Adrian Peterson is on pace to have his best season yet, and a gaudy 7.4-yard average per carry over…
Peterson lacking in red zone use
There were the turnovers and dropped passes on offense, and allowing Chicago to convert 11-of-19 third-down opportunities against the Vikings defense.
But in an 18-point loss, the Vikings squandered too many scoring opportunities when they had them. The Bears got inside Minnesota's 20-yard line four times, scoring three touchdowns and adding a field goal – all in the first half. The Vikings got inside the red zone three times and came away with a touchdown only once, adding a blocked field goal and turning the ball over on downs.
The Vikings didn't even get into the red zone until their fifth series, spanning the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter. At that time, they trailed 10-3 and weren't able to get any closer because of a blocked field goal.
Their next two drives to end the first half never came close to crossing midfield – one of them because of Christian Ponder's only interception of the game – and the Vikings trailed 25-3 by halftime because of four straight Chicago drives went into the red zone and netted 25 points.
One of the Vikings' issues in the red zone was the lack of getting Adrian Peterson involved. In their lone first-half possession that advanced inside the Chicago 20, Peterson touched the ball on four of the first six snaps to get to the 12-yard line. But after getting into a manageable second-and-6, the Vikings elected to throw on second and third down, both of them incompletions – one a throwaway and another a pass that wasn't strong or high enough to reach Kyle Rudolph in the end zone before safety Chris Conte could get there to knock it away.
The start of the second half offered the Vikings opportunities to get back into the game. On their first drive of the second half, following Antoine Winfield's interception that set up the offense at the Chicago 44-yard line, Peterson gained 10 yards on three carries and the offense was aided by a facemask penalty on Henry Melton. With the Vikings at the 15-yard line, the Bears put nine defenders in the box to stop Peterson and the Vikings executed a well-designed play-action pass to Kyle Rudolph off the fake handoff to Peterson. At the 2-yard line, they did it again, faking a handoff to Peterson to draw the defense and throwing an easy touchdown pass to a wide open Kyle Rudolph to pull within 25-10.
The Vikings' next possession, following a Chicago field goal, saw the offense overcome two dropped passes from Jerome Simpson on their way to another trip inside the red zone. Peterson ran the ball 10 yards to start the drive and carried it two more times over the next eight plays for a combined 20 yards. In the final six plays of the drive, however, he touched the ball only once – an 8-yard run from the 16-yard line. But, once again, the Vikings' final two plays of the drive were passes, despite being in four-down territory and needing only 2 yards to pick up a first down.
On third-and-2 from the 8, Peterson was lined up offset to the left and in front of Ponder and was held in for blocking duties. Ponder rolled to his left looking for Rudolph, who was knocked down by linebacker Lance Briggs, forcing Ponder to throw to the corner of the end zone for receiver Jarius Wright, who dropped the pass. On the fourth-down play, Peterson was offset again and Ponder, under pressure, threw too far for Michael Jenkins.
"He's a team guy," Frazier said when asked after the game if Peterson was frustrated about not getting the ball enough in the red zone. "If we decide to go in one direction versus another, he's going to support it. We want to give him the football as often as we can and there are some times we want to do some other things. He's a team guy, but we also know his value. We know he's capable of getting some first downs."
The Vikings put out a total team loss, where they were outplayed on offense, defense and special teams, but their lack of red zone execution – and the adjoining lack of using Peterson in the red zone – was one of the issues.
Peterson carried the ball a total of 18 times for 108 yards. The Vikings had a total of 10 offensive snaps in the red zone and Peterson carried three times for a total of 16 yards. Ponder tried to pass on their seven other red zone snaps and the only two completions in those situations (both to Rudolph) came off of play-action fakes to Peterson.
"We really didn't do a lot of things we talked about what we had to do to win against a good team on the road. And the result was we walked off the field really disappointed in our performance and the way we played," Frazier said. "We know we have to play better all the way across the board. We have to do a better job from a game-plan standpoint, putting our players in a better position to make plays. But when you have the opportunity to make plays you still have to make plays."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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