Are Offensive Players Buying It?

With the regular season at the halfway point and the offense still struggling in most games, it begs the question: Do the offensive players have confidence in the system or does the system need tweaking?

Vikings coach Brad Childress isn't planning to alter his play-calling, but after a second prolonged scoreless stretch by his offense, he acknowledge he isn't sure how much players have bought into his West Coast offense.

"I'd be surmising if I'd answer that," Childress said a day after the Vikings' 9-3 loss at San Francisco. "I have different schools of thought (on whether players have bought in). I think that at times yes and at times no. You'd have to ask those guys. It's been effective throughout time. Does a wide receiver have to get open against man-to-man? Sure he does. Do you have to protect the quarterback? In all schemes you have to.

"But I think it allows tremendous flexibility. It allows a good runner to run, a quarterback to be a decision-maker. Sometimes it takes longer than others, but I'm not willing to put that off on the reason we are stopping ourselves."

The Vikings, though, are definitely stopping themselves. A 31-7 Monday night loss to New England was followed by the anemic performance against a San Francisco defense that had given up an NFL-high 235 points entering Sunday.

Minnesota will enter Sunday's game against Green Bay having failed to get an offensive touchdown in nine consecutive quarters.

While many facets of the offense have failed to come together, quarterback Brad Johnson is taking much of the heat. He has turned over the ball six times in the past two games, including four interceptions.

Receiver Troy Williamson also has become a lightning rod because of his inability to hang onto the football. He had two key drops against the 49ers, including one on a third-and-7 play on the Vikings' last drive.

Childress, though, said he has no plans for any shakeup at this point.

"I'm not going to pile it all at somebody's feet and knee-jerk and make a change," he said. "I just think everybody is accountable, and it starts with me. I'm not going to change myself out and change the offense. Does it mean playing-time changes? It could, but again, I refuse to just pile it at one person's feet and say this is that person's problem. That's the easiest thing in the world to do is to point fingers, specifically on offense when there are 11 people that have culpability."

With the Vikings defense holding the 49ers without a touchdown Sunday, Childress knows he must guard against frustration setting in.

"We've all, sitting in that room as coaching staffs, been on teams that have been exceptional on offense and the defense has been poor, exceptional on defense (and the) offense is poor," Childress said. "I think you look it right in the eyes and call it what it is. We talk about that, but we talk about things on the team. Does it mean there is not frustration? Sure, there is frustration. Guys are competitors. You're in this business to win, but I think you address them. We've addressed that. We need to get better on offense."

NOTES

  • FB Tony Richardson on the Vikings' offensive struggles: "I think the biggest thing is you can't have negative plays. You can't drop the football when it's thrown to you, or you just can't turn the football over. If you have turnovers, it kills you. It gives you a less than 20 percent chance to win the football game regardless of who you're playing. Those are the type of things that we can address. But those are problems we can fix. If it was lack of talent, then it's like, ‘Wow, we need to throw things out and restart over.' But it's not. We have a lot of talent in this offense, we just got to make more plays, that's all."

  • CB Antoine Winfield and the defense aren't pointing fingers at the offense, but he made it clear that all three phases of the game must be working. "We were pretty confident coming out here playing against San Fran that we would have a good outing," he said. "Looking at their offensive personnel and our defensive personnel, we definitely had the advantage. But it's tough. It's a team game, and you need every phase."

  • S Darren Sharper, who turned 31 on Nov. 3, knows being on a .500 team isn't going to get him where he wants to go. "I'm frustrated," he said after the loss to the 49ers. "I came here to win championships. I only have so many years left. I know a lot of guys on the team feel that way. You're going to be frustrated whenever you lose. You have to go back and try to find a way to fix it."

  • Richardson suffered a fractured right thumb in Sunday's game but won't need surgery. Richardson did have the thumb in a cast Monday.

  • DE Darrion Scott has a Grade 1 high left ankle sprain that, according to coach Brad Childress, is not the most severe sprain. Scott had his foot in a walking boot after Sunday's game.

  • S Will Hunter received treatment Monday for back spasms.

  • LG Steve Hutchinson is expected to be fine for Sunday's game against Green Bay after spraining his right knee and ankle against the 49ers.

  • MLB Napoleon Harris likely will remain questionable on the injury report this week after missing Sunday's game because of a dislocated left wrist. Coach Brad Childress said Harris will have to see how he "comes through pain-wise" this week.

  • WR Marcus Robinson missed a second consecutive game Sunday because of a lower back injury, and there is no certainty he will play against Green Bay. "Right now I don't know what his status would be," coach Brad Childress said Monday.

  • CB Cedric Griffin saw all the playing time in the nickel package Sunday as Ronyell Whitaker watched. Those two had rotated on a series-by-series basis in recent weeks. In nickel situations, Griffin lined up at left corner and Antoine Winfield moved into the slot.


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