in losses to the Lions, Chiefs and Packers. Minnesota had opened the season with a 24-3 victory over Atlanta.

"You're able to do an analysis stepping away from your first four games and kind of taking that long journey inward, whether it's formationally or play calls or down and distance-wise," Childress said. "You're able to do a great deal of self-scouting. A lot of times you look at it differently removed from it than you do the day after. We went through that exercise and it was very good for us."

Entering the bye, Childress had pointed to five areas in which he wanted to see improvement.

This included the deep passing game; must-pass situations, such as in the two-minute drill; red-zone efficiency; third-down conversions both for and against; and eliminating explosive plays against a defense that remains suspect versus the pass.

Just how much improvement the Vikings will be able to make in a short period of time remains to be seen, especially for an offense that is averaging only a touchdown per game and other than rookie running back Adrian Peterson seems to lack play-makers.

The Vikings are expected to resume play with Tarvaris Jackson back at quarterback. Jackson was replaced by veteran Kelly Holcomb for the final two games before the bye after suffering a strained groin in the Week 2 loss at Ford Field.

But Childress seems to be intent on sinking or swimming with Jackson and at least this will give the Vikings a chance to see if the second-year player is at least making progress.

Jackson will be trying to erase the memory of an abysmal showing against Detroit, when he threw four interceptions and registered a 26.4 quarterback rating.

Jackson made his NFL debut last season at Chicago, entering the Vikings' 23-13 loss in December after starter Brad Johnson had been lifted and backup Brooks Bollinger was injured.

The rookie was nothing more than a bit player on that occasion, completing three of four passes for 35 yards. If the Vikings season is to be saved, Jackson will have to be far more than that this weekend.

NOTES

  • Coach Brad Childress, on the vote of confidence he received recently from owner Zygi Wilf after the Vikings' 1-3 start: "We have a good relationship. Obviously, I understand this business is driven by wins and losses, but I communicate lots of things through him and he's as close to this program as he has ever been."

  • The Vikings lost a defensive lineman early in the season for the third consecutive year when Darrion Scott was placed on injured reserve Tuesday after breaking his left foot in practice a day earlier.

    Scott replaced Kenechi Udeze at left end when he was lost early in 2005 because of a knee injury. Last year, Scott spent most of the season starting at that position again after Erasmus James (knee) went down and Udeze was forced to move to right end.

    This season, Scott found himself playing mostly tackle in passing situations when big Pat Williams came out of the game. Scott, who will be a free agent after the season, is expected to undergo surgery.

    To take his spot on the roster, the Vikings promoted rookie guard Brian Daniels from the practice squad. Scott's absence means that Spencer Johnson and Fred Evans are now the only backup tackles to Kevin and Pat Williams.

  • QB Tarvaris Jackson was limited in practice Wednesday but is expected to start on Sunday at Chicago after missing two games because of a strained groin.

  • S Dwight Smith was limited in practice because of a hamstring injury that has bothered him since the Vikings' Week 2 loss against Detroit.

  • LB Ben Leber was limited in practice because of a rib injury suffered in the Vikings' loss to Green Bay in Week 4.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 5 — Number of Vikings assistant coaches who played in the NFL. The list includes defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who was a starting cornerback for the Chicago Bears team that won Super Bowl XX in large part because of an outstanding defense.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I definitely see my role expanding. I'm planning on having a conversation with the coaches and just see what they see me doing and what they want me to improve on. I just want to be out there helping the team more than what I am right now." — Veteran wide receiver Robert Ferguson, who had three receptions in Week 2 against Detroit but hasn't caught a ball since that game. Ferguson signed with the Vikings as a free agent in late August after being released by the Green Bay Packers.


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