In Childress' words, it's the quantity of the run, not the quality that matters most.
In their first two games, both three-point wins, the Vikings had quantity at least. Chester Taylor rushed 31 times in the season opener at Washington but gained only 88 yards, averaging 2.8 yards per rush. Fewer carries proved better for Taylor in the second game, as he ran the ball 24 times for 113 yards, a much-improved 4.7 yards per run.
But that commitment to Taylor and the ground game has begun to fade. Last weekend, Taylor's runs continued to diminish, carrying the ball 20 times for 74 yards, a 3.7-yard average. Against Buffalo on Sunday, Taylor rushed only 10 times for 23 yards, a 2.3-yard average.
The Vikings completed 25 of 44 passes against Buffalo, marking a clear change in strategy to throw the ball more (in their first three games, QB Brad Johnson attempted 30, 31 and 31 passes). Yet, maybe it's time to simply look to mix up who is running the ball, not how much the team is running it.
Mewelde Moore led the Vikings in rushing last year with 662 yards in 155 attempts and is the leader in average per rush among their top three running backs this season – Taylor with a 3.5-yard average on 85 attempts, fullback Tony Richardson with a 2.5-yard average on four carries and Moore with a 6.25-yard average on eight carries. While the Vikings have hardly given the ball to Moore enough to make any definitive statement about how much more successful he might be than Taylor, it's clear the Vikings need to improve their running game – and at least mixing more of Moore into the lineup could be the infusion they need.
McGAHEE GETS STRONGER
The theory behind running the ball often is that it wears down defenses throughout the game. Vikings coaches and players continue to echo that sentiment, but that was turned against them in Buffalo.
McGahee rushed 28 times for 78 in the game, but the Vikings held him largely in check, especially before the Bills' final two drives with less than eight minutes in the game, when they were trying to preserve a lead by running time off the game clock.
In that span, McGahee rushed seven times for 23 yards. The rest of the game, he rushed 21 times for 55 yards.
PENALTIES … AGAIN
All week long, the players and coaches blamed penalties for much of their red zone inefficiency. While a look back showed that penalties weren't a big issue in the red zone, they were an issue throughout the game.
The Vikings entered the game averaging 8.7 penalties per game for 65.7 yards per game. They only hurt their average Sunday in Buffalo when they had 12 penalties for 78 yards. But even worse than the number of penalties was the timing of them.
And time was of the essence on two of their most hurtful penalties. With 3:07 to play in fourth quarter, Marcus Robinson caught a 29-yard touchdown from Johnson and the Vikings, trailing by five points, needed to go for a two-point conversion. They lined up with no running backs behind Brad Johnson, and right tackle Marcus Johnson proceeded to rock back in his stance before the snap of the ball, sending the offense from the 2-yard line to 7-yard line. When the ensuing pass failed, the Vikings needed to stop Buffalo and score a quick touchdown.
The defense might have had the Bills offense stopped in three plays, but on third-and-1 defensive end Kenechi Udeze was baited into jumping across the line on a hard count from quarterback J.P. Losman, giving Buffalo's offense a new set of downs. Three plays later, Udeze stopped Losman on a bootleg, but that was almost 40 seconds and two Vikings timeouts later.
Considering the game ended on the 13-yard line with time running out and the Vikings looking for another chance at the end zone, those precious seconds and timeouts would have come in handy.
The Vikings entered the game with a sack deficit of four – getting only three sacks in three games on defense while Brad Johnson had taken seven sacks. They nearly evened the score in Buffalo.
While the offensive line has received some of the blame for the team's struggles in the running game, they have done an adequate job protecting Johnson, who avoided taking any sacks.
On the other side of the ball, rookie end Ray Edwards and defensive tackle Kevin Williams each had solo sacks while Darrion Scott and E.J. Henderson combined for a third sack on Losman.
A FIRST ON THIRD
On first glance, the Vikings' third-down conversion rate was bad – 2-for-13 for 15 percent. On second analysis, it was absolutely brutal after their first drive – 0-for-10.
On their initial third down of the game, the Vikings converted with a 12-yard slant to Marcus Robinson, inactive last week, on third-and-2.
Three plays later, the Vikings converted third-and-10 with a swing pass to fullback Tony Richardson that he turned into a 25-yard gain down a wide-open right sideline.
However, while players and coaches generally blamed penalties for their previous woes on third down and in the red zone last week, the team's first drive of the game stalled on a third-down penalty. On third-and-4 from the Bills 18-yard line, wide receiver Travis Taylor caught a 5-yard pass, but he was flagged for offensive pass interference when he ran into a defender on an in-and-out pattern.
That set up a string of 11 straight third-down failures.
Troy Williamson didn't have one of his better games. He dropped a pass in the second quarter and another in the fourth quarter – the second one being a third-down attempt that ended a drive.
He also had a false start in the second quarter and was the team's primary kick returner, although he only returned one kick for 24 yards (the Bills pooched two kicks that came down near or in the arms of offensive linemen lined up to block for Williamson.
Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes was held out of the game with a sore hamstring, replaced in the lineup by Keith Ellison. The Vikings held out linebacker Ben Leber, who battled a sprained knee all week, and replaced him with Dontarrious Thomas.
QB Tarvaris Jackson, WR Maurice Mann, S Will Hunter, RB Ciatrick Fason, LB Ben Leber, OL Ryan Cook and Anthony Herrera and TE Jeff Dugan were also inactive for the Vikings.
For the Bills, QB Craig Nall, CB Ashton Youboty, RB Shaud Williams, OL A. Merz and DL E. Powell were also inactive.