With a four to one advantage in turnovers in Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams, the Vikings have moved into first place in the NFL's statistics for turnover ratio, the first statistics Childress turns to when searching for winning trends.
"It's usually the first one that you're looking at and it usually tells a lot of the tale – those free ones, those free points. That and explosive plays, I think, is about 98 percent, 99 percent win – if you're winning that daily double, if you're winning the turnover battle and the explosive plays, it's usually undefeated," Childress said.
Against the Rams, the Vikings recovered three fumbles (two of them without forcing the fumble) and intercepted one pass. Jared Allen returned the first fumble 52 yards for the game's second touchdown less than six minutes into the 38-10 win. The other three Rams miscues all occurred inside Minnesota's 10-yard line and kept the Rams from scoring points on those drives.
To date, the Vikings have 12 takeaways (six fumble recoveries and six interceptions) and four giveaways (two fumbles lost and two interceptions). Their plus-8 ratio is the best in the league and leads Green Bay and New Orleans by one. Carolina is at the bottom of the league at minus-9. Last year, the Vikings were 24th in the league at minus-6.
"Whether you say that they come in bunches or what have you, we've been opportunistic on the defensive side of the football when there is a ball laying around or stripping or raking or arriving when the ball arrives and knocking it out with force," Childress said. "We're going to do some kind of takeaway drill every day. It just seems to be manifesting itself a little bit more. Then offensively, guys are doing a nice job of catching it, tucking it, carrying it, tucking it high and tight. The quarterback (Brett Favre) had one probably misstep yesterday. It was a bad read and then a bad decision to throw that ball, but he's doing a pretty good job of taking care of the football by and large."
Favre admitted that his interception, when he overthrew a receiver and the ball went right to Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis, was a bad play.
In 149 pass attempts, Favre has nine touchdowns and two interceptions. In 165 pass attempts by Vikings opponents, they have seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Despite Favre's reputation as a gunslinger, Childress said he had high expectations for his quarterback when he signed on Aug. 18. Even two interceptions are too many for Childress. "I expected none. I expect none every game, just like I expect to win every game," he said. "… They are all designed to be completed. That's the thing that the quarterback has, he has the power of choice. He's the decision-maker. You don't want to compound things. I think he's done a great job with that. But, two, I can't quantify that for you."
Receiver Sidney Rice said coaches have been "harping on" protecting the ball since the start of training camp.
"That's the main focus. You always have to protect the ball. If you don't have the ball, you can't score any points," Rice said. "That's one thing that we focus on all the time, protecting the ball, keeping it and trying to eliminate penalties, procedural penalties and things like that, things that we can control. That's what coach harps on all the time, taking care of the ball. During our meetings, taking care of the ball, taking care of the ball."
On the other side of the ball, the coaches have been instilling a thievery mentality. The Vikings have the second-fewest giveaways (four) in the league, but the defense also has the second-most takeaways (12).
"That's a huge statistic. That's something that everyone is aware of throughout the league. You want to be plus, and you want to be as far on the plus side as possible. Coach Childress shows us stats all the time about these are the teams that win and this is where they are plus and minus. It's a huge percentage," said linebacker Ben Leber, recalling that a team that is plus-one for the game has about a 75 percent chance of winning. "It's a huge favor for us and we want to keep getting up there. It's the mark of a good team."
As for explosive plays, the Vikings and Rams each had 10 plays of 13 yards or more on Sunday. Childress said his team hasn't won that category every time.
"We've had a few ties. We've had a few wins. I think we had 10 yesterday, so you're looking to explode. You're looking to get chunks where you can," he said.
And hoping the chunks combine with a positive turnover ratio, thereby continuing to translate into wins.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.