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Vikings not committing as many penalties

By Judd Zulgad

McClatchy Newspapers

Brad Childress has shown his players charts and graphs detailing the damage penalties can do. He has lectured them about the NFL-worst 123 penalties they took a year ago in his first season as coach. But none of that provided the motivation to steer clear of miscues that Childress gave his players from the opening day of training camp.

Each time one of them committed a pre-snap penalty he had to run to the far goalpost and back. The embarrassment was bad, but it wasn’t the worst part.

"That will wreck you. Especially in training camp," tight end Jim Kleinsasser said. "You’re gassed to begin with and then you have to run 80 yards and come back and hop back in there. It will teach you to shape up."

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And that’s exactly what the Vikings have done when it comes to drawing yellow hankies. After being called for four penalties in a 20-13 victory against Chicago on Monday night, the Vikings have been called for 76 infractions for 592 yards in 14 games.

That ranks 13th in the NFL and is 32 fewer penalties than the Vikings had through the same number of games last season. During their five-game winning streak, the Vikings have averaged 3.8 penalties per game.

"We looked at it halfway through the season where we were at; I want to say we were 23rd (in the NFL)," Childress said. "We looked at it after another quarter. I think we were 14th, and what is interesting in the last (few) games offense, defense and special teams, how it’s trending downward."

The Vikings have not taken more than five penalties in a game since being called for 11 in a 35-17 victory against San Diego in Week 9. That was one of only three games in which Minnesota has been penalized more than seven times. Last season, the Vikings had eight or more penalties in exactly half their games.

Avoiding third-and-long

Childress and his coaching staff get upset about pre-snap violations, such as false starts. Those ultimately create third-and-long situations that make life so difficult on offenses.

The Vikings, though, have managed to avoid such a call since the second half of a Dec. 2 victory over Detroit when quarterback Tarvaris Jackson had a false start. An offensive lineman hasn’t been called for a false start since right guard Anthony Herrera was penalized in Week 11.

The Vikings point to a familiarity with the team’s offensive scheme as a reason for the improvement.

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"I don’t think it can hurt because there isn’t all that thinking," Childress said. "Typically a snap count is the last thing that is said in the huddle, and if you are still processing the information that was given to you in the play the last thing you (want to have to do is) tap the guy next to you and say, ‘Now what was that on?’"

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