The Vikings under Brad Childress have been one of the league’s most proficient rushing teams, averaging 139.7 yards per game on the ground and 4.6 yards per carry since 2006, numbers that are both ranked 2nd in the NFL over that span. The Vikings also rank 2nd over that time period in rushes of 10+ yards with 208 and 4th in rushing 1st downs with 376.
But the going on the ground wasn’t as smooth on Sunday against Pittsburgh, where the Vikings averaged just 3.9 yards per carry on 23 tries and had just 5 rushing 1st downs. As a result, the Vikings had to take it to the air, with QB Brett Favre throwing a season-high 51 pass attempts.
“You’d always like to be able to exert your will and run it all the time,” Childress said on Monday. “Sometimes logic dictates that you don’t and you spread people out a little bit more and you do some other things. In a perfect world you don’t want 51 throws for us, the way we play football.”
With the Steelers so stout against the run on Sunday, I think the Vikings had to adjust their game plan a bit on the fly. So credit goes to the offensive coaching staff for identifying the issue and making the corrections. While the Vikings didn’t abandon the run – Adrian Peterson had 18 carries for 69 yards – they definitely leaned on the air attack more than usual. And the players responded, with Favre passing for a season-high 334 yards and WR Sidney Rice hauling in a career-high 11 receptions.
But credit also goes to the Steelers, who forced the Vikings to at times deviate away from their preferred offensive mode of operation. One such time occurred near the goal line in the 3rd quarter, where the Vikings called 2 consecutive pass plays from the 1-yardline on 2nd and 3rd down. Previously on a pair of 1st down plays (an offsides penalty against Pittsburgh afforded the Vikings an extra 1st down play), Peterson lost 1 yard, which along with a struggle to run the ball near the goal line earlier in the game caused the Vikings to go to the air on 2nd and 3rd down.
The decision to throw passes on 2nd and 3rd down was met with some criticism following the game, and Childress was asked about those playcalls during his press conference on Monday.
“You do what you see fit right there,” Childress explained. “We took our stabs at it (running the ball)…the best avenue we thought to go. We ran it down at the other end. It took us a while to get it in and we didn’t want to repeat a couple of those plays because they’re (the Steelers) coached on that side, too. We had a los yardage play there (on 1st down)…and just thought the better avenue to go was to move it a little bit.”
It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback right now and criticize the Vikings for not running the ball near the goal line, but the offensive staff doesn’t have the luxury of time that we as second-guessers have.
In the past, Childress has been criticized for being too predictable, and running the ball 4 times in a row in spite of continually being stonewalled by a tough Steelers defense likely would’ve resulted in more criticism anyway.
So rather than piling on and placing the blame on the decision to call pass plays instead of run plays, I give credit to the Steelers for playing great defense and coming up with a goal line stand.
After all, we’re quick to credit our defense for excellent play when they make a goal line stand against someone else’s offense.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 46 Comments »