Nobody is laughing at Childress these days.
Not after the Vikings won their third consecutive game Sunday with a 42-10 drubbing that saw Minnesota score touchdowns on its first six possessions.
The victory boosted the Vikings to 6-6 on the season and put them in an excellent position to make a postseason run. Not only is Minnesota in the thick of the postseason race, but its four remaining games are against teams with losing records.
The list includes San Francisco (3-9), Chicago (5-7), Washington (5-7) and Denver (5-7). The Vikings will meet the 49ers this Sunday at Monster Park in what should be a very winnable game.
So what has happened to the Vikings? One key seems to be that for whatever reason, the light has gone on for quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
Jackson hasn't been Joe Montana-like of late but he has been efficient and steered clear of the mistakes he made earlier in the year. His ability to manage the game is all the Vikings need because their running game is so good that opponents have no choice but to focus on it.
With rookie sensation Adrian Peterson back after a two-game absence because of a knee injury and veteran Chester Taylor also continuing to be extremely productive, Minnesota has the best 1-2 combination in the NFL. The Vikings average of 176.8 yards per game on the ground easily outdistances Jacksonville, which is second in the league with an average of 141.0 yards.
Part of the key for the Vikings offense is players seem to be growing more comfortable on a game-by-game basis with executing their assignments.
"That's what happens when you have a new offense, new coaches and stuff like that," said tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who joined the Vikings as a free agent during the offseason. "It takes a while for everybody to click and be on one page. When you start to understand the concept behind plays and stuff like that then you can use your skills and your talents to make plays after that."
Childress also has seen this happen for a team that started the season with a 2-5 record and was 3-6 after a 34-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 11.
"Sometimes things are just learning from rote," said Childress, the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles before taking the Vikings job. "I've got this gap or I take this step or I block this guy. But when you are really focused and you really are in tune with what's going on, you know what is happening on your right and you know what is happening on your left.
"It's not just a ‘What am I doing?' How does it relate to what the other guys are doing? As a quarterback we talk about being a master of the piano, knowing where all of those keys are. ... The more you're into it, the more everybody has a better feel for what is happening all around."
Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards has been suspended for the final four games of the regular season for violating the NFL's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.
It's a significant loss considering Edwards has started 11 of 12 games this season at right end and is tied for second on the Vikings with four sacks.
Making matters worse is that Erasmus James injured his knee on Sunday against Detroit and was not able to participate in practice Wednesday.
If James can't go Sunday at San Francisco, the Vikings likely will turn to rookie Brian Robison. Robison leads the team with 4.5 sacks. Depth would be a definite concern, however, with Jayme Mitchell serving as the primary backup to Robison.
BY THE NUMBERS: 17 — Yards safety Darren Sharper needs via interception returns to reach the 1,000-yard mark for his career.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I believe that the wide receivers blocked probably as well as I have seen. I had an official at the end of the game tell me, ‘Coach, I don't think I have ever seen wide receivers block like this since I have been officiating in the National Football League,' which is quite a statement." — Vikings coach Brad Childress, on the blocks thrown by his receiving corps in a 42-10 victory Sunday over Detroit.