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.
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.