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Early Problems in Red Zone Hurt Minnesota Vikings in Loss

Christian Ponder #7 of the Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) – At least the Minnesota Vikings know their defense won’t be tasked with trying to stop Robert Griffin III again during the regular season.

What running back Adrian Peterson and the rest of the Vikings want to figure out right away is how to get the ball in the end zone from the red zone. To a man, the Vikings regretted the field goals they settled for instead of touchdowns on three drives that stalled inside the 10-yard line Sunday in the first quarter of a 38-26 loss to Griffin’s Washington Redskins.

“I don’t know our defense, what they feel like they need to improve on, but offensively, we need to turn those 3 points into 7s. Period. It’s not a game if we do that,” Peterson said. “I’m going to make sure I harp on that all week and we really take it personal. Because it’s happened for four weeks in a row.”

Even players on defense for Minnesota (4-2) – which allowed a total of only 33 points in its previous three outings, and hadn’t given up more than 23 in any game this season – lamented that early string of field goals.

“We need to score more touchdowns,” said cornerback Antoine Winfield, who intercepted Griffin on Washington’s second drive.

On Minnesota’s first possession, a first-and-goal at the 10 led to fourth down at the 2. On came Blair Walsh for a 20-yard field goal.

Minnesota’s second possession stalled at the 9, and Walsh hit from 27 yards.

Same thing the next time the Vikings had the ball.

“We had a chance to go up 21-nothing,” receiver Percy Harvin pointed out, “and we didn’t do that.”

That’s true.

At the outset of the game, the Vikings built up a 148-7 advantage in total yards, yet they only turned that into a 9-0 lead.

“We had an opportunity to really silence the crowd and change the Redskins’ approach,” coach Leslie Frazier said.

Didn’t happen.

And that would really become a problem once the Redskins (3-3) got going, scoring the next 24 points in a row.

Griffin ran his option offense perfectly, to the tune of 138 yards rushing on 13 carries – including a 76-yard TD scamper on a key third-and-6 in the fourth quarter – and 17 of 22 for 182 yards and a TD throwing.

“Heck of a young player. He can throw the ball. He can run the ball,” Frazier said. “Things break down, he can make plays.”

Down 31-12 early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings did make the game more interesting, thanks to Christian Ponder’s pair of TD tosses. But with the score 31-26, and Minnesota hoping to get the ball back, Griffin beat a Vikings blitz, found a seam to run through and wound up not only getting what would have been a key first down but going all the way to the end zone.

“Real critical play,” Winfield said. “We needed to make that play. We didn’t.”

Time and time again, it was Griffin who made the difference.

“He’s a gifted player. Like I told him, just talking to him, looking him in his eyes: He’s got the heart of a champ. That’s easy to see,” said Peterson, who ran 17 times for 79 yards.

Peterson aggravated a twisted left ankle, and needed to leave the game briefly. Another key member of the offense, the do-everything Harvin, also appeared to have leg issues at times, but ended up with 11 catches for 133 yards.

Like Peterson, he did not score.

“That’s something we have to go back to the drawing board, be a little better in the red zone,” Harvin said. “Very disappointing.”

So why did the Vikings have so much trouble in the early going?

“I don’t know,” Ponder said, “what the issue is.”

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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Material may not be redistributed.

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