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Where Does It Go Wrong?

So in the post-mortem from the Chiefs' game, I said that the exact breakdown of when the Vikings have led and trailed in the Brad Childress era would be an interesting project to do through the week.  Well, it's "through the week."  I was pretty curious as to see what exactly has happened when looking back at the past 19 games, and to see if there were any patterns or anything like that to speak of when it came to these sort of things.

To that end, I've put together what we military types call a "stoplight chart."  We usually use this sort of thing for Army trafficablilty reports when we give weather briefings.  When you look at said chart, it's pretty easy to see where its name is derived from.  In the case of our Vikings' stoplight chart here, the areas in green represent the times when the Vikings have had the lead after a particular timeframe, yellow represents when a game was tied, and red is symbolic of when the Vikings are trailing.  Sadly, there's more red here than you'll find in the Star Trek mortuary.

  1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rd Quarter Final Score
@ WAS 6-3 9-13 16-16 19-16
CAR 3-0 6-10 6-13 16-13 (OT)
CHI 3-3 6-3 6-9 16-19
@ BUF 3-0 6-7 6-14 12-17
DET 3-0 3-10 3-17 26-17
@ SEA 3-7 10-10 24-10 31-13
NE 0-7 0-17 7-31 7-31
@ SF 3-0 3-6 3-6 3-9
GB 0-10 14-17 14-20 17-23
@ MIA 7-0 7-10 10-10 20-24
ARI 7-7 14-13 24-13 31-26
@ CHI 0-0 3-7 6-21 13-23
@ DET 14-0 20-10 23-13 30-20
NYJ 7-7 7-23 7-26 13-26
@ GB 0-3 0-6 7-6 7-9
STL 7-10 7-24 7-34 21-41
ATL 7-0 7-0 10-0 24-3
@ DET 0-0 7-10 17-17 17-20 (OT)
@ KC 7-0 10-3 10-6 10-13

So, let's attempt to break this down a little bit, shall we?

In the Brad Childress era, the Vikings have only had two games where they've led from start to finish. . .last year's trip to Ford Field (the game where Artose Pinner ran for 125 yards and 3 TDs against his old team) and this year's season opener (the game where Joey Harrington remembered that he was Joey Harrington).  Conversely, there have been three games where the Vikings have trailed from start to finish. . .and, alarmingly, all of them have been in the confines of the Metrodome.  Those games were last year's first loss against Green Bay, the dismantling at the hands of New England, and the season finale against St. Louis. . .though I really can't hold that last one against any of the coaches, since kickoff that day was at noon, and the majority of the Vikings' players looked like they checked out for the year at about 11:45.

Breaking it down further

-In the 9 games where the Vikings had the lead at the end of the first quarter, they were trailing by halftime in 6 of them, including 4 of Childress' first 5 games as Vikings' coach.  (Record: 5-4)
-In the 5 games where the Vikings were tied at the end of the first quarter, they took a lead into the locker room in 2 games, and were trailing at halftime in 3 of them. (Record: 1-4)
-In the 5 games where the Vikings trailed at the end of the first quarter, only once did they manage to come back to salvage so much as a tie by the half (@ SEA), and never once led at halftime. (Record: 1-4)

And from half to half?

-In the 5 games where the Vikings had the lead at the half, 4 of those games saw them continue to lead after three quarters. (Record: 3-2)
-In the 1 game where the Vikings were tied at the half, they took the lead after three quarters. (Record: 1-0)
-In the 13 games where the Vikings trailed at the half, they trailed after three quarters 9 times, pulled into a tie 3 times, and took the lead only 1 time (record:  3-10)

Basically, for most of the Brad Childress era, being down at halftime has been death to the Vikings' victory hopes.  Hey, in games where the Vikings have either had a halftime lead or been tied going into the locker room, Brad Childress has been a .667 coach!  Unfortunately, when the Vikings are losing at halftime, that percentage plummets all the way down to .231.  There are a couple of potential explanations for this.  The first one would be conditioning. . .but, quite frankly, I don't buy that for a second.  This is the National Football League.  Everyone in the league goes through months of off-season workouts, an entire training camp, practices, etc.  Show me an out of shape NFL football player, and I'll show you somebody that you can sign as a street free agent at your earliest convenience.

The other. . .and in my opinion, far more likely. . .reason would be that Brad Childress and his coaching staff have been completely and utterly unable to make halftime adjustments for the last year plus.  Take a look at the chart.  In the Brad Childress era, this team has won TWO games that they've trailed after three quarters.  Throw in games where the Vikings have been tied after three quarters, and the number of victories jumps all the way up to. . .3.  That's pathetic.  Completely and utterly pathetic.

This team is built to pound the football with the running game, and everyone in the league knows it.  Once Chester Taylor or Adrian Peterson runs over them for a while, the opposing team makes the necessary adjustments to stop them, and we fail to adjust in kind.  We just keep trying to pound away, and by the time we realize that it's not working, it's 3rd and 8 and there's 7 or 8 guys trying to kill whoever's behind center.  This results in a lot of three and outs, and in turn begins to wear on our defense.  Sure, guys like Pat Williams and Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield and Darren Sharper are supremely talented football players. . .but even they have their limitations to exactly how much they can do on a football field.  As we've seen over the past couple of weeks, when they get pushed beyond those limits, things can get mighty ugly mighty quickly.

Until this coaching staff. . .and more specifically, the offense. . .learns to make in-game adjustments, they're going to continue down the losing path that they've been on for the majority of Brad Childress' reign as the Vikings' head coach.  Hopefully Childress will realize this sooner rather than later. . .and if he doesn't figure it out, maybe Zygi Wilf will have to figure it out for him.