After last week's narrow victory over the New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings' head coach Brad Childress declared that he was tickled to have a victory, no matter how that victory came to be. When quizzed as to Adrian Peterson's frame of mind after the second-year running back rushed for 32 yards on 21 carries, Childress added his back to the tickled club. "He's just happy to get the win, we all are," Childress monotoned. "He's tickled to death."
Today, the Vikings entered their home game against the winless Detroit Lions, a team that had surrendered 34, 48, 31, and 34 points to Atlanta, Green Bay, San Francisco, and Chicago, respectively, in their four previous games. The Vikings left with a 12-10 victory and Childress, flop-sweating, insisting that he was again tickled.
The problem for the Vikings was not the lack of rushing by Adrian Peterson, who, despite still being routinely pulled from the game in third-down situations and being a virtual non-presence in the short-passing game, finished the game with 111 yards rushing. Nor was the problem the inability of quarterback Gus Frerotte to find open receivers, as Frerotte connected on 18 of 36 passes for 296 yards--nearly making him the first quarterback in the Brad Childress era to reach the 300-yard passing plateau.
Rather, the problem for the Vikings continued to be poor offensive line play and poor offensive execution, in general. Of the team's 14 offensive possessions, the Vikings had a mere four possessions with neither a sack, penalty, or turnover; five of the 14 series had multiple transgressions.
Of the Vikings' four sack-, penalty-, and turnover-free series, only one resulted in points, that a one-play drive leading to an 86-yard touchdown pass from Frerotte to Bernard Berrian. The other three flawless series resulted in a combined 12 plays with two three-and-outs and one six-and-out.
On the three "error-free" series that did not lead to a score, the Vikings opted to shoot themselves in the proverbial foot with the predictable play calling that has become Childress' calling card. On the fifth series of the game, the Vikings ran Peterson right, Peterson up the middle, and heaved it deep with a prayer on third and long. On the thirteenth series, the Vikings opted for a variant on the run, throwing short, then running Chester Taylor right for negative yards then passing short of the first-down marker.
It was classic Childress play calling.
The problem for Childress, and the issue that had hordes of Vikings' fans at the stadium calling for Childress' dismissal despite the victory, is that what Childress considers innovate wrinkles, others see as a variation on a transparent theme. Whether the Vikings run or pass on first down, they virtually always opt for a low risk, low reward play. That means running behind the line or passing just beyond the line of scrimmage. While one play is a pass and the other a run, they both allow opposing defenses to cheat up. And that means that, rather than complement, the plays duplicate one another and make defense relatively easy.
The result is a plodding offense built to beat the worst, compete with most, and struggle against the best. Sunday's result was simply further confirmation of that fact--a fact that could leave Childress in a pickle sooner rather than later.
Up Next: More Evidence of Plodding.