Notebook: Vikings hot in the red zone

Last year, the Vikings were one of the worst teams in the NFL at scoring touchdowns inside the red zone. Not any longer. See where they stand and what the players and coaches had to say. Plus, reaction from players on Brett Favre's comments and other notes and quotes from the Vikings and Ravens.

By taking advantage of three Rams turnovers in the red zone last week, the Vikings' red-zone defense stepped up to the league's No. 1 ranking.

Going largely unnoticed is the offense is nearly as good in tight quarters this year. Brett Favre and company have turned 17 trips in the red zone into 12 touchdowns, and three other times turned into field goals. They have scored touchdowns 70.9 percent of the time and scored some points 88.2 percent of the time. The touchdown percentage is second in the league, with only Kansas City doing better, scoring touchdowns on eight of 11 trips.

What's the key?

"Just execution. Good play calls down in the red zone. Everybody executing," said receiver Sidney Rice. "It is tough sometimes, but as long as you know your game plan and you've got 11 guys out there on the field that's executing their individual things, you're going to get it right."

The success in the red zone has helped make the Vikings No. 3 in the league in scoring average and tops in total points scored (New Orleans has scored 144 points in four games and Philadelphia has 127 in four contests).

While Adrian Peterson has scored seven touchdowns (on pace for a career-high 22 touchdowns), the passing offense has spread it around in general and in the red zone. Running back Chester Taylor has a team-leading 21 receptions, followed by Bernard Berrian with 19, Percy Harvin with 18, Sidney Rice with 17, Visanthe Shiancoe with 13 and Peterson with 10. Shiancoe leads the team with three receiving touchdowns, followed by two apiece from Rice and Harvin and one for Berrian.

"If you look at a team that has one guy as receiver that the ball's going to, where the defense can start to slide coverage or the coverage can dictate to take one guy away, I think it's an advantage to have all those guys with multiple catches," said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. "I don't know who they would want to double, who they would want to cloud over, and who they would want to take away from us. I don't think there is one guy that we rely on."

That has defenses approaching the Vikings differently, according to Shiancoe. The difference might not necessarily translate into what defenses are calling but how the defenders approach the Vikings.

"They're a little more cautious with their defense. They're not really coming at us too hard anymore and that's what we wanted to do," said Shiancoe, the king of one-liners and hyperbole. "We're notorious for Adrian. So they pack up the box, had about 12 people in the box, plus coaches in the box. Now, they can't do that anymore. Now they have to respect the passing game. That's the balance that we've been looking for, and that's the balance that we're going to keep on trying to critique."

Peterson has been the biggest beneficiary of the red zone success and is finding the end zone with more frequency than his past two seasons. He said the red zone offense was more of a focus for the team in the offseason.

"When we're out there, last year inside the red zone really wasn't that effective, as far as coming up with seven points. So it's something that we were focusing on during the offseason and training camp that we've got to put seven points on the board, especially when we're in the red zone. Our offense took pride in that and we've been doing a good job," he said.

The extra attention has paid off. In 2007, the Vikings finished fifth in the league, turning 60 percent of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Last year, however, they struggled, getting touchdowns on only 43.2 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line, which was 28th in the league.

Bevell credited the execution of the plays he's calling, which instill in him confidence to call certain plays.

"They're executing at a high level right now. They're doing a great job of understanding what they are seeing defensively. They're understanding how we want to attack it with the specific plays that we're calling and they're going out and they're executing it," the offensive coordinator said. "… We could spend all night long drawing up great plays, but if they don't understand it and they can't execute it, it doesn't help us."


Brett Favre is catching heat in Green Bay for saying after Sunday's win that these 2009 Vikings are the most talented team he has played on. He reiterated that to Baltimore reporters on Wednesday while giving credit to the Packers' 1996 Super Bowl team.

"Well, you know, of course I caught a lot of heat for that. What I meant by it is no different than what I said three years ago, going into my last year in Green Bay, where I said this is probably the most talented team coming up that I've ever played on," Favre said. "It had nothing to do with what we did in '96 and '97 and '95 and all those years. All I was saying is, from a talent standpoint, this team, I think, is the most talented.

Shiancoe made it simple when asked about Favre's postgame statement by reporters earlier this week. He feels the same way.

"This is the best team I've ever been on. I've been with the Giants. I just left (before the Giants') Super Bowl team, but this is the best team I've ever been on," Shiancoe said. "The camaraderie is what really makes it, relationships off the field as well. Everybody really likes each other here in this locker and on this team. They like each other as a person. We mingle, we go out, we're always joking and laughing.

"Favre is always (messing) with people. It's fun. We're excited to come to practice and to come to work. We're excited. That's one. That's a big thing. (Head coach Brad) Childress as well, he's loose. He works with us, and at the same time he knows when to tone it up and tone it down."


  • WR Percy Harvin (shoulder) returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis. DE Ray Edwards (hamstring), G Steve Hutchinson (back), T Phil Loadholt (ankle), WR Darius Reynaud (hamstring) and FB Naufahu Tahi (ankle) were also limited.

  • For the Ravens, tackle Jared Gaither (neck) did not participate again on Thursday. Newly signed WR David Tyree (hamstring) participated fully. LB Jarrett Johnson (shoulder), DT Haloti Ngata (back) and TE Edgar Jones (hamstring) were all limited for Baltimore.

  • The Ravens defense gave up its first 100-yard rusher in 40 games last week when Cincinnati's Cedric Benson rushed for 120 yards. "It was one of those days," Peterson said after watching film of Baltimore. "Hopefully they have another."

  • Baltimore is known for its trash talkers on defense, especially middle linebacker Ray Lewis. Peterson has noticed, but he said that's not a big part of his game. "Just watching those guys, they're out there and they're talking a lot of noise. That comes with the game," he said. "You can't let that break your focus or get you out of your game. It's not about the one-on-one battle because the guy is running his mouth. It's about going out there and executing as a team. That's a good way to shut them up."

  • There very well could be some strong collisions in the Metrodome between Peterson and Lewis. Peterson said he wouldn't hesitate to lower his shoulder on Lewis. "It's the game of football. I don't discriminate against no one," he said. "I'm sure if you get the opportunity he'll try to lay wood to me. I guarantee you that."

    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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