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The Vikings Red Zone Review, Sponsored by Comcast

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I skipped this last week with the Vikings being on their bye and everything, but now we're back for more.  And I'm not sure about anything else, but the bye week gave me an opportunity to experience just how awesome the Red Zone Channel is.  Obviously, during most weeks I'm wholly and solely focused on the Vikings, but during the bye week the Red Zone channel was constantly moving me to different games all over the league.  Whether it was the Bears getting destroyed by the Arizona Cardinals, the Packers losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or any of the other action around the NFL during Week 9, the Red Zone Channel made sure that I didn't miss any of the best action around the NFL.  The action flows seamlessly, and you get to see all of the biggest plays from all the live action around the league.  The Red Zone Channel is your season ticket for every NFL game, and the only cable company that brings it to you is Comcast.

So how did the Vikings' red zone offense look in their last game against Green Bay?  Let's take a look.

Vikings Red Zone trips - 5
Vikings Red Zone scores - 4 (4 TD)
Red Zone touchdown percentage - 80%

The Vikings' first red zone appearance of the day against the Packers came on their third possession.  After a bad snap from John Sullivan resulted in a fumble, the Packers took an early 3-0 lead.  Then they made the mistake of kicking the ball to 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin.  Harvin wasted no time in responding to the Packer score, as he torched the Packers special teams unit and took the ball all the way down to the Green Bay 14-yard line.  From there, Adrian Peterson handled most of the work.  After a couple of carries by #28, the drive appeared to stall after a pass from Brett Favre to Chester Taylor, but Green Bay DT Johnny Jolly inexplicably head-butted Taylor after the play, drawing a personal foul penalty, and the drive continued.  Peterson hammered the Vikings down to the 1, and on 4th down he punched it in for the score to give Minnesota a 7-0 lead.  The drive took 7 plays to move 14 yards and took 3:48 off of the clock.

The Vikings held the Packers to a three and out on their next possession, and a good punt return by Jaymar Johnson set the Vikings up just short of midfield.  This time, Favre did most of the heavy lifting, as he hit Sidney Rice for six yards, Harvin for nine, and Bernard Berrian for 12.  After Peterson carried the Vikings into the red zone at the 19-yard line, Favre found Rice again for seven yards.  Then, on first down from the Green Bay 12, Favre found Visanthe Shiancoe. . .it's a verb, to Shank. . .for a 12-yard touchdown pass and a 14-3 lead for the Vikings.  Minnesota's scoring drive went 51 yards in 7 plays, taking 3:37 to accomplish.

After another Packer three and out, the Vikings appeared to be on their way to scoring again, as Peterson went 33 yards on first down to put the Vikings into the red zone again at the Green Bay 16.  After a couple of short runs and an incomplete pass, the Vikings had lined up to attempt a field goal, but the Packers were whistled for a neutral zone infraction that took the Vikings from fourth and six at the 12 to fourth and one at the 7-yard line.  Brad Childress put his offense back on the field and, to the Packers' credit, they rose up and stopped Peterson in that short yardage situation, and the Vikings turned it over on downs.  That would turn out to be the only red zone failure of the afternoon for the Minnesota offense.

The only other Viking score prior to intermission came on a 41-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell, and Minnesota went into the locker room with a 17-3 lead.

After the Vikings' lone non-red zone touchdown of the afternoon, a 51-yard bomb from Favre to Harvin, the Vikings had a 24-3 lead and appeared to be on cruise control.  However, things got a bit dicey for the Purple after that, as Green Bay got a field goal and two touchdown passes to something named Spencer Havner to give them 17 unanswered points and pull the score to 24-20.  Then the Packers decided to kick to Harvin again, and again #12 made them pay, ripping off another huge return (48 yards) and letting the Vikings start at the Green Bay 38-yard line.  A 15-yard pass to Harvin that was sandwiched between a couple of Peterson runs (and a B.J. Raji face mask penalty) moved the Vikings inside of the Green Bay 10.  After Chester Taylor toted the rock down to the 2, Favre rolled right and found Jeff Dugan at the goal line for his third touchdown pass of the evening and made the Viking lead 11 points again at 31-20.  The drive went 38 yards in seven plays, taking 3:22 to accomplish.

The Packers answered on their next drive with a TD pass from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings, and the score went to 31-26 after a failed two-point conversion attempt.  After a punt from the Vikings and a missed field goal by Mason Crosby, the Vikings set about putting the game on ice.  Peterson took a handoff screen pass (Editor's Note:  Oops.) on the first play of the drive and raced over the left side for 44 yards, moving the Vikings to the Packers' 15-yard line.  After a couple of unsuccessful carries brought up third and 11, Favre dropped back and fired a quick pass to Bernard Berrian, who was subsequently tossed into the end zone by his helmet by Al Harris for a 16-yard touchdown for Minnesota.  It was Favre's fourth touchdown of the day, their fourth red zone touchdown of the day, and it provided the final margin of victory by a count of 38-26.

All that means that, through the first half of the 2009 season, the Minnesota Vikings' offense has made 31 trips into the red zone, and have come away with points on 27 of those occasions.  17 of those have been touchdowns, with 10 being Ryan Longwell field goals, giving the Vikings a red zone touchdown percentage of roughly 63% on the season.  The game against Green Bay was one of the poorer performances of the year for Minnesota's red zone defense, as they allowed the Packers to convert points on all five of their red zone appearances (three touchdowns, two field goals).  So, for the year, Viking opponents have gotten into the red zone 22 times, and have come away with nine touchdowns and seven field goals, giving them a red zone touchdown percentage of roughly 41%.  Hopefully both of these numbers will improve on Sunday against the Detroit Lions.