Minnesota Moving in Wrong Direction

Brad Childress made it clear last January that one of the main reasons he decided to take the job as the Vikings head coach was because the team wasn't far from being a contender. Ten games into his inaugural season as an NFL head coach, Childress might want to reassess that opinion.

The Vikings will enter Sunday's game at Miami on a three-game losing streak and with a 4-5 record that makes them look more like a rebuilding project.

A few weeks back the tone in the Vikings' locker room was one of self-confidence. That tone has since changed to one of urgency and if things continue on their current path resignation among his players will be the next dilemma with which Childress will have to deal.

The problem is there are no easy fixes that can be made to turn things around. Veteran quarterback Brad Johnson has struggled but that is only part of the problem for what ails the West Coast offense that Childress has installed.

The deficiencies begin with the head coach and his play-calling, which far too often is conservative and operates under the philosophy of, "We won't take it if it's not there."

Yes, the Vikings don't have a very good group of receivers -- matters haven't been helped by the fact Marcus Robinson has missed the past three games because of injury -- but Childress rarely attempts to even create the perception that the Vikings might go vertical.

In last Sunday's loss to Green Bay, for example, Brad Johnson found receiver Bethel Johnson on passes of 35 and 40 yards in the second quarter. But Bethel Johnson did not see another legitimate down-field shot directed his way until the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, all faith appears to have been lost in receiver Troy Williamson, who has had some key drops this season but who also is one of the few Vikings receivers with breakaway speed.

Not having to worry about the deep pass enables opponents to focus on stacking the box and stopping running back Chester Taylor; what doesn't help matters is Taylor is showing signs of wearing down after getting 20 or more carries in seven of the Vikings' nine games.

The Vikings' sixth-ranked defense has been a bright spot for most of the season but even that unit has run into a rough stretch of late. While the run defense continues to be ranked No. 1 in the league and opponents have found little opportunity to gain yards against tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, teams have begun exploiting a pass defense that has fallen to 26th in the NFL.

This has been true in two of the past three games as New England's Tom Brady and Green Bay's Brett Favre both shredded the Vikings secondary.

Brady passed for 372 yards in the Patriots' 31-7 victory on Oct. 30 and Favre threw for 347 on Sunday at the Metrodome. Odds are Miami's Joey Harrington won't be able to do the same but this is just one more problem the Vikings must fix if they want any chance of playing into January.


-- Gary Anderson's 53-yard field goal with 17 second remaining gave the Vikings a 20-17 victory over the Dolphins on Dec. 31, 2002 at the Metrodome. Anderson's game-winner tied Jan Stenerud for the longest game-winning field goal in franchise history.

-- The first-ever meeting between the Vikings and Dolphins occurred on Oct. 1, 1972 and provided Miami with its biggest scare in what turned into the NFL's first and only perfect season. In that game at Metropolitan Stadium, the Vikings held an eight-point lead with four and a half minutes left. Garo Yepremian then kicked a 51-yard field goal during a series in which the Dolphins converted a fourth-and-1 from their own 29. Miami got the ball back with 2:11 remaining and drove down the field thanks in part to a questionable roughing the passer call on Minnesota defensive tackle Bob Lurtsema that resulted in a first down at the Vikings 42. The drive ended with quarterback Bob Griese's 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jim Mandich for the winning score in a 16-14 victory.

-- Running back Larry Csonka rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns and was named the MVP in the Dolphins victory over the Vikings in Super Bowl VIII. That made him the first running back to earn Super Bowl MVP honors. Miami scored 24 unanswered points in the first three quarters.

-- Quarterback Dan Marino passed for 264 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Dolphins to a 24-7 victory over the Vikings on Oct. 2, 1988 in the last meeting between these teams in Miami. Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer threw four interceptions and was benched five minutes into the second half. He returned later in the game after backup Rich Gannon was injured and threw another pick.

-- Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who was traded by the Vikings to the Dolphins during the offseason, passed for 355 yards in a 13-7 Vikings victory over the Dolphins on Sept. 10, 2000.

-- Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams posted the first interception of his career when he picked off Dolphins quarterback A.J. Feeley and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown on Dec. 5, 2004 at Miami. Williams was a member of the Buffalo Bills at the time.

-- In case you're wondering whatever happened to Rick Spielman, he's now the Vikings vice president of player personnel. Spielman spent five seasons with the Dolphins (2000-04) and was the team's general manager in 2004.

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