Penalty Elimination One Focus This Week

Vikings coach Brad Childress said he was disappointed with the amount of penalties the Vikings had on Sunday and called the overall outing a "debacle." We review some of the carnage, with day-after reaction from the players and coaches.

Vikings coach Brad Childress called Sunday's performance at Detroit a "debacle." Two reasons probably led to that candid assessment: Tarvaris Jackson and penalties.

Jackson threw four interceptions before leaving the game with a groin "strain" following the first offensive play in overtime, but will be the starter again if he is healthy enough, Childress said.

While Jackson's four interceptions clearly irritated Childress and were a major factor in the loss, the mental mistakes on penalties were nearly as damaging.

The Vikings committed 12 penalties for 96 yards, many of them extending Lions drives or preventing a struggling Minnesota offense from picking up first downs.

Childress has been a coach that preaches avoiding presnap penalties and had players jog the length of the field and back during training camp when they jumped offside. After committing only four penalties for 35 yards in their season opener at the Metrodome, it appeared that preseason preaching might have been taking hold. After Sunday's performance at Ford Field, that thinking has been turned on its head.

"I want to say that it has paid off after I look at that first week. That was a plus," Childress said.

There were numerous instances of costly infractions Sunday.

Childress said the special teams penalties have improved despite a block in the back during a return, but there were too many false starts and defensive offsides for his liking.

Defensively, two penalties stood out. In the final minutes of the first half, the Lions were driving into scoring position and were facing fourth-and-1 at the 16-yard line. With one second left on the play clock, defensive tackle Kevin Williams took off on a hard count and gave the Lions a new set of downs. "Offensively and defensively, that's just a matter of your focus and focusing in a tough environment," Childress said. "For us to jump offside on a fourth-and-1 where they are trying to draw us offside, you might say it was good coaching on that side. I thought our guys did a good job of hanging in there because I did think there was a head-bob at first and not so much the second time."

The Lions ended up with a field goal anyway, but they were allowed to take more time off the clock and leave the Vikings with about a minute to attempt a final drive of the half.

On the Lions' second drive of the second half, the Vikings had them in third-and-22 when defensive tackle Spencer Johnson was flagged for unnecessary roughness on quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan. Johnson said Monday that he was too upset with the officials to get an explanation but that the coaches talked to them.

"We had a still picture with the quarterback with the ball still in his hand and Spencer around his waist. At the point you've committed yourself, I really feel it's difficult for you to – I'm not a physics guy – stop your inertia or momentum as you've committed to wrapping your arms around a guy's waist and getting him on the ground," Childress said. "You may or may not know the ball has left. I think (official Bill Levy) said something about the way he finished. You guys had the virtue of the TV copy, but I just thought it was a committed act that he was in the middle of. The guy had the ball and the ball left his arm. He's not going to fall off the guy. He just followed through. It was unfortunate."

Childress indicated the Vikings would be sending that play into the head of officiating, Mike Pereira for review, but Johnson thought that the way O'Sullivan's head hit the turf prompted the flag even though Johnson did nothing unusual in tackling him.

Offensively, the penalties didn't really start hurting the Vikings until late in the first half. When they took possession of the ball with about a minute to play and trailing 10-7, they self-destructed.

On the first play from scrimmage, Mewelde Moore gained 40 yards on a short pass, but Birk was tagged for holding. The offense actually recovered to convert a first down on two Moore runs, but a holding call on tackle Ryan Cook and a false start on tackle Bryant McKinnie put them in third-and-16 at their own 24-yard line, with an imcompletion ending the half.

McKinnie said the crowd noise in Detroit shouldn't have had an effect on him.

"Our guys staying onside on offense, that's not negotiable. They just have to be able to do that and they have done that," Childress said. "We had a couple of hard snap counts where we were able to draw them offsides. A lot of things, a lot of stimuli. You've got to be able to see the ball, you've got to know where the defensive end is, but you can't lean out of your stance. As a teacher, you just continue to point it out. They know what it means and I'd like to get it back to where it was in that game one."

Asked if he would be hard on the players this week after all the mistakes, Childress said, "(It's) still teaching. It's just a ton of situations that happened in that game that I think you need to educate some of the younger football players. You need to point it out to the veterans, but still in all you need to learn from it and you need to go on in game two of a 16-game schedule."

Those situations might not get any easier despite the Vikings facing an 0-2 Kansas City team on Sunday. Arrowhead Stadium is considered one of the more difficult places in the NFL for a visiting team to play. The Chiefs owns an NFL-best 102-34 record (.750 winning percentage) at Arrowhead, dating back to 1990. Kansas City has also registered a league-best 20-4 (.833) record against NFC foes at Arrowhead since '95.

Childress called playing there a "similarly antagonistic environment" to Ford Field.


The Vikings only scored 17 points on Sunday, and one of the two touchdowns was a defensive score. The other 10 points needed huge kickoff returns to put the offense in desirable field position.

Troy Williamson set up the Vikings' first touchdown with a 56-yard kickoff return in the second quarter, putting the offense on Detroit's 43-yard line. The Vikings converted one first down with a 10-yard pass to Robert Ferguson, and Adrian Peterson turned third-and-4 into first-and-goal with a 24-yard catch-and-run. Jackson ran it into the end zone from there.

Aundrae Allison set up the Vikings' other points, coming off an offensive drive with a 60-yard kickoff return to Detroit's 41-yard line in the third quarter. Again, Ferguson picked up the initial first down with a 12-yard reception, and a facemask penalty on a Peterson run gave the Vikings their only other first down of the drive before Ryan Longwell hit a 32-yard field goal.


  • Childress said Jackson would be the starter on Sunday if he sufficiently recovers from what is termed as a strained groin. Jackson looked to be walking gingerly through the locker room on Monday. If Jackson can't play, Childress wouldn't commit to either Brooks Bollinger or Kelly Holcomb

    "I'm not even going to bend an opinion on that right now. I'm just kind of going day-to-day with the guy that is there," Childress said.

  • Childress said third cornerback Marcus McCauley, a rookie, played about 60 snaps against the Lions' spread offense.

    "At times I thought he was physical in coming up and making tackles. I thought he was soft a couple of times in coverage, which you are going to see typically when you face good wide receivers like that," Childress said. "It wasn't all bad and it wasn't all good."

  • Childress said Troy Williamson suffered a hamstring spasm but thinks he will be OK.

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