On Sunday afternoon, the Minnesota Vikings took the Dallas Cowboys out to the proverbial woodshed. The offense put up 34 points against the week's fashionable defensive pick and the defense mostly dominated an offense that many pundits, on the strength of two consecutive victories over a hapless Eagles' team, picked to shine through Super Bowl Sunday. That much-ballyhooed offense mustered a scant three points against the Vikings.
Given the change in operational perspective at Winter Park following the Vikings' pitiful loss to the Chicago Bears three weeks ago, the Vikings' offensive showing on Sunday was not entirely surprising. Nor, given Tony Romo's penchant for disappearing in meaningful games and the Cowboys' difficulty establishing a consistent rushing threat all season long, was it entirely surprising that Vikings' defense ultimately had its way with the Cowboys' offense.
What was a bit surprising, and thoroughly welcomed by probably almost all Vikings' fans, however, was the decidedly changed approach that Vikings' head coach Brad Childress took both to the game and to the post-game podium. Rather than relying on the most conservative game plan both capable of producing a Vikings' victory and keeping the head coach in good standing with his quarterback, Childress moved a bit closer to the realm of making use of all of the talent on his squad.
Childress' seeming epiphany--part of his now ten-quarter metamorphosis--resulted in the Vikings using Chester Taylor rather than Adrian Peterson on more meaningful running plays early in the game, using Peterson as a target on at least one important screen play and Taylor on several others, and exploiting the Cowboys' suspect secondary at virtually every opportune moment.
It was entirely un-Childress like. But lest Vikings' fans get the notion that this was all about an injury to Nafahu Tahi that kept Childress' favorite short-and-long-for-short target out of the game against Dallas, there was more.
Late in the game, the Vikings twice had the ball deep in the Cowboys' end. On the first of the two drives, the Vikings opted to throw into the endzone rather than attempt a mid-range field goal. The move seemed sensible and very Childress-like. It was the cautious approach--no need to have an errant kick blocked and returned for a touchdown with time dwindling off the game clock. A pass into the endzone was a hit or miss proposition, particularly with how Favre threw the pass.
The series ended with a turnover on downs and most Vikings' fans thought that was that. But the Cowboys turned the ball over on downs, themselves, deep in their own territory. And, rather than run the clock out, as he well could have done, Childress decided to make a point--the kind that the even-keeled, never-show-emotion, coach previously would have eschewed.
On Sunday, Childress moved past the dagger--something the Vikings' defense provided when Ben Leber picked Tony Romo--and to point-making, opting for a touchdown pass to a poorly covered Visanthe Shiancoe over running out the game clock. It was an utter Bill Belichek move. And it was precisely what the Vikings owed themselves, their fans, and the previously far-too-haughty-for-accomplishing-nothing Cowboys.
Childress followed up his on-field statement with another uncharacteristic post-game statement, suggesting in fairly certain terms that the final touchdown was motivated, in part, by Dallas' own pre-game, sophomoric bravado. He made clear, more importantly, however, that that touchdown represented the approach that the Vikings intended to take going forward. Something for the New Orleans Saints to deliberate in the coming week.
For the Vikings to win the Super Bowl this year, they need continued strong play from their offense and the kind of pressure on the quarterback that the defensive line applied against Romo. They also need, however, a head coach willing to do in the next two games what he did against Dallas--play to win. Childress' penchant for conservatism might be the biggest obstacle of all for this Vikings' team. But, if Sunday was any indication, it might not be much of an obstacle for the remainder of the season.
Up Next: Taylor In, Peterson Out. Plus, Harvin In, Berrian Out.