Threes are no charm for Vikings

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 16, 2012 - 12:05 PM

The Vikings were frustrated by picking up field goals rather than touchdowns on their early trips inside the 20-yard line.

Looking for a silver lining following the Vikings' 38-26 loss at Washington? Allow us to present kicker Blair Walsh, who fought through a weekend bout with food poisoning, then had a perfect Sunday booting four field goals and producing touchbacks on all seven of his kickoffs.

Walsh is now third in the NFL in scoring, on pace to challenge David Akers' NFL record for field goals in a season (44, set last year).

But upon further review, Walsh's productivity also highlights the struggle that doomed the Vikings most Sunday: an inability to score touchdowns inside the red zone.

Three times in the first 13 minutes, the Vikings took the ball inside the 20.

All three times, they needed Walsh to secure their points, inching out to a 9-0 lead that could have been much bigger.

"Offensively, we need to turn those three points into sevens. Period," running back Adrian Peterson said. "It's not a game if we do that."

It's hard to pinpoint exactly why the Vikings hit an electric fence near the east end zone at FedEx Field.

On three first-quarter possessions, they averaged 10.7 yards per play outside the red zone and only 2.2 yards per play inside the 20.

The knee-jerk reaction, of course, is to blame questionable play-calling. That's a hypothesis at least worth exploring -- especially when considering that Percy Harvin, the do-it-all star who is widely being touted as an NFL MVP candidate, didn't touch the ball on nine red zone plays in the first quarter.

On Monday, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier still was struggling to explain the missed opportunities.

"When that happens, when you get thwarted like we did in the red zone, you look at everything," he said. "What we're calling, the plays that we're running, how we're running those plays. ... We're going to go through it with a fine-toothed comb on what we could have done better."

What went wrong?

After six games, the Vikings have made 22 red zone trips with 11 touchdowns, 10 field goals and the interception Christian Ponder threw with 22 seconds left Sunday.

That 50 percent touchdown rate ranks 17th in the NFL. And it's an area the Vikings are vowing to address this week.

On Sunday's opening drive, the Vikings needed only six plays to march from their own 20 to the Washington 10. But that's where things stalled.

Peterson burst for 5 yards on first down. On second-and-goal from the 5, though, the Vikings faked a run to Harvin out of the shotgun and used tight end Kyle Rudolph only as a blocker.

That left just two receivers running routes, and Ponder forced a throw toward Devin Aromashodu, who was double-covered on a slant. Incomplete.

On third down, the offensive line failed to slow a four-man rush and Ponder was forced to retreat 13 yards behind the line of scrimmage. He scrambled right and eventually hit Toby Gerhart for a 3-yard gain to the 2 with the only throw available, leaving Walsh to kick a 20-yard field goal.

On the next series, the march into the red zone was effortless, the biggest play coming on a 23-yard dart to Harvin over the middle that pushed the Vikings to the Redskins 14.

But then Peterson's first-down run lost 2 yards.

On second down, the Vikings kept Harvin on the sideline, going with three tight ends and one receiver, and Ponder's rushed safety valve throw to Rhett Ellison was too high.

And a third-and-12 play resulted in a screen to Peterson that wasn't well-blocked and netted 7 yards.

Here came Walsh again for a 27-yard field goal.

"Those are key situations," Gerhart said, "If we score touchdowns there, it's 21-0 and maybe they shut it down or change their game plan a little bit."

The one that got away

The Vikings' third possession began at the Washington 35, following an energizing interception by Antoine Winfield. Ponder's 19-yard completion to Michael Jenkins produced a third consecutive red zone trip. But again, the momentum quickly ceased.

First-and-10: Peterson found no daylight up the middle, a 1-yard run.

Second-and-11: With Peterson and Harvin on the sidelines, Ponder hit an underneath pass to John Carlson for 7 yards.

Third-and-4: As Peterson remained on the sideline, Gerhart's draw was stuffed for a 1-yard gain.

Fourth down: Walsh kicked his third field goal, another 27-yarder.

Failing to convert that takeaway into a touchdown, Frazier believes, proved to be the most deflating stall of the game.

"When we got the turnover from Antoine, the emotion on our bench, it was like, 'OK this is it,' " Frazier said. "We were getting ready to really put the pedal to the metal here."

Instead, with another field goal, Frazier felt the positive energy transfer to the Redskins. Washington outscored the Vikings 24-3 in the second and third quarters and never looked back.

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Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Utah 94
Denver 114 FINAL
Portland 120
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 4 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
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Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
NJIT 78
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
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New England 2
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Montreal 2
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D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
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Houston 0
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Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
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(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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