Vikings Won't Force Deep Passes

The Vikings know their season has taken on an urgent tone, but they refuse to force anything deep in an effort to stretch the defense.

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.

Nine 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.

SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. The Dolphins lead the series 5-4, including a 24-7 victory over the Vikings in Super Bowl VIII on Jan. 13, 1974 at Rice Stadium in Houston. The Vikings, however, have won the past three meetings. Sunday's game will mark only the fourth time these teams have played in Miami.

NOTES

  • RT Marcus Johnson could be in jeopardy of losing his job to veteran Mike Rosenthal. Coach Brad Childress said Wednesday that he continues to "mull" changes in the offensive line. The most likely would results in second-year starter Johnson being benched after starting the first nine games.

  • DE Erasmus James was scheduled to undergo surgery on the torn ACL in his left knee Wednesday in Colorado. James was injured in the fourth quarter of the Vikings' victory over Carolina in Week 2. Dr. Richard Steadman will perform the procedure.

  • LB Jason Glenn is scheduled to have surgery on the torn ACL in his left knee Thursday in Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. James Andrews will handle the surgery.

  • CB Patrick Body was signed to the practice squad to take the place of WR Jason Carter, who was signed to the 53-man roster after Jason Glenn went on injured reserve. Body, who attended Toledo, played in six games with Cincinnati last season, recording four tackles. He was waived by the Bengals with an injury settlement in September.

  • WR Marcus Robinson took part in a portion of practice Wednesday for the first time since suffering a lower back injury against Seattle on Oct. 22. He is listed as questionable for Sunday.

  • MLB Napoleon Harris took part in a portion of practice Wednesday for the first time since suffering a dislocated left wrist on October 30 against New England. He is listed as questionable for Sunday.

  • RB Chester Taylor (calf) missed part of practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable. Taylor also was on the report last week.

  • CB Cedric Griffin (foot) missed part of practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable. Griffin started last Sunday in place of Fred Smoot, who missed the game because of a family tragedy.

  • LB E.J. Henderson (hamstring) missed part of practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable.

  • LG Steve Hutchinson (knee) missed part of practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable.

  • DT Pat Williams (foot) missed part of practice Wednesday and is listed as probable. Williams also was on the injury report last week.

  • C Matt Birk (neck) missed part of practice Wednesday and is listed as probable.

  • RG Artis Hicks (hip) missed part of practice Wednesday and is listed as probable.

  • FB Richard Owens (knee) missed part of practice Wednesday and is listed as probable.

  • Dontarrious Thomas (hamstring) missed part of practice Wednesday and is listed as probable.


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