Friday, September 29, 2006

The Vikings in the Red

Once again, the Vikings’ offense is matched up against a top notch defense. The Bills D has a secondary full of studs, Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher at linebacker, and a defense line that has done a solid job stopping the run and getting to the passer. And so, once again, the Vikings are going to have problems putting points on the board.

Luckily for them, the defense should be able to help by creating turnovers. While Willis McGahee is a stud, and isn’t known for fumbling, the Bills have the erratic J.P. Losman under center. The secondary, full of veteran ball hawks, should be able to pick up where they left off against da Bears and create some turnovers.

Unless they house those turnovers, though, it’s going to fall on the offense to turn them into points. And by points, I mean touchdowns, not field goals. At this point in the season, the Vikings’ offense has been mediocre in the red zone, only scoring two touchdowns in nine trips to the red zone. Thankfully, they have a great kicker in Ryan Longwell, but if this team is going to achieve its goals, they're going to have to start scoring seven points in the red zone instead of three.

So why does the offense stall once it gets past the opponents twenty? Is it poor play calling? Poor execution? Penalties? Or is it some combination of the three?

Against Carolina, the Vikings problems were a result of poor line play. Against Carolina, the Vikings had three drives stalled by a holding penalty on Artus Hicks, an intentional grounding penalty on Brad Johnson and a sack. On the fourth drive, the Panthers stopped three straight rushing attempts on the goal line.

Against da Bears, the Vikings only got within the red zone twice. Both times, they failed to gain yards on first down. The first time, they took a shot at the end zone that Travis Taylor was unable to haul in, and the second time, Chester Taylor was stuffed for no gain. Their failure to gain yards on first down helped lead to third and longs that they were unable to convert, leading to more field goals.

Aside from Carolina’s goal line stand, every time the Vikings failed to score in the red zone, they managed to get themselves in obvious passing situations on third down. The problem is that the Vikings aren’t really equipped to convert in these situations. They don’t really have the playmakers necessary at wide receiver or at quarterback to gain a lot of yards against good defenses that know the Vikings are going to pass.

In order to be successful in the red zone, the Vikings have to stay out of third and long situations, because they are rarely going to be able to convert them with the players they have. And when they do end up facing third and 8, they need to try something besides relying on Brad Johnson and their receivers. The most success they had was on third and 15 against Carolina, when they went handed it off to Mewelde Moore and he gained eleven yards. They need to learn from this and be willing to use screens and draws to make up for their deficiencies in the passing game, especially in the red zone. Otherwise, they are going to continue to fail miserably at scoring touchdowns.

So what does this mean for the Vikings this Sunday? Well, it depends on if Brad Childress figured this out as well. The Bills are a similar team as the Vikings’ last three opponents—good at defense and average on offense. And while the game is on the road, the Vikings match up well against the Bills rushing game. So it’s going to come down to whether or not the Vikings’ offense can score. As usual, I’m going to be optimistic, and guess that Childress has made the necessary adjustments to his red zone offense. That’s why I’m picking the Vikings’ to win, 20-13, with the offense scoring one TD and the defense adding another.


twins15 said...

If the Vikings can score in the redzone, I really like their chances. I think the D will be able to stop McGahee and force Losman to throw, and that's a good thing.

cheswick said...

Hey tbird!
I just got back from 3 weeks abroad with limited web access so couldn't wait to log in here and get the scoop on the Vikes. Thanks for the updates. I, too, never imagined we'd be looking at 2-1 at this point. Incredible! And to think how close we were to 3-0! Damn. Here's hoping the success continues. Keep up the great work!