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Updated: October 15th, 2012 5:19pm
Notebook: Vikings will turn attention to red-zone offense this week

Notebook: Vikings will turn attention to red-zone offense this week

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Leslie Frazier wasn't happy to see any of the Minnesota Vikings' opening three drives Sunday end with field goals from the red zone. But the Vikings coach had no problem identifying which one was the most painful to see end with only three points.

With the Vikings up 6-0, cornerback Antoine Winfield made a nice play to intercept a pass from Robert Griffin III along the sideline. That gave the Vikings the ball at the Washington 35-yard line, but after picking up one first down the drive stalled at the Redskins 9.

Blair Walsh came on to kick his third field goal of the game and his second of the day from 27 yards.

"When we got the turnover from Antoine, the emotion on our bench was like, 'OK, this is it. We're getting ready to really put the pedal to the metal here,'" Frazier said. "When we came away with a field goal, and I know how we are on defense, after that turnover, when you hold a team to a field goal in plus territory, it's like a win.

"So I would imagine from their standpoint it reversed. Instead of us getting inflated, they were the group that got inflated from being able to hold us to a field goal. So that one, because of the emotion from our team and our bench and everybody being involved, that was the one I really wanted to see us get in the end zone."

The Redskins, en route to a 38-26 victory, scored the next 24 points before the Vikings got on the board again with another Walsh field goal in the third quarter.

The Vikings' failures to get touchdowns in the red zone were a main topic Monday, as Frazier discussed the end of his team's three-game winning streak. The Vikings entered the game with one of the NFL's best red-zone touchdown rates, having scored nine in 15 chances (60 percent).

After going 2 for 7 (29 percent) on Sunday, that figure had dipped to 50 percent (11 of 22) and put the Vikings in a tie for 17th in the NFL with Dallas and Pittsburgh when it came to red-zone touchdown efficiency.

"That's frustrating," Winfield said about not getting more touchdowns from inside the Redskins' 20-yard line. "When you're on the road, you have to start fast. Touchdowns would have been great. Seems like we've been doing that the last few road games, starting slow, getting field goals, teams are scoring and we're losing games."

Frazier said he thought the Vikings had a good plan for operating in the red zone at FedEx Field, but gave credit to the Washington defense for remaining disciplined. However, Frazier also made it clear that the Vikings' offensive staff will spend this week studying what went wrong.

"When that happens, when you get thwarted like we did in the red zone, you look at everything - what we're calling, the plays that we're running, how we're calling those plays," Frazier said. "We really stress not kicking field goals and trying to get touchdowns.

"Even if we get one touchdown in any one of those three situations, it's probably going to affect the way they're going to call the game on the other side at that point. But it didn't happen, so, yes, we're going to go through it with a fine-toothed comb - what could we have done a little bit better?"

Among the expected adjustments: Running back Toby Gerhart said he expects the Vikings are going to focus on red-zone drills earlier this week in practice. "Hopefully, that makes a difference," he said.

Getting his chance

A few days after saying they would like to see Brandon Fusco play with more confidence, the Vikings provided the second-year right guard with some potential motivation to clean up his uneven performance and got veteran Geoff Schwartz his first work of the regular season.

Schwartz, who signed a one-year, $700,000 free-agent deal with the Vikings during the offseason, played two series Sunday in place of Fusco. He entered in the second quarter and again in the third.

It was Schwartz's first regular-season action since 2010. He spent all of last season on injured reserve with the Carolina Panthers because of an issue with his right hip. Schwartz missed much of training camp and all of the preseason this year after having sports hernia surgery.

"We wanted to be able to take a look at Geoff and get him some game action and (Sunday) allowed us to do that," Frazier said. "We want to be able to do that periodically. We felt like that was a good game to do it. It worked out pretty good. I think he had 11 snaps. We got some good game-action tape that we weren't able to get in the preseason to evaluate him and we'll see where it goes from there."

Frazier said Schwartz, who is in his fourth NFL season, did a good job.

"Good enough where we feel comfortable, if something were to happen, we could get him in there," Frazier said. "Some other things we want to be able to see from him, but we're going to continue to evaluate it as we go forward."

Frazier made no promises about when Schwartz might get more reps.

"I'd been down for so long, I was glad to just finally get back on the field," Schwartz said. "That was more of a concern for me than not playing right away. ... I thought my second series was better than the first one, so going forward, I have things to work on. But I do have some film and we'll just go from there."

Asked if being taken out was a blow to his pride, Fusco said: "No. It's the coaches' decision and I think it's whatever they think is the right decision. I just have to go with it. I just have to worry about myself. Brandon Fusco. Go out there practice every day and just have a great attitude, get better, work on techniques and just worry about myself."

Fusco said the coaches want him to clean up his technique.

"I just have to continue to work and watch the film, study more," he said. "Sometimes I'm playing like it's a guessing game out there. I have to be more confident out there and just play my game, be aggressive and just do what I can do best."

Courageous performance

Defensive end Everson Griffen received praise from Frazier for playing Sunday, only days after his mother passed away suddenly. Sabrina Scott, 52, had been visiting her son in the Twin Cities when she died Wednesday.

"I thought he did a great job," Frazier said when asked about Griffen. "We talked to him after the ballgame and it was so courageous on his part to be out there playing, and playing as well as he did. You watch the tape and he played hard.

"He left everything he had on the field; just a great example for our players and everybody in our organization, the tremendous sacrifice on his part. Just very, very courageous, very courageous."

Frazier said he has been told the funeral for Griffen's mother is scheduled for Saturday and that arrangements are being made. "We'll see what that does schedule-wise," Frazier said. 

Health report

Frazier said the Vikings did not have any additions to the injury report after Sunday's game.

Wide receiver Percy Harvin, who was bothered by a hamstring issue entering the game and at one point was treated on the bench for a cut on his leg, had a little soreness after the game but nothing that concerned Frazier.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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