Vikings' 16-game run not without flaws

The Vikings have won 13 of their last 16 games dating back to last season, yet they can still find plenty to work on in the middle of an important three-game stretch. Now, instead of fielding questions about job security, Brad Childress is taking questions about a potential contract extension.

Things certainly have changed in a year.

Last season at this time, the Vikings were coming off an extremely ugly last-second 12-10 victory over the Detroit Lions at the Metrodome during which fans chanted "Fire Childress," in an effort to get the team's head coach sacked.

The victory put the Vikings at 3-3 after a disappointing 1-3 start, and Gus Frerotte had taken over at quarterback for Tarvaris Jackson.

As the Vikings get ready to face the Steelers on Sunday in Pittsburgh, they sit alone atop the NFC North at 6-0, have won 13 of 16 games since that narrow victory over the Lions and now have a veteran quarterback (Brett Favre) playing at an MVP level.

No wonder Childress now appears to be on the verge of getting a contract extension instead of his walking papers.

This doesn't mean that these Vikings don't have some issues and Childress is certainly aware of that fact.

"There's a bunch of things that we are going to clean up," Childress said, "and again it's pretty widespread and our guys are prideful enough where they will come back and use that as a pretty good force."

Included in this area is a pass defense that gave up 385 yards to Baltimore's Joe Flacco and struggled mightily in the fourth quarter. This isn't good news, considering the Steelers are second in the NFL in passing offense and Ben Roethlisberger leads the league with 1,887 passing yards.

The Vikings also aren't sure they will have the services of Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield, who suffered a sprained right foot against Baltimore and could be out for this game.

The Vikings had to know that injuries would be a factor at some point this season and the reality is they've been lucky to avoid any major ones until this point. After playing the Steelers, the Vikings will travel to Green Bay next week before having their bye.

If the Vikings come out of this current three-game stretch, which began with the Ravens, with a 2-1 record they will be in great shape heading into the bye and then a three-game home stand. Worse case, the Vikings will be 6-2 entering the bye.

All of this means that while Childress might never be the most popular guy in Minnesota, he certainly is no longer hearing the mass calls for him to be shown the door.

SERIES HISTORY: 15th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead, 8-6, and are 4-4 in Pittsburgh. The Steelers defeated the Vikings, 16-6, in Super Bowl IX on Jan. 12, 1975, in New Orleans in the only postseason meeting between these teams. That marked the third of Minnesota's four Super Bowl losses.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It means a lot, just having a guy like that who's been in the league so long, won a Super Bowl, things like that. Having him have that confidence in me just gives me more confidence that I'm able to do those type of things they're expecting out of me. It's a great feeling." — Wide receiver Sidney Rice, who had a career-high 176 yards receiving last Sunday against Baltimore, on the praise, not to mention passes, he's received from veteran quarterback Brett Favre.

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