Monday, January 05, 2009

Debunking Defense of Childress' Offense

It's getting thick and it's getting heavy. After a trickle of mention last week in one of the local papers, the line is getting too much to take.

It began with a simple, if misguided, contention that the Vikings lead the league in explosive plays for touchdowns. Let us leave aside, for the moment, the fact that this statistic is a completely artificial construct. Let us also leave aside the fact that, even if accepted as accurate and proof of the greatness of an offense, it does little to mute the reality that the Vikings ranked from the middle to the bottom of the NFL in numerous more telling offensive statistics (e.g., 12th in points per game, 17th in yards per game, 25th in passing yards per game, 18th in first downs, 19th in 3rd down conversions, 12th in receiving touchdowns, and 14th in rushing touchdowns).

Instead, let us merely see how the explosiveness breaks down.

For the season, counting yesterday's home playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings had 20 explosive scoring plays. Of the 20, six were running plays, five were off of dump passes of five yards or less, and nine were on deep passes.

It is evident that the purpose of the comment regarding the Vikings' explosive scoring plays is to defend the Vikings' offensive playcalling and to suggest that, despite what everyone sees, it not only is a solid offensive system, but also getting the most out of the talent it has. Instead, it merely shows the futility of the Vikings' system.

In 17 games this season, the Vikings scored 37 offensive touchdowns. That means that over half of their scores came on explosive plays (54 percent). At first blush, it's tempting to jump to the conclusion that the results suggest a strong performance.

What the results suggest, however, is quite the opposite. Though it is nice, even necessary, to have big-play capability, and while it is good that Childress finally appears to understand this need, the Vikings' inability to sustain such a performance not only over the course of the season but even within games, merely suggests that the Vikings' offense has potential but lacks guidance. While other teams sustain drives with short- and intermediate range passing, the Vikings have to rely on the rare surprise pass beyond the sticks.

Although having the most dominant running back in the league, the Vikings have parlayed that advantage into a mere nine deep pass scoring plays. Yesterday's game merely highlighted this shortcoming in the Vikings' offense.

Routinely facing an Eagles' defense that employed one defender more than five yards off the line of scrimmage, the Vikings could do nothing in the passing game. If the explosive scoring plays statistic is to have any meaning, particularly the meaning suggested by those beholden to Childress and the Vikings' organization for their jobs, such plays ought to be made in abundance when they matter and when the opposing team dares the Vikings to try an explosive play. Until that happens, the stat is as utterly meaningless as the continuing attempts to defend Childress' record in Minnesota.

Up Next: Would Anyone Do Less?

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