Offense needs weapons against Titans

The Vikings offense hasn't completely taken off yet and it will need everything it has against one of the NFL's better defenses Sunday in Tennessee.

The Vikings dodged a major bullet Sunday by rallying to beat Carolina 20-10, thus avoiding an 0-3 start that would have almost certainly dashed their playoff hopes.

But staying away from that third defeat isn't going to be easy as they get set to play Tennessee on Sunday at LP Field in Nashville. The undefeated Titans (3-0) sit atop the AFC South and are allowing only 9.7 points per game, the least in the NFL this season.

This is not exactly good news for a Vikings offense that continues to sputter far too often. Gus Frerotte took over for Tarvaris Jackson as the starting quarterback against the Panthers, but Minnesota still only accounted for one offensive touchdown.

That came on Frerotte's 34-yard pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in the third quarter and was set up in large part because the quarterback connected with receiver Bernard Berrian on a 48-yard strike earlier in that drive.

The Vikings offense seemed to be opened up more with Frerotte running the show, and there was a definite attempt to establish the aerial game early as Minnesota had 10 pass attempts and three rushes in the opening quarter.

The Vikings hope is that Frerotte's ability to throw the deep ball will keep defenses honest and not make it as easy for opponents to put eight-men in the box in order to try to stop Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson.

Peterson played against the Panthers despite a sore hamstring and had 17 rushing attempts for 77 yards. Veteran Chester Taylor, who had only nine rushing attempts in the first two games, helped carry a share of the load, rushing for 44 yards on 11 carries.

The Vikings likely aren't going to take any chances with Peterson's hamstring this Sunday and will look to involve both running backs once again.

However, yards on the ground and through the air are not going to come easily against the Titans defense. The unit ranks third overall and against the pass in the NFL and is 10th against the run.

One positive for the Vikings is that the 37-year-old Frerotte is unlikely to get flustered playing in a hostile environment. This might not have been the case with the inexperienced Jackson.

Frerotte's makeup is something that Vikings coach Brad Childress appreciates.

"It's almost like he's on Valium," Childress said. "He's a flat-line kind of guy. You're not going to get a wave out of him. You saw that all the way, whether it was installing the openers or in the locker room or warming up (before the Carolina game). ... There is just a great way about him, a great confidence about him."

SERIES HISTORY: 11th meeting. Vikings lead series, 7-3, and have won the past four games against the Oilers/Titans franchise. The Vikings, who are 18-19-1 all-time against the AFC South, have outscored Tennessee 234-91 in their seven victories.

NOTES

  • The Vikings appeared to have settled on primary kickoff and punt return men after using a few players in these roles earlier in the season. Running back Chester Taylor returned both kickoffs last Sunday against Carolina and Aundrae Allison was used on punt returns.

    It remains unclear if running back Maurice Hicks is going to get an opportunity on kick returns. He was signed as a free agent after having success in that role in San Francisco. However, Hicks missed the first two games because of a sprained foot. He was active against the Panthers but did not get any snaps on offense or a chance on kick returns.

    Taylor has averaged 26.3 yards on six kick returns this season and Allison is averaging 6.7 yards on six punt returns.

  • S Madieu Williams, who hasn't played this season because of a neck injury suffered early in training camp, still isn't ready to return. Doctors initially thought Williams might be able to return for this Sunday's game against Tennessee but that isn't going to happen. Williams has not practiced yet and it's unclear when he will be back.

  • WR Sidney Rice was limited in practice Wednesday because of a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee but is hopeful he will be able to play Sunday. Rice missed last weekend's game because of the injury.

  • RB Adrian Peterson was able to play last Sunday despite a hamstring injury so there isn't much concern that he was limited in Wednesday's practice. Peterson had 77 yards on 17 carries against the Panthers.

  • DE Ray Edwards was a new addition to the injury report after being limited in practice because of a shoulder problem. Edwards was hurt early in the game against the Panthers but was able to return.

  • LB Vinny Ciurciu appeared to suffered a serious injury to his right knee versus the Panthers but the damage turned out to be far less than thought. Ciurciu was limited in Wednesday's practice and there appears to be a chance he could play Sunday.

  • RB Chester Taylor had a season-high 11 carries for 44 yards as he took some of the workload from Peterson last Sunday. Taylor, though, hurt his foot and was limited in practice Wednesday.

  • LT Artis Hicks continues to battle an elbow injury suffered in the first game of the season against Green Bay. Hicks, however, did not miss any practice time Wednesday.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 14 — Touchdowns by the Vikings defense since the start of the 2006 season, the most in the NFL by a defense during that time.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's been a blessing. I'm not taking anything for granted. It's been a blessing to go out there and actually start as a rookie. Playing at Lambeau Field, it's very special. I'll look back on it later on in life and it's really going to hit me then." — Rookie safety Tyrell Johnson on the opportunity to start this season. Johnson has replaced Madieu Williams, who has been out since early in training camp because of a neck injury.



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