[size=13pt]Childress wants team not to face as many third-down situations[/size]

Kevin Seifert and Judd Zulgad, Star Tribune s taff writers

Last update: September 19, 2006 – 10:44 PM

Only one NFL team has put itself in more third-down situations than the Vikings, a dubious ranking that coach Brad Childress plans to address in time for Sunday's game against Chicago.
The Vikings have faced 32 third-down plays, one behind league leader Indianapolis. The situation was manageable in the season-opening victory at Washington, when the Vikings converted nine of 17 third-down attempts. But in their overtime victory over Carolina, the Vikings converted only two of 15 attempts.

In part because of a running game that is averaging 3.4 yards per carry, the Vikings faced eight third-down attempts against the Panthers that required at least 8 yards for the first down; six of those needed at least 10 yards.

"We need to do a better job," Childress said. "Obviously, you're not doing enough on the first two downs, or you're shooting yourself in the foot with the pedaling. That needs to improve."

Workhorse

Speaking on his KFAN-1130 show Monday night, Childress said he favors using one feature back so that the runner can get "lathered up" as the game wears on. If so, Chester Taylor could be set up for a season of historic proportions.

Through two games, Taylor leads the NFL with 55 carries and 61 total offensive touches -- one more in each category than San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson. If Childress keeps him on the same pace, Taylor would finish the 16-game season with 440 carries and 488 offensive touches.

The NFL record for carries in a season is 410, set by Atlanta's Jamal Anderson in 1998. Tampa Bay's James Wilder set the league record for touches in 1984 with 496.

To put Taylor's two-game production into perspective, consider that he already is more than a third of the way to his career-high of 160 carries, set in 2004. His career high for offensive touches in a season is 191, also set in 2004.

Team player

Troy Williamson has expressed a willingness to serve as the Vikings' kick returner, but the second-year receiver admits the additional duty does distract from his primary responsibility.

"A little bit because you don't want to hold anything back," he said. "Going straight from kickoff return into offense, that's a lot to do right now. But it's something I have to learn to deal with until they find somebody else to do it or if I have to do it all year."

The Vikings had considered signing free-agent Quincy Morgan to handle kickoffs but Morgan signed with Denver on Monday. Williamson, who had his first 100-yard receiving game Sunday against Carolina despite having an injured shoulder, feels he takes more of a beating on returns.

"I feel like it's worse because you have an opportunity to miss big hits as a receiver but, when it comes to kickoff returns, you have to hit it and try to get up in there and try to make something happen," he said.

Etc.

• The Vikings placed defensive end Erasmus James on injured reserve, one day after an MRI revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. They promoted defensive end Jayme Mitchell from the practice squad to take James' place on the roster and signed guard C.J. Brooks to the practice squad.

• As of Tuesday afternoon, the Vikings were less than 200 tickets away from selling out Sunday's game. A handful of tickets should become available later this week when the Bears return their unsold allotment of seats.