Vikings don't beat the Vikings
Posted on Tue, Oct. 03, 2006
[size=13pt]The Vikings don't beat the Vikings[/size]
Minnesota ranks last in the NFL with an average of 9.5 penalties a game, a stat that runs contrary to the mantra of disciplinarian coach Brad Childress: 'The Vikings don't beat the Vikings.
BY SEAN JENSEN
Veteran cornerback Fred Smoot dismissed the Vikings' propensity for penalties through four games.
"They happen, man," Smoot said. "That's something you got to learn to live with."
Smoot, though, underestimated the extent of one of the Vikings' chief problems. Informed that the Vikings were averaging a league-high 9.5 penalties a game, he said, "That's what we're getting?
"Then, we're killing ourselves. We're beating the Vikings. That's what we didn't want to do. It's already hard enough to win."
During the offseason and preseason, Vikings coach Brad Childress repeated a familiar mantra: "The Vikings don't beat the Vikings."
But penalties complicated the two victories and contributed to two consecutive losses, including 17-12 at Buffalo on Sunday.
"It's just a matter of emphasizing it, and it's a matter of them holding each other accountable," Childress said Monday. "We need to clean that up. We need to clean that up because when it goes bad, it goes bad."
In fact, the Vikings are more penalty prone than in previous seasons. Last year, for instance, the Vikings committed 35 penalties in the midst of a 1-3 start under Mike Tice. But yellow flags fly often around the purple; the Vikings committed the 10th-most penalties last year and were tied for 11th in 2004.
Childress said he doesn't want to temper anyone's "aggressiveness." But fullback Tony Richardson said Childress will "lose it" when players jump offside in practice.
"Those are concentration errors," Richardson said. "That's something we have to get cleaned up."
Guard Artis Hicks has endured the wrath of Childress for such an offense. After Childress stressed players pay more attention, Hicks had a false start in practice on Friday.
"Coach Childress got on me a little bit," Hicks said.
So Hicks, who has been called for three penalties this season, highlighted that goal â€” "Make sure to pay attention to the snap count" â€” in his notebook.
"It's mental," he said. "It's just when you come out of the huddle, you come out of the huddle too quick, and you don't listen to what (snap count) it's on."
Hicks didn't commit a penalty Sunday, but his teammates did â€” a season-high 12 that cost them 78 yards.
Perhaps most troubling? Four offside penalties were called on defensive end Kenechi Udeze and defensive tackle Kevin Williams, although one called on Williams was declined because of a 16-yard gain by receiver Lee Evans on a free play for the Bills.
Defensive linemen try to anticipate the snap so they can gain an advantage on offensive linemen. But Williams and Udeze erred at inopportune times. Williams jumped on a play in which the defense stopped Bills running back Willis McGahee just short of the end zone. So instead of a fourth and goal from the 1, the Bills advanced the ball to the 1-yard line, and then got another chance to punch the ball in on third down, which McGahee did.
Udeze was called for offside earlier on that drive, and he was induced to jump late in the fourth quarter, as the Bills faced a third and 1. That penalty gave the Bills a first down and cost the Vikings precious seconds on the game clock as well as two timeouts.
"We just have to focus in," Williams said. "Don't sit there and listen to the man barking. They were going on two every play. Just watch the ball."
The Vikings actually have been called for 45 penalties, although their opponents have declined seven of them. The blame also can be spread rather equally, with the offense committing 17, the defense 14 and the special teams seven.
Yet the sheer volume isn't the only concern; timing also has bothered the players and coaches. Right tackle Marcus Johnson was flagged for a false start as the Vikings lined up for a two-point conversion attempt that would have pulled his team within a field goal of the Bills. Further from the end zone, the Vikings failed, and they were forced to score a touchdown instead of a field goal on the final drive of the game.
"That was kind of frustrating," left tackle Bryant McKinnie said of Johnson's false start. "We definitely need to crack down on that."
Perhaps the player most affected by the penalties is running back Chester Taylor. Penalties have negated six runs for 30 yards, as well as a 7-yard catch. Receivers Travis Taylor and Troy Williamson also had key first downs negated by controversial offensive pass interference calls.
"When you're struggling like we are, offensively, they always come at crucial times," said center Matt Birk, who surprisingly leads the team with four penalties. "It just seems like when nothing's going right â€¦ it just feels like it's always an uphill battle."
The players were at a loss for solutions, offering only the same answer.
"You just keep focusing on it, really fine focus," Birk said. "We just need to put together a drive, go out and score a touchdown â€” sometimes momentum or whatever you want to call it. It doesn't become so hard once you get over the hump."
McKinnie wasn't sure what the Vikings should do, but he was certain of one thing.
"He'll come up with something," McKinnie said of Childress. "I'm sure of that."
Sean Jensen can be reached at [email protected]
Re: Vikings don't beat the Vikings
Most prevalent types of penalties the Vikings have committed: