Brett Favre was right and Brad Childress was wrong. That’s what everyone is thinking this morning, in the wake of the Vikings‘ 17-13 win over the Washington Redskins.
Well actually, that was what they thought before the victory, but now that opinion appears genuinely vindicated. Now, thanks to the Vikings’ relatively consistent effort over the Redskins, we have solid proof that Childress’ game-planning was indeed the weak link in the offensive chain, and we would’ve been better off all along if the team had just listened to Brett Favre.
We all saw it on the field: Without Chilly, the Vikings had rhythm, the play-calling was mostly crisp, the execution was solid and the points…well, the points didn’t exactly come like a pinball machine, but they did at least come – enough to outscore the Redskins, who looked like much the more dysfunctional team.
The first Vikings possession was the most telling: with a kind of calm efficiency we haven’t seen from our offense all year, the Vikes marched down the field and, without a hint of the usual redzone ineptitude, finished off the drive with a touchdown. They got Percy Harvin involved early, they worked Adrian Peterson into the passing game, they moved Favre out of the pocket where he says he is most effective. They blocked, they held onto the balls that were thrown to them, they didn’t commit any stupid penalties, they didn’t bog down in the redzone.
In short, they avoided every pitfall that has plagued them throughout the season. At least for one possession. After that things did sort of slow down, but even during the longueurs there were signs that losing the Chilly influence was a good thing for the team. The most glaringly non-Childress-like playcall came in the first series of the third quarter: The Vikings were at 3rd-and-1, a situation where Chilly would’ve with almost 100% certainty handed the ball off. But instead of simply watching Toby Gerhart (Adrian Peterson was hurt by then) get stuffed short of the first, the Vikings went playaction, and Favre lobbed it to Visanthe Shiancoe for a pretty 29-yard gain.
All day, the Vikings hurt Washington with playaction, with bootlegs. After the game, Favre acknowledged that, when he talked about wanting to simplify things and run the plays he and his teammates are comfortable with, he was talking about playaction and bootlegs. It was a bootleg that iced the game in the fourth for the Vikings: Favre rolled out, thought he had Percy Harvin for a touchdown, realized he didn’t have Harvin and had to scramble for 10 yards and a game-icing first down.
No, the plan did not work to anything like perfection, but it worked well enough to keep the offense on the field and the defense fresh. Toby Gerhart ran well enough in relief of Adrian Peterson, Favre made enough plays with his arm (and legs), the team avoided turnovers entirely and, for the first time all year, they played decent football from the opening gun to the close.
Theoretical Chilly-defenders – they would have to be theoretical, since there aren’t any real ones – would probably insist that the team’s success was more the result of better execution and discipline than game-planning, but they would be dead wrong. The game-planning was different, and the plan worked. The playcalling was still questionable at times – giving it to Jeff Dugan on 3rd-and-short more than once is pressing your luck – but there were no glaringly atrocious decisions, no Childress-like headscratchers.
And what happened after the game was perhaps most telling of all: Leslie Frazier received hugs from his players, got a Gatorade bath, and accepted a game-ball from Favre. It was the most unbridled outpouring of affection for a coach I can ever remember seeing in a Vikings game. Half of that was love for Frazier, and half of that I suspect was relief that Childress is gone. It’s sad to say, but true: the players were just sick of Childress. What we saw on Sunday afternoon was a team – and especially a quarterback – freed from the tyranny of a mad-man.