The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Dallas Cowboys yesterday in a throwback game of sorts for Brad Childress that also marked a possible turning point for the fifth-year head coach. In the past, fixated on attempting to prove he is wiser than than wisdom, itself, Childress has eschewed makable field goals for improbable fourth-down conversion attempts, punted from an opponent's thirty-yard-line, rather than go for a short first down, run when the context screamed pass, and passed when the context screamed run. On Sunday, Childress seemed to correct these maladies and the Vikings won a game they needed to win.
The game started with good omens from the perspective of judging the head coach's acuity of mind, with Childress placing fullbacks Naufahu Tahi and Toby Gerhart and wide-receiver Hank Baskett on the inactive list while keeping John Sullivan active as a replacement for Jon Cooper, should Cooper have gotten hurt. The moves reflected a quicker than normal learning curve for Childress, who almost certainly weighed Tahi's blocking gaffes last week, Gerhart's and Baskett's irrelevance, and the Vikings' seemingly incessant need for two centers each game in assessing his inactives. Though two years late on Tahi, Childress is showing his new-found willingness and ability to play catch-up with these moves.
The decisions paid dividends for the Vikings if only in that they meant zero carries for either Gerhart or Tahi. The thought process of making wiser decisions appeared to carry over into the game.
Late in the fourth quarter, with the score tied at 21, the Vikings picked Romo at the Cowboy's thirty-yard-line. Late last year, or even earlier this year, the script would have read pass, pass, pass, with at least a fifty percent prospect of an interception. On this drive, with the game clearly on the line and the Vikings unlikely to get another meaningful opportunity to score in regulation should they fail on the drive, Childress used a combination of short passes and runs off tackle to get the offense well within Ryan Longwell's field-goal range. More impressive, however, was that the Vikings ran to the left and even outside the tackle, rather than to the weaker right side of the line, where Childress heretofore has preferred to run in crunch time in an apparent attempt at counterintuitive genius.
Also impressive is that the Vikings kept giving Adrian Peterson the ball when it became evident that the Cowboys could not keep Peterson from driving back the defensive line. Though Peterson's yardage was meager, it was sufficient to ensure that the Vikings would be in a position to put points on the board.
The drive was also impressive because the Vikings at least took a shot in the end zone. That shot came on a third-down pass to Randy Moss. The pass was precisely where it ought to have been--high enough to elude the defender and in Moss' outstretched hands. Moss failed on this attempt, but the play nevertheless bodes well not only for the Vikings' offense, but also as an indicia of where Childress' vision currently rests.
The Vikings' victory over Dallas on Sunday was no thing of beauty on the stat sheets, with the Vikings managing a meager 188 yards of offense to the Cowboys' 314. But the Vikings were proficient with their few opportunities, and that's as impressive when a team is attempting to re-align itself as would be a strong offensive showing. And, in the sewage that is the NFC, that should buy the Vikings time to see if they can move to another gear in time for the playoffs.
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