Notebook: Rice rote in the red zone

Wide receiver Sidney Rice hasn't had a big role on offense yet as he returns from a knee injury, but his efficiency in the red zone is amazing. Gus Frerotte, Bobby Wade and Rice talked about the feat. Plus, CB Marcus Walker is confident he can perform if he's promoted.

Vikings receiver Bobby Wade smiled and then seemed to talk with a bit of jealousy in his voice when asked about fellow receiver Sidney Rice.

Wade leads the team with 36 catches but has zero touchdowns. Rice has only five catches – seven others on the team have more than him – but Rice also has three touchdowns.

"I think he loves that. I don't think there's a guy that wouldn't love that," Wade said when asked he thought Rice was frustrated as being labeled a red zone receiver. "You come in there and you've got five catches and (three) touchdowns, what would you say? I've got how many catches and no touchdowns? They're hard to come by.

"I don't think he would be upset about that. Everybody has a pride about themselves and they want to play more within the game, but that guy's as valuable as anyone. When you're scoring that many points for us, there's no doubt how much he's worth."

Since being inactive for three games earlier in the season, Rice has touchdowns in each of the last two games. He's also had only one catch in each of those games. To put that into perspective, running back Adrian Peterson has carried the ball 55 times and caught three passes in the last two victories. He also has two touchdowns in the last two weeks.

Rice said the label as a red zone receiver doesn't bother him one bit.

"Not at all. As long as we're putting points on the board, it doesn't matter. Call it what you want to call it," Rice said.

"I'm not worried too much about getting every pass when I go into the game. Bobby and Bernard (Berrian) are doing a tremendous job, and also Aundrae (Allison) coming into the game. I'm just going in, doing what I can to help the team out, whether it be blocking or catching a pass or scoring in the red zone, it doesn't matter."

In fact, Rice is being used as more than just a jump-ball receiver in the red zone. On Sunday against the Packers, he had a miscommunication with quarterback Gus Frerotte on that type of play and the pass would have been intercepted had Rice not played the role of a defensive back and swatted the ball away from the cornerback. On the next play, the Vikings used that blown fade route to their advantage, with Rice give another outside move and then coming inside for the touchdown reception.

"The last couple of games he's just been the read to go to down in the red zone. He's a big kid and you just have to put it on his body. He's going to make plays," Frerotte said. "Obviously we haven't played a lot together so we had a little miscommunication on a fade I threw to him down in the end zone. Those are things when you just have to play together. You just have to get good at doing those kinds of things. Defenders can play him all kinds of ways. They can press him inside, press him outside and do all kinds of things. So every situation is different, and we just have to learn how to work together."

Rice was inactive for three out of four games in late September and October with a knee injury that was slow to heal. He might not be 100 percent yet, but he has been 100 percent effective in his role in the red zone the last two games.

For the season, the Vikings are still near the bottom of the league in red zone efficiency, scoring nine touchdowns on 24 possessions inside the 20-yard line, a 29th-ranked 37.5 touchdown percentage. In the last two games, however, with Rice in the mix, the Vikings have scored touchdowns on three of four red zone possessions. Rice has two of those three touchdowns, but he is quick to give credit to others.

"I just want to be out there on the field with my teammates going to war. It's great to have three touchdowns, but just being able to play again is (great)," he said. "The plays that the coaches put in (are) great plays. Gus, he's a great reader. He's been in the game a long time, so he knows what to expect. He's putting the ball where it needs to be and he's giving me an opportunity. That's that my job, to make plays."

"If you're going to have a guy that's going to make plays then we have keep trying to get him the ball," Frerotte said.

WALKER CONFIDENT

While Peterson deservedly gets all the attention as the main Oklahoma product on the Vikings, there is another Sooner that could be on the 53-man roster sooner rather than later.

After the Vikings failed to be awarded two players on which they put waiver claims, they could opt to promote CB Marcus Walker from the practice squad to the active roster to fill the spot vacated when the team placed CB Charles Gordon on injured reserve.

"As a football player and competitor, I don't think I can't do anything on a football field. Playing football has never been a problem for me," said Walker, an undrafted rookie.

His confidence didn't waiver during a short interview Wednesday. Asked what would be the biggest challenge if he is promoted to the 53-man roster, he said, "Nothing. Just go out there compete hard and things will work out for you. I'll just go out and compete hard. Nothing different."

Walker decline to talk about the possibilities that he might be promoted, calling that a coach's decision, but he said he is comfortable and confident in how the Vikings' defensive system fits his skills.

"It fits real well. I feel I'm very comfortable with everything we do. That won't be a problem with me not knowing what I'm doing," he said. "I feel I'm 100 percent comfortable. That won't be the issue. I'm familiar with everything we do."

NOTES

  • Frerotte is near the bottom of the league with a 74.0 passer rating, but he is 15th in the league when it comes to the fourth quarter, increasing his rating to 88.9 in the final period. He is 19th in the league on third downs, with a 76.3 rating in those situations.

  • Chester Taylor is tied for sixth in the league with 16 third-down receptions.

  • Defensively, the Vikings are 21st in the league inside the 20-yard line, giving up touchdowns on 56 percent of opponents' trips inside the red zone.


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