Notebook: Offense Keeps Coming Up Short

The Vikings were an incredible 0-for-Green Bay in their third and fourth-down conversions against the Packers, but it wasn't all incompletions. See what the head coach and some of the players were saying after the first shutout loss for the Vikings in the series history.

With only seven yards of passing and less than three minutes to play in the third quarter on Sunday, it was apparent the entire offense was dysfunctional against the Green Bay Packers defense. But perhaps nothing illustrated that more than a look at the Vikings' conversion rate on third and fourth downs.

The percentage was zero. In both categories. Despite three attempts to move the chains on fourth down.

Part of the problem was that Brooks Bollinger just wasn't finding enough open receivers. As Vikings coach Brad Childress said, there hasn't been enough production out of the passing offense to single any one player out. In a number of cases on Sunday, the Vikings caught the ball on third down, which they did all three times on fourth down. They didn't catch the ball in front of the first-down marker and were unable to make a play to break free.

"We had a couple routes that went past the sticks. The one ball that Ferg (Robert Ferguson) caught, the ball was underneath the sticks," said wide receiver Bobby Wade. "Those are the ones where it's like, if you get pressure, you've got to get the ball out of your hand. He got the ball out of his hand and we've just got to hope we get some kind of push to get the extra yard and a half."

They never did. On all three fourth-down plays, Ferguson was the recipient of the pass, caught the ball and then was tackled short of the first-down marker.

"There are routes that aren't designed to go past the sticks. If you've got a three-man receiver route and then you've got the tight end going out too, then you've got some checkdowns," Wade explained. "There are probably three out of the four or five routes that are going past the sticks. It's kind of your read, your choice as a quarterback. A lot of things factor into that – obviously pressure, things like that. That's always frustrating, kind of a competition thing. You hope for the best when you're throwing it underneath the sticks and hope somebody can make a move and make guys miss. Obviously your percentages are higher when you throw past the sticks."

In all, the Vikings were 0-for-8 on third-down attempts and 0-for-3 on fourth downs, piling onto their 31st ranking in third-down conversions in the NFL. Childress indicated it was different circumstances that led to each individual failure. One of those was singled out by Childress, when a pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe fell incomplete at the beginning of the second quarter.

"I thought he was open. I thought we could have made a better throw," Childress said. "The ball kind of scuffed coming out, and a couple of those other third downs I thought we were just short of the mark on a couple of those shallow crosses. That is situational football, which I think you have to know and know where you are going with it."

Said Bollinger: "I think if you just look at how that game went early on, there were just a couple opportunities that I missed and we missed as an offense to extend drives and make first downs. It was so critical because they were having success moving the football obviously. They were just more glaring because we didn't get the ball back (quicky)."

"Obviously, we expected things to go down different," Bollinger added, "but the bottom line is that we didn't make plays when we needed to. Obviously, they did. It just kind of snowballed."

One of the surprises of the game was that Shiancoe wasn't more heavily involved. The Packers entered the game having allowed a 100-yard receiver only three times this season – all three of them were tight ends.

Shiancoe ended up with only one catch for seven yards. He was thrown to only three times.

"We had some plays in there for Shank, and just watching the film there were a few that came up short," Wade said. "One time, Brooks was feeling pressure pretty bad. Another time just kind of missed the hookup with the pass and the catch there. There were a lot of plays left on the field obviously when we scored no points. There were some plays where there were opportunities that we just didn't pitch and catch."

That left members of the defense, who didn't help their own cause against Brett Favre, a little winded after the Packers ran 80 plays to the Vikings' 44 offensive plays.

"It got to be to the point that I was shocked. It's not supposed to be like that, but you've got to play through it," said rookie cornerback Marcus McCauley, who could remember only one college game (against Oregon) that even approached 70 plays for the opposing offense. "… There were some plays out there that happened and we were just like, It's not our day."

Especially on third and fourth down.

PRESSURE WITHOUT PETERSON?

While the opponent likely will be easier – facing the 2-7 Oakland Raiders rather than the now 8-1 Green Bay Packers – the Vikings offense will have to perform without the aid of the league's top rusher, Adrian Peterson.

"Without slighting at all, our backup tailback, Chester Taylor, has been a proven back in this league," said Wade. "He's a guy we've been putting him on the field on third downs and screens and catching situations. We've just got to be able to pick up that flag and divvy up them balls, the production that's been going to him, and figure out a way to pick this up."

Linebacker Ben Leber was quick to remind reporters that Taylor rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year.

"Chester's going to have to come back in and be the starter, and we're comfortable with that because he was a thousand-yard rusher last year. We have a pretty good backup," Leber said. "I think we have some bigger things to worry about than the injuries. We're going to have to play through the injuries, but we're going to have to figure out a way to turn this thing around."

Wade said the idea of a players-only meeting can often have mixed results.

"They can be good, they can be bad. It just kind of depends on who's talking in the players meetings and what's said," Wade said. "I think meetings at this level – there are so many of them, so I think less is better. Guys have got to understand about being professionals and preparing themselves to play. You go back to high school and college and you're getting big head-coach motivational talks before games and halftimes. Some players are very impressionable, like the younger guys, but for the older guys it's kind of like get out there and I'm ready for my other chance. I don't think it's at that point where we need to be bringing it up or trying to rally."

NOTE

Vikings president Mark Wilf and radio analyst Pete Bercich will be in Fergus Falls on Thursday for part of the NFL's "What Moves U" campaign and the Vikings' "You Made the Team" community tours. Wilf and Bercich will meet with students at Battle Lake Elementary School and conduct activities like a spelling relay and football training exercises. The team will also present $1,000 contributions to both the American Heart Association and the United Way of Otter Tail County. The Vikings outstate community tour kicked off in Mankato in August and has already been to Willmar, Red Wing and Rochester. Remaining stops this fall include Grand Rapids and St. Cloud.


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