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Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


270204211

How unusual was Saturday's stellar red-zone play? Let us count the ways

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated August 25th at 7:52am 272486651

How unusual was it was to witness with our very own eyes the Minnesota Vikings making not one, but two game-altering defensive plays in the red zone during Saturday night’s 30-12 preseason victory at Kansas City?

Well, let’s rewind to last season to answer that one.

According to official NFL statistical data, only the historically putrid Dallas Cowboys defense gave up more red zone touchdowns (40) than the Vikings did (39) in 2013. From a percentage standpoint, the Vikings allowed opponents to score touchdowns on 61.9 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line a year ago. That was seventh-worst in the league and third-worst in the NFC.

Saturday night, the Chiefs moved the ball inside the 20 three times against the Vikings’ first-team defense in the first half. They scored ZERO touchdowns and one field goal while throwing two interceptions.

The first interception came on first-and-goal from the 10-yard line. And the guy who made the play, Captain Munnerlyn, actually baited the quarterback, the normally ball-secure Alex Smith, into throwing the ill-advised pass. Munnerlyn gave Smith a false sense of an open window and then jumped the route with an instinctive flash that we never saw his predecessor — Chris Cook — make during four interception-free seasons.

It wasn’t a third-down play, but, hey, the Vikings also need some work on their first-down pass defense. A year ago, teams completed 67.1 percent of their first-down passes against the Vikings. That was fourth-worst in the league.

Later in Saturday’s first half, linebacker Chad Greenway read Smith’s eyes, sat on a route and caught a ball that was thrown right to him. That came on third-and-four at the Vikings’ 11. And if you assume that defenders always catch footballs thrown directly at them, then you haven’t been watching the Vikings in recent years.

A year ago, the Vikings were last in the league in pass completions allowed for first downs (15.4 per game). They also were 30th in third-down conversions allowed (44 percent).

Saturday night, Smith converted 3 of 7 third-down situations while attempting to pass. He completed passes of 18 and 11 yards, and had a 42-yard pass interference penalty on Josh Robinson. He also  was sacked once and threw an interception.

Overall, Chiefs quarterbacks converted 4 of 10 third downs while attempting passes. They were sacked twice and threw two picks on third downs.

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Minnesota 17 3rd Qtr
Miami 7
Baltimore 0 3rd Qtr
Houston 16
Detroit 7 3rd Qtr 13:11
Chicago 7
Cleveland 3 3rd Qtr 13:33
Carolina 10
Atlanta 13 3rd Qtr 14:02
New Orleans 7
Green Bay 10 3rd Qtr 13:05
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 6 3rd Qtr 12:04
Pittsburgh 10
New England 7 3rd Qtr 10:54
NY Jets 10
NY Giants 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 2:30 PM
Toronto
Memphis 3:30 PM
Cleveland
Boston 5:00 PM
Miami
Detroit 5:00 PM
Brooklyn
LA Lakers 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Orlando
Phoenix 5:00 PM
Washington
Indiana 6:00 PM
Minnesota
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Colorado 5:00 PM
Detroit
Dallas 5:00 PM
Edmonton
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Boston
Carolina 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Chicago
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Winnipeg
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 50 2nd Half 7:21
Army 48
Ferris State 68 2nd Half 6:55
Bowling Green 55
San Francisco 57 2nd Half 4:56
Cleveland State 56
Oregon State 50 2nd Half 0:27
Quinnipiac 56
Coastal Carolina 40 2nd Half 13:10
Central Arkansas 34
Holy Cross 18 1st Half 2:34
Canisius 19
Southern Miss 29 2nd Half
Georgia State 38
Western Carolina 23 1st Half 4:52
UNC-Asheville 26
Creighton 16 1st Half 1:27
North Texas 29
Maryland 29 1st Half 2:02
Oklahoma State 22
Cornell 32 1st Half 3:41
Radford 26
Vermont 17 1st Half 2:47
Saint Louis 18
Loyola-Maryland 22 1st Half 2:11
Stony Brook 21
Reinhardt 26 1st Half 3:50
Winthrop 36
Ark-Little Rock 29 2nd Half
Green Bay 33
TX-Pan American 30 1st Half 3:09
Nebraska Omaha 35
Alabama State 33 1st Half 3:51
Evansville 38
FIU 13 1st Half 11:27
Hartford 21
Goshen 0 1st Half 15:11
Valparaiso 17
Bryant 2:00 PM
Denver
Austin Peay 2:00 PM
Lipscomb
Tennessee St 2:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
South Dakota 2:00 PM
Montana
ULM 2:00 PM
Samford
Coker 2:30 PM
South Carolina
USC 3:00 PM
Boston College
Northern Ariz 3:00 PM
Hampton
SD Christian 3:00 PM
San Diego
UC Irvine 3:30 PM
Bradley
Troy 3:30 PM
Nicholls
Seton Hall 5:00 PM
Georgia
Appalachian St 5:30 PM
Alabama
North Dakota St 6:00 PM
Kent State
San Jose St 6:00 PM
Washington St
Alcorn State 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Sacramento St 9:00 PM
Seattle
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
SMU 43 FINAL
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Fairleigh Dickinson 63 2nd Half 0:24
Brown 66
Buffalo 60 2nd Half 5:31
Long Island 64
Bucknell 64 2nd Half 3:54
Mount St Marys 44
Stony Brook 65 2nd Half 1:31
Wagner 73
FIU 72 2nd Half 3:28
Wofford 63
Duquesne 35 2nd Half 5:51
Providence 52
Maine 54 2nd Half 0:02
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 38 2nd Half 2:46
Samford 49
TX-Pan American 38 2nd Half 3:40
VA Commonwealth 59
South Dakota St 62 2nd Half 0:31
Marist 79
Radford 49 2nd Half 4:24
Virginia Tech 57
(3) Texas 34 2nd Half 17:12
(4) Texas A&M 41
Rhode Island 42 2nd Half 12:53
Bryant 38
South Florida 25 1st Half 5:07
Penn State 22
Sam Houston St 25 1st Half 1:51
TCU 34
Evansville 17 1st Half 3:12
IUPUI 21
(14) Maryland 53 1st Half 1:58
Coppin State 20
Mercer 30 2nd Half
Coll of Charleston 34
NC A&T 10 1st Half 7:13
Chattanooga 21
Princeton 38 1st Half 2:32
Monmouth 20
Eastern Illinois 37 2nd Half
Lehigh 41
Rider 31 1st Half 0:44
Binghamton 30
SC State 13 1st Half 2:23
Clemson 24
Fairfield 27 1st Half 2:45
Iowa State 36
Richmond 42 2nd Half
Eastern Kentucky 26
Cleveland State 42 2nd Half
Morehead St 34
Kent State 29 1st Half 1:07
Colgate 25
South Alabama 9 2nd Half
UAB 46
Saint Peters 13 1st Half 1:02
Navy 35
Youngstown St 21 2nd Half
Pittsburgh 38
NJIT 23 1st Half 3:51
Lafayette 21
Davidson 10 1st Half 1:41
Charlotte 39
Indiana State 4 1st Half 17:16
St Johns 6
Southern U 5 1st Half 15:59
Florida 6
Wright State 6 1st Half 12:06
Purdue 12
(19) Oklahoma St 2:00 PM
USC
Houston 2:00 PM
Texas Tech
Ark-Little Rock 2:00 PM
Tulsa
Dayton 2:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Northern Ariz 2:00 PM
New Mexico
UNC-Asheville 2:00 PM
USC Upstate
North Dakota 2:00 PM
South Dakota
Western Ill 2:00 PM
Marquette
Elon 2:00 PM
(6) North Carolina
Ball State 2:00 PM
Western Ky
(8) Kentucky 2:00 PM
(13) Duke
New Orleans 2:00 PM
Alabama
Chicago State 2:00 PM
Milwaukee
Bowling Green 2:00 PM
Bradley
Ill-Springfield 2:00 PM
SE Missouri St
Northern Ill 2:00 PM
Northern Iowa
(23) Iowa 2:05 PM
Drake
Central Michigan 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Western Carolina 2:30 PM
North Florida
Wyoming 3:00 PM
Colorado
Portland 3:00 PM
Boise State
Cal Poly 3:00 PM
Colorado State
No Dakota State 3:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Albany 3:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Oklahoma 3:00 PM
Arkansas
Idaho State 3:00 PM
Seattle
(18) Michigan State 3:00 PM
(19) Syracuse
Northwestern 3:30 PM
Arizona State
TX-Arlington 3:30 PM
North Texas
Fresno State 4:00 PM
Oregon
St Francis-PA 4:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
UNLV 4:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
UCLA 4:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
(10) Louisville 4:00 PM
(24) California
Howard 5:00 PM
Virginia
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
(21) Miss State
Illinois-Chicago 8:30 PM
Old Dominion

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