Third-and-long: Vikings not getting it done on critical down Print
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Thursday, 01 November 2007 00:54
NFL Headline News

 EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -There are many areas in which Minnesota's offense has been deficient this season, and perhaps the most devastating of those has been a failure to consistently convert third downs.
The Vikings are third-to-last in the league in this category, ahead of only San Francisco and Detroit, with a 31 percent (30-for-97) success rate.
The biggest reason for this is too many third-and-longs, not the ``manageable'' circumstances coach Brad Childress strives for his team to reach. With three yards to go, the options for play calls clearly increase, as opposed to the eight or nine Minnesota has often found itself needing to gain to stay on the field and avoid a punt.
``You've just got to get in a situation where they don't know if you're going to pass the football,'' said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who is back on track to start this week after missing the last game due to a broken finger.
According to Childress, the Vikings aim to get four yards on first down, half of the remaining distance on second down, and, of course, all of it and more on third down.
Instead, they're throwing too many incomplete passes on first down, facing a defense stacked with eight or nine players near the line of scrimmage to stop running back Adrian Peterson on second down, and arriving at third down in unfavorable spots. Sometimes, they're taking sacks or committing penalties on those first downs and making the distance even more difficult to reach.
That's when the defense can ``start doing crazy stuff,'' Jackson said, and make it more of a challenge for a young quarterback to find an open receiver and accurately deliver him the ball.
It's also tougher for Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to agree on a play to call.
``That's the secret in this thing. ... Keep it between third-and-three-to-six and not the running-your-finger-down-your-card for your third-and-11-plus, 12-plus, plays. You have those plays, but percentages are extremely against you,'' Childress said.
Ineffective quarterbacks must take part of the blame, but backup Brooks Bollinger defended his colleagues and stressed that each position is responsible for the 2-5 record and the struggling offense.
``I think everybody needs to pick up,'' Bollinger said.
The injuries and frequent shuffling of starters at the game's most important position has not helped.
``I've been in a position where I've seen six quarterbacks in a season, so I'm semi-conditioned to understand what that takes,'' said receiver Bobby Wade, referring to his 2004 season with Chicago. ``It's really hard in a growing offense when you're trying to find an identity and keep things consistent and things like that. But it's part of the game. Guys get hurt, guys get banged up, and you've got to be able to take up the slack and keep going.''
 

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