Vikings have work to do after bye week

Vikings players are enjoying nearly a week away from Winter Park, but there will be plenty to do upon their return if they are to catch the Packers and Bears in the chase for the division title.

Vikings coach Brad Childress decided to give his players nearly a full week of rest during the team's bye week.

It's likely Childress recommended they enjoy the time off because when they return things are going be very busy. Especially if the Vikings are going to make a serious run at the playoffs.

A team that entered the season with big-time expectations after adding free agents Bernard Berrian and Madieu Williams and acquiring Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen in a trade with Kansas City, has a disappointing 3-4 record but finds itself only a game behind Chicago and Green Bay in the NFC North. Both of those teams have 4-3 records as they enjoy their bye week.

It doesn't help matters that the Vikings have lost to both the Packers and Bears on the road, but they have yet to play either of those teams at the Metrodome.

Minnesota will return from its off week to play host to 2-4 Houston on Nov. 2. That will begin a key two-game home stand that will include a match-up the following week with the Packers.

The Vikings are hoping to benefit not only from some time away but also from the return of Williams, who left Cincinnati to sign a six-year, $33 million contract that included almost $13 million guaranteed. Williams has yet to play in a game this season after suffering a neck injury early in training camp.

Rookie Tyrell Johnson, a second-round pick out of Arkansas State, has done an admirable job taking Williams' place but the Vikings gave Williams all that money for a reason.

One big disappointment for the Vikings to date has been a turnover differential that stands at minus-4 through seven games. The Vikings are near the bottom of the NFL with 15 giveaways and had five in a 48-41 loss to Chicago on Sunday.

Childress knows that figure needs to be cut if the Vikings are going to contend. He also knows the special teams must start to play better.

The Vikings have surrendered five touchdowns against on special teams in seven games, including two in the loss to the Bears. The tone was set in the regular-season opener when the Packers' Will Blackmon returned a Chris Kluwe punt 76 yards for a touchdown.

Kluwe has had three punts returned for scores and Sunday the Bears' Garrett Wolfe walked into the end zone from 17 yards out after Kluwe dropped a snap, had his punt attempt blocked and then tried to kick the ball.

Asked if he planned to get more involved with the special teams, Childress said: "I'm in the special teams meeting every day. We have specialists out there every day ... kicking the football, catching the football, punting the football. ... They get coached every day. There's somebody back there with them. It's not like they're in a vacuum. Schematically, I think we have a good scheme. We just need to operate it better."

NOTES

  • This is the Vikings' latest bye week since Brad Childress took over as head coach in 2006. They won going into and coming out of their Week 6 bye in Childress' first season, beating Detroit 26-17 at home and then beating the Seahawks 31-13 in Seattle. Last season, the Vikings had their bye in Week 5. They lost to Green Bay 23-16 at home entering the off week and beat Chicago 34-31 at Soldier Field in their first game back.

  • The Vikings have five home games left this season, including two sets of back-to-backs. The first will be Nov. 2 against Houston and Nov. 9 against Green Bay. The second will be to close the season on Dec. 21 against Atlanta and Dec. 28 against the New York Giants.

  • Coach Brad Childress said Monday that he frequently talks to owners Zygi and Mark Wilf during the course of the season. "Usually we talk a couple times a week," Childress said. "Whether it be Mark or Zygi. ... There are a lot of times when they bounce in here, either one or the other, once a week. (We have) a pretty good open dialogue about where we are as a team, what injuries we think we're dealing with and what personnel."
    --Childress and his coaching staff will get some down time this week, but they also are spending many hours doing what is called a self-scout. Basically that means they are pulling apart several facets of the team on film, such as personnel packages, and examining them to see where they can improve.

  • TE Visanthe Shiancoe dropped three passes in the first three games this year after a rough first season with the Vikings in 2007. But he has played very well of late and is tied for the team lead with three touchdown catches. "I have a lot of confidence in him," quarterback Gus Frerotte said. "I tell all those guys. Just because you drop one doesn't mean I'm not going to throw it in those situations. I'm going through my reads, and I'm throwing the ball where I need to throw it in those situations."

  • WR Bobby Wade doesn't believe a Vikings passing game that now includes vertical threat Bernard Berrian will stop defenses from putting extra men in the box. "I don't think they'd ever do that," he said. "Even with having Bernard here. Even with him having two back-to-back 100-yard games. It doesn't matter. I think Adrian's still a threat back there, our running game, our offensive line is so good at that and Chester (Taylor) is so good back there. That's what we do. We run the football, everybody knows it and we'll continue to do it. But it's nice to see the passing game and be able to pass on our own terms instead of them just dictating to us."

    BY THE NUMBERS: 4 — Interceptions for the Vikings, tied for 19th in the NFL this season. Veteran safety Darren Sharper, the NFL's active leader in career regular-season picks with 53, still does not have one this year.



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