Clock management comes into question

The talk shows on Monday were revisiting Brad Childress' clock management at the end of the game. Childress explained his decision on Monday.

It seems difficult to find too much fault with a team that has started off a season with tied for the league's best record at 6-0, but Vikings coach Brad Childress has come under some friendly fire from the local media for the team's conservative approach to their final drive of Sunday's 33-31 win over Baltimore.

When Brett Favre completed a 58-yard bomb to Sidney Rice with three minutes to play, the Vikings had the ball on the Ravens 18-yard line. Already in field goal range, the Vikings had a chance to drain the clock down if they could convert one more first down. Baltimore had two timeouts left, along with the stoppage of the clock at the two-minute warning.

Instead of being aggressive as they had been much of the game, the Vikings went into an offensive shell. On first down, Adrian Peterson was tackled for a two-yard loss, at which point the Ravens used their second timeout with 2:46 to play. On second-and-12 from the 20-yard line, A.P. got the ball again, gaining three yards and getting Baltimore to exercise its last timeout with 2:30 to play. Childress called another run on third-and-9 from the 17-yard line that gained three yards and took the game clock down to the two-minute warning before kicking a field goal.

At question was whether it was worth taking a shot either at the end zone or a first down on a controlled roll-out from Favre. On Monday, Childress was asked to essentially defend his play-calling decision – which he did at his weekly day-after-game press conference.

"My experience with that is you want to get the guy (opposing coach) to burn his timeouts," Childress said. "You don't want to have the clock stop automatically at the two-minute warning and then have another one (timeout) in his pocket. I have had it come back and bite us before where if you don't get a guy to empty his timeouts, holding onto that one or two makes a difference. You say, ‘Geez, it didn't make a difference yesterday,' but that is the way we were going to play it. I was going to make him use that (final timeout)."

The outside concern expressed by media types not faced with the decision was that the Ravens would only need a field goal, not a touchdown, to come back and win the game. Instead of needing to potentially go 70-80 yards with no timeouts following the kickoff to win the game, the Ravens, who returned the kick to the 33-yard line, needed only about 35-40 yards to get into realistic field goal range. They achieved that, but kicker Steven Hauschka pulled the game-winning field goal wide left to preserve the Vikings win.

Childress defended his playcalling, saying it wasn't as ultra-conservative as his critics may be speculating.

"It's not the Woody Hayes philosophy that you put the ball in the air and two out of three things are bad that can happen," Childress said of not passing. "I don't believe that, not with the guy that's playing quarterback, not with our receivers. That was an effort on my part to make sure that we ran them out of timeouts. (Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell) asked do we want to run it or pass it here. Do we have a play call that can make it to the end zone or make it to the first down? You do, but I wanted to make sure that we (made Baltimore) use that timeout."

Whether the most popular decision or not, the Vikings won to improve to 3-0 and it is becoming more difficult to find criticism with the team – difficult, but clearly not impossible.

TUESDAY NOTES

  • Antoine Winfield is likely going to end up being a game-time decision after an MRI revealed a sprained foot Monday. Childress said Monday that people have "different recuperative skills" and that he will neither rule Winfield in or out for Sunday's big game at Pittsburgh. However, Winfield was seen wearing a walking boot on the injured foot Monday and declined to speak to the media.

  • Not having Winfield could be critical for the Vikings, since Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leads the NFL with 1,887 passing yards – an average of almost 315 yards a game.

  • Childress said he isn't any more concerned about Percy Harvin's availability for Sunday's game than he was against the Ravens, when Harvin was listed as questionable. Harvin had his arm in a sling following the game, but told VU it wasn't "too serious" and that he would be fine. Like Winfield, he will likely be limited in practice and a final decision probably won't be made until Sunday morning as to his availability.

  • Harvin might have inadvertently given opponents some bulletin board material, as Childress asked if players in the NFL hit harder than they do in the SEC. Harvin answered that the SEC defenders hit harder, but Childress pointed out his answer was "tongue in cheek."

  • Today could be a busy day in the NFL, as it marks the annual trade deadline. Once a dead time of year with few if any trades made, teams have made the trade deadline something that creates much more of a buzz, as disgruntled players are moved for draft picks on a pretty regular basis.

  • The Steelers may have an issue at kicker Sunday after Jeff Reed was given a citation by police for public intoxication and disorderly conduct about 9 p.m. Sunday outside a Pittsburgh bar. Reed pleaded guilty this summer to a charge of disorderly conduct after damaging a towel dispenser in a convenience store and allegedly harassing employees at the store in February – a charge that was deemed to be alcohol-related.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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