[size=13pt]Vikings Notebook: Execution Solution[/size]

October 04, 2006

Author: Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

The Vikings have scored points on their first drive of all four games so far in the 2006 season. But those four drives have not been indicative of what would follow in each game for Minnesota.

Four punts followed the opening touchdown against Washington, three punts trailed the opening field goal against Carolina and two punts and a fumble were the result after a quick 3-0 lead at home against Chicago. Things weren't better last Sunday against Buffalo, either, as the offense was forced to punt four consecutive times after an opening-drive field goal.

After two touchdowns in the season opener, the Vikings offense went 12 quarters before scoring another. That touchdown came on Sunday against Buffalo, when Marcus Robinson caught a 29-yard pass in the endzone with 3:07 remaining in the game.

The Vikings recent touchdown drought is surprising given the offensive scheme the team employs and the mastermind behind it. The west coast offense is known as a productive and efficient scheme, yet 2006 has not seen the Vikings maintain consistent production. Also, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress is a proven offensive wizard, having guided the Eagles to seasons of 5,000+ yards all four years he was offensive coordinator there.

Coaches and players both admit the reason for the touchdown drought is a lack of execution and too many penalties.

"Whether you're backing up because it's procedurally, or it's offensive pass interference, the point is, you're backing up," coach Childress said after the game on Sunday. "We have to correct that, and that's my responsibility, and I need to get that corrected."

Vikings players have echoed their coach's sentiments.

"It's frustrating when a penalty or a missed assignment or something like that is what ends up making you kick a field goal, rather than score a touchdown," Vikings center Matt Birk said.

"Offense is a complicated thing sometimes as far as what makes it click and what makes it not click," Vikings backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger said. "When it's good it's good, and when it's not it makes everything more difficult. I think it's just executing and establishing a rhythm and getting that initial first down."

One reason to believe the Vikings offense will begin its positive rebound this week is their quarterback. Brad Johnson knows how to limit mistakes and maintain efficiency. Before Sunday's two-interception performance against the Bills, Johnson had thrown just five interceptions in his last 12 games as a starter and he completed 62% of his pass attempts.

"It's a very good system, (with) very good players," Johnson said. "If we just eliminate mistakes right from the get-go then we have a chance to be successful."

Another reason to believe the Vikings offense will redirect itself lies in the hands of Childress. In his first season at the helm of the franchise, Childress has vowed to make the Vikings a team that doesn't beat itself. Although self-inflicted deficiencies have contributed to losses over the past two games, Childress has taken the responsibility himself to make the appropriate correction.

"It's just a matter of emphasizing it, and it's a matter of them holding each other accountable," Childress said. "Obviously I'm holding them accountable. But somewhere, my mantra has been the Vikings don't beat the Vikings. We need to clean that up. We need to clean that up because when it goes bad, it goes bad.

"We need to play better and we will."

"The line between success and failure is very small," Birk continued. "We're close, it's just execution."

Down to the wire

All four of the Vikings games this season have been decided by five points or fewer, including three that have been decided by just three points. That trend is league-wide, as 32 games in the league this year have been decided by eight points (one possession) or fewer.

Well, you know it's, you've heard me say before, that's invariably the way it is," Childress said when asked if it gets tiring coming down to the wire every game. "Whether somebody's coming to beat you, or you're going to beat somebody else, or you're trying to hold somebody off, or vice versa. That's what this league is all about. There is parity, and if you let somebody hang around, they've got a chance to be coming back up the field at you and you saw a bunch of those games yesterday (Sunday)."

Indeed we did. Last week, eight games were decided by one possession, including Washington's overtime victory against Jacksonville and last-minute scores by both Indianapolis and Baltimore.

Hurry-up works

The three most effective drives for the Vikings last Sunday against Buffalo came when the team was hurried. At the end of the first half, the Vikings drove 35 yards in six plays to set up Ryan Longwell's 49-yard field goal. It took Minnesota just 42 seconds to get into Longwell's field-goal range. Late in the fourth quarter, the Vikings drove 55 yards on seven plays, taking up just 1:03 to score a touchdown. The Vikings last drive saw them march 63 yards in just over a minute and a half before time ran out.

It seems employing a hurry-up or "no huddle" offense can spark an offense when it needs it most.

"I think the biggest reason is that the defense can't make their subs," Vikings guard Artis Hicks said. "They have to play with what they've got on the field. In certain packages, you might have three or four receivers on the field and if linebackers have to spread out and cover them, the offense can exploit a mismatch."

Vikings backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger points to another reason the hurry-up offense can be effective.

"I think sometimes defenses are thinking about not giving up a touchdown in those situations," Bollinger said, "so that makes it easier to get first downs and get the underneath stuff. They don't want to give up a big play, so the offense is just taking it and taking it, not trying to give up a big play."

Blue and black

Vikings rookie safety Greg Blue registered the hit of the day in Buffalo last week. Blue has a reputation as a hard hitter and fulfilled that role when he wrapped up Bills receiver Roscoe Parrish for a four-yard loss. The hit incited an awestruck reaction from the crowd and a boisterous one from the Vikings sideline. Blue filled in for starting safety Darren Sharper when he left with a quad contusion.

Vikings-Lions connections

Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, defensive backs coach Joe Woods, quarterback Brad Johnson, safety Dwight Smith and linebacker Marquis Cooper were all in Tampa Bay with Lions Head Coach Rod Marinelli.

Vikings running back Artose Pinner was a fourth-round pick of the Lions in 2003 and he played three seasons in Detroit.

Viking Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman spent seven seasons in Detroit as a college and pro scout and went to training c amp with the Lions in 1988.

Taming the Lions

Vikings defensive back Antoine Winfield recorded 12 tackles and one interception last season versus Detroit. Also, safety Darren Sharper posted his first career interception against Detroit (11/2/97) and returned it 50 yards for his first career touchdown.