Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tickled or Pickled?

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.


pistolpete said...

So just how long do we have to suffer yet through this Childress debacle? I like going to the games and I usually try to get to 2-3 a year. I live 250 miles away and I will be damned if I will spend my hard earned cash ever again to go to ANY game in which Childress is still coaching on our sideline.

This guy wasn't calling plays as the OC in Philadelphia and now we all know very well why he wasn't.

Zygi has to know that this guy absolutely will not lead this team very deep into any playoffs, should the zebras decide to gift wrap more wins for the Vikings. It is time for Major Dad to be out of here but I'm sure that nothing will be done for the rest of the year now that we have a "win streak."

Finchy said...

Well said as always, Vikesgeek. Perhaps the most frustrating element of the Childress regime for me is I catch myself actively rooting for the opposition during Viking's games. I certainly did today. I've been a fan of the team for over thirty years and I remember as a ten year old boy trying to convince my angry father that Steckel deserved one more year. With Childress, as you have illustrated in many posts, we have a head coach whose stubbornness and misguided philosophies quash the one thing that fans of even the worst teams have each season: hope. For the first time ever, we have a coach that I cannot wait to see at the unemployment line.

Every time the vikings manage to scrape by and win a game this season, it simply puts off both the inevitable firing of our head coach and the return of hope to thousands of tortured Viking's fans. This is a man who claims to be a "numbers guy" and yet blindly refuses to accept that statistics do not look kindly at his philosophies. Even when we win the game is so damned ugly and so much more difficult than it needed to be, it's hard to take even a modicum of enjoyment from the victory.

We're lucky enough to have an owner that does seem to be genuinely committed to bring a championship to this state and I would sincerely hope that Wilf is already making plans for a new coaching staff in 2009.

J. Lichty said...

This was a signature Childress game. He loves low scoring games decided on a field goal.

I need to chastise myself here a little. I recall after the Washington game on Monday night opening the Childress era, I was relieved that our coach new how to win a close one. He was calm on the sidelines and showed that he can win a close one -- unlike so many of his predecessors who had high powered/flashy offenses that often could not get the job done in crunch time.

Little did I realize at the time that Childress, as VG has pointed out, can only coach to close game regardless of the opponent.

Major Dad needs to go, and maybe a string of blackouts will get Zygi to see the light. Anything short of the NFC championship game this year and think Childress will be out.

Could see Billick or Linehan coming back. I like Jim Fassel, but there are some other good options out there. Zygi cannot be happy seeing a team with Peterson on it struggle to get 12 agains the Lions.

Childress may run out the string (or could get canned during the season if back to back losses against bad teams), but I really think this is his last year.

Bob G said...

I really enjoy reading your blog. I only wish you'd do more of it. My biggest gripe is Childress misuse of available personnel. I know this is rehashing already covered ground, but, it rears it's ugly head each week. QB's unable to call audibles, zone blocking (UGH) and his refusal to use AP in 3rd down or passing situations. I'm old enough to remember Chuck Foreman in Purple and the way that he was used. I'd love to be able to talk to Brad Johnson and get his true feelings about playing for this arrogant a$$. I too find myself cheering for the opposing team to win so we can rush this bum far from our team!