Sunday, September 15, 2013
Red zone issues hurt Vikings again
By Ben Goessling
CHICAGO -- Three times on Sunday, in a game they badly needed to win, the Minnesota Vikings fashioned impressive, methodical scoring drives in the second half against the Chicago Bears. Two of those drives covered 13 plays, and they combined to take 15:47 off the clock, as the Vikings wore down the Bears' defense.
But all three of those drives ended with Blair Walsh field goals of less than 30 yards, meaning that when the Vikings had a chance to put the Bears down, they only were able to get them wobbling. And in the end, the 16-yard game-winning touchdown pass Jay Cutler threw to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds left on Sunday wouldn't have mattered if the Vikings had take care of business on just one of those three drives.
The Vikings settled for Blair Walsh field goals on each of three second-half red zone trips.
"That right there is what hurts the most," running back Adrian Peterson said. "Being in the red zone, right on the 4-yard line [on the Vikings' final drive] and having to settle for three."
Peterson's presence alone would suggest the Vikings shouldn't struggle in the red zone as much as they do. But even with the running back romping for 2,097 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns last season, the Vikings weren't terribly efficient at turning their drives into touchdowns.
They ranked 18th in the league last season with a 53.8 touchdown percentage in the red zone, and got just two touchdowns in five red zone trips last week against Detroit, settling for field goals three times there, too. For the season, the Vikings are now just 2-for-8 in the red zone, and not coincidentally, they're 0-2.
On their final drive, the Vikings had first-and-goal from the Bears' 6 after Christian Ponder connected with Greg Jennings for 22 yards. Peterson ran for two yards on first down, Ponder missed tight end Kyle Rudolph (his favorite red-zone target last season) on second down and Peterson was stopped on another run off-tackle on third down.
"It's easy to second-guess after the fact. But sometimes when you give the ball to Adrian on third-and-four, you don't feel like you need to pass," coach Leslie Frazier said. "That's one where, hindsight being 20/20, I'd do something differently."
The Vikings could have ended their first scoring drive of the second half with a touchdown, too, if Jarius Wright hadn't dropped Ponder's third-down pass in the end zone. That drive, which started with a 14-yard play-action pass to Cordarrelle Patterson from the Vikings' 9, might have been Ponder's best of the day.
But like the rest of the ones in the second half, it ended with a short Walsh field goal, which is why the one drive Cutler did finish in the second half -- his last one -- ultimately sent the Vikings home with a defeat.
"We do that today, we win," Peterson said. "Simple. Simple as that. We have to do a better job of being efficient in the red zone, getting [touchdowns] instead of [field goals]."