Three weeks into the season, wide reciever Stefon Diggs is second in the NFL with 325 receiving yards while on pace to eclipse 100 receptions for the season. Sam Bradford has found a rising young star in Diggs, however, his emerging go-to target in the red zone is tight end Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph caught another red zone touchdown pass this week as the Vikings sacked the Carolina Panthers in a 22-10 victory. The win snapped the Panthers’ 14-game home winning streak and keeps the Minnesota Vikings unbeaten at 3-0.
The Vikings ran seven plays in the red zone (four passes and three runs) on three possessions. The red zone offense scored a touchdown and kicked two field goals.
The Panthers had two offensive snaps in the red zone (two runs) on one possession and scored a touchdown.
Red Zone Notes:
In the first quarter the Panthers reached the red zone first when Cam Newton hit Corey Brown on a deep 27-yard pass over the coverage of Captain Munnerlyn down the left side line. On 1st-and-goal from the 9-yard line, Fuzzy Whittaker ran the ball for a six yard pickup. Newton then ran it in for the score on the following play to give the Panthers an early 0-7 lead. Newton runs the read option as well as any quarterback in the league, and on this play, his ball fake was so good he practically walked into the end zone around the right side of the Vikings’ defense.
Early in the third quarter the Vikings had their first opportunity in the red zone. Bradford hit Rudolph on a 15-yard wheel route on first down to put the Vikings ahead for good 16-10. Bradford improved to 2-0 as the Vikings starter, completing 18 of 28 passes for 171 yards. He and Rudolph appear to be developing great chemistry over the last two weeks. Rudolph caught seven balls for 70 yards in the game and his touchdown reception capped off a 10 play 79 yard drive.
The Vikings found the red zone two more times in the fourth quarter and settled for a pair of Blair Walsh field goals. Walsh hit from 28-yards after a drive stalled on the 10 yard line when a Jerick McKinnon run and two pass attempts couldn’t generate more than four yards in the red zone.
Walsh split the uprights again late in the game. This time from 31-yards out when an 11 play drive fizzled out at the 13 yard line. McKinnon lost four yards on first down, and Matt Asiata only gained one yard on his second-down carry. Bradford’s incomplete pass on third down set up Walsh’s icing-on-the-cake final chip shot.
I like the fact that the Vikings eliminated the red zone penalties that hurt them in the first two games. It’s also nice to see Rudolph stepping up in the red zone.
The Vikings have a great defense, so I’m a bit surprised that they have allowed five touchdowns on six red zone possessions in the first three games. I guess I shouldn’t complain as long as they continue to dominate opponents and terrorize quarterbacks outside the 20 yard line.