Notebook: Pass offense starting to sputter?

The Vikings are still tied for first place in the NFC North, but their passing offense has been going backwards of late. Vikings coach Brad Childress and TE Visanthe Shiancoe offered their thoughts on the dwindling numbers.

The Vikings are 6-3 with Gus Frerotte as their starting quarterback this year, but there is still plenty for the Vikings to improve upon in their passing game.

In each of Frerotte's first five games as the starter, he had more than 200 yards passing. In each of his last four games, he's had less than 200 yards … and the yardage has decreased with each passing week – from 182 to 151 to 138 to 120.

"I think we're leaving a lot on the table, as a matter of fact," said tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who led the Vikings with 60 receiving yards Sunday against Jacksonville. "This could be one of the best offenses in the league and all the potential we have – we have A.D. (Adrian Peterson), we have Bernard (Berrian), Bobby Wade, Sidney (Rice), and the offensive line is good. So I feel with our running game, it should really open up our passing game and vice versa. I feel like we really need to get it together when it comes to our offense."

Another concern might be that Peterson has had "only" 85 and 80 yards rushing in his last two games, but most of the decline in the offensive production has come in the passing game.

In his first five starts, Frerotte never threw fewer than 27 passes. In his last four outings, he has thrown more than 20 passes only once.

The target that seems to be affected the most recently is wide receiver Bernard Berrian. In the last three games, the Vikings' prized free-agent deep threat has caught a combined four passes for 52 yards – an average of 1.33 catches for 17.33 yards.

In the previous six outings, starting with the insertion of Frerotte as the starter, Berrian had averaged 4.5 catches for 97.17 yards per game.

"You are never satisfied. You know that you can always do things to get better. I just think that we are finding different ways. If they are legislating against somebody, you are going to see a guy like Chester (Taylor), a guy like Visanthe pick up some slack," said head coach Brad Childress. "The idea is that you are able to throw it to whoever you want, but realistically sometimes people are going to legislate against a Bernard Berrian. I think the good thing is six different guys caught balls (against Jacksonville) and (Gus) did a good job of spreading that thing around. It is more, ‘Is he looking where he needs to look? Is he reading it the way he needs to read it? Is he throwing it where it needs to go?' He is doing a good job of that."

Frerotte has also been taking more sacks. In his nine starts this season, he has been sacked 26 times. The Vikings appreciate Frerotte's toughness, but Childress would also like to see his quarterback get rid of the ball before taking a sack.

"A couple of those he could have avoided. We talk about live to fight another day. He could have thrown away some of those," Childress said. "I think the linemen got after him a little bit about having to put those down as a sack when he could have thrown it away. Those guys are hyper-sensitive about those kind of things. So lesson learned."

It's a fine line for Childress. He wants his quarterback to make plays, but not at the expense of throwing interceptions or taking too many sacks.

"I appreciate his aggressiveness. I have always said that. I said that to him from the minute he came in, but just always with merit," Childress said.

It has all added up to sub-par numbers in the passing game since the last time the Vikings faced Chicago on Oct. 19. At that point, Frerotte nearly became the first Vikings quarterback of the Brad Childress era to throw for 300 yards. He had 298 yards that day in Chicago, and the Vikings nearly won a shootout despite Frerotte throwing four interceptions and the team enduring two special teams gaffes that went for Chicago touchdowns.

Since that big day for passing yardage, Frerotte hasn't completed more than 15 passes and hasn't thrown for more than 185 yards.

"We want to be an explosive passing team as well as an explosive running team. Yeah, we are disappointed," Shiancoe said.


  • While lobbying against the fines that Vikings defensive linemen have been receiving lately – more than $100,000 for various infractions – Ray Edwards might have set himself up for another fine. He already received a $25,000 fine for a late hit on Bucs QB Jeff Garcia and a leg whip in that same game. "If you get a fine, you get a fine. Hopefully you can appeal it and win it – not," Edwards said. "Hopefully you can appeal it and get some of that money back. If not, it's going to charity, a good cause – you don't want the charity to be your pocket."

    Edwards is appealing his fine, but he doesn't know how long that appeals process might take.

  • Childress on getting out to a quick lead on the road in Sunday's 30-12 win: "You couldn't script it any better than that. (It is) usually a tough place to go and win on the road. I know having been down there three times and it is my first win personally down there."

  • Vikings coach Brad Childress said he thought Artis Hicks played well in getting his first start at right tackle. Hicks injured his arm or shoulder in the second half and missed the final 16 plays, according to Childress. Hicks was having a magnetic resonance test Monday.

    "I thought he did a pretty good job there. He competed very well," Childress said. "The communication between he and (Anthony) Herrera was very good. They passed off a couple of line games that were tough stunts to pick up and did a decent job at the run game. I expect him to do better next time."

  • Childress said he expects to have Kevin Williams and Pat Williams available for Sunday night's game against the Bears. :Until somebody tells me different, that's how we'll approach it," he said.

    The Williamses have appealed four-game suspensions for violating the league's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.

  • DE Jared Allen's injured right shoulder is feeling better than it was at this time last week, Childress said.

  • The Viking are expected to wear throwback uniforms Sunday night against Chicago, with helmets that feature the gray facemask.

  • The locker for WR Robert Ferguson was relatively cleaned out on Monday once again. Ferguson reportedly asked for his release a couple of weeks ago, but he has remained on the roster, although he has been a game-day inactive the last four games.

  • Heading into the Monday night game, the Vikings were ranked 18th in total offense (fifth against the run and 26th against the pass) and ninth in total defense (second against the run and 22nd against the pass).

  • Adrian Peterson lost the NFL rushing lead to Clinton Portis on Sunday. Portis now has 1,206 yards compared to Peterson's 1,180. Portis has two more carries. Both are averaging 4.9 yards per carry.

  • The Vikings' 5-1 turnover advantage against the Jaguars helped them climb out of the bottom third of teams in the league in that category. They are now minus-2 on the takeaway/giveaway ratio, tied for 20th in the league.

  • The Vikings are averaging 183.5 yards passing and 137.9 rushing.

  • Minnesota has the 10th-ranked red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on 16 of 34 trips (47.1 percent) inside the 20-yard line for the opponent. The defense has allowed 177 first downs, fifth-fewest in the league.

  • Chester Taylor is the fifth-ranked player in the NFL for third-down receptions with 18, and he's first among running backs.

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers re-signed former Vikings punter Mitch Berger.

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