If Brad Childress’ ship is taking on water, he’s more concerned about firing another salvo rather than grabbing a bucket to start baling. On Monday, after fielding a flurry of questions about his strategy during the Vikings’ loss at Green Bay and the health of quarterback Brett Favre, Childress made reference to signal stealing and the Patriots.
Monday’s press conference wasn’t the first time Childress has taken issue with New England publicly (LINK), but appeared to be a strange way to deflect the attention away from the Vikings loss and his comments about Favre’s play on Sunday. Childress had other concerns, aside from Farve, to talk about Monday.
Vikings rookie cornerback Chris Cook was repeatedly picked on by the Packers early in Sunday's 28-24 loss. Cook was eventually replaced by Minnesota veteran Frank Walker in what was perceived as an attempt to reduce the damage Green Bay was doing to the Vikings’ secondary.
Childress was asked about Cook’s adjusting to more playing time in the Vikings’ lineup after returning from injury and if it was a bad time for him to face a New England team next.
Childress said Cook would be part of the defense Minnesota would use to try to slow Patriots QB Tom Brady down. Responding to a follow up on the Cook question, Childress turned to focus on accusations of signal stealing.
“I'm mindful of the last time we faced them here on Monday Night Football. It was like a surgical procedure,” Childress stated. That's back when we used to signal [plays] and things like that. I remember having a conversation with Mike Tomlin (former Vikings Coordinator) about that. These were some of the all-time great signal stealers.”
After calling out The Patriots for stealing signals during that 2006 matchup, the Vikings head coach explained how it impacted what Minnesota did on defense.
“In fact, that's what was going on. They were holding, holding, holding. We were signaling from the sideline,” Childress continued. “They were good at it. It's like stealing signals from a catcher.”
Brady did have an impressive outing against Minnesota that Monday Night. He completed 29 of 42 passes for 372 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-7 victory by throwing to targets names Ben Watson, Reche Caldwell, Doug Gabriel among others.
When asked directly if the Patriots were “stealing signals,” Childress nearly backtracked before piling on.
“No, I just had a notion,” he said. “Having played them with the Eagles before that they were good [at stealing signals].”
Childress' accusations that New England had a auniquiely unfair advantage over Minnesota in 2006 might have been more poignant if Belichicks' squad was the only team to have success against Minnesota's defense. The Patriots were just one of several teams to find success through the air against Minnesota that season. Two weeks after Brady carved up the Vikings secondary; Then Packers QB Brett Favre threw for 342 yards and a pair of TDs. Two weeks later, Cardinals signal-caller Matt Leinart threw for 405 yards. Jon Kitna (294) and Chad Pennington (339) also had big games against the Vikings secondary later that season.
Childress did admit the Patriots weren’t the only ones scouting the other team’s signals, a legal tactic at the time by NFL rules. “It's something that we do as well. It's good for one; it's good for the other,” Childress admitted.
The sideline signal stealing issue has become moot with the introduction of coach to player helmet radios for the defense. Helmet radios were added as part of the league's decision to limit perceived competitive advantages of signal scouting.
So whatever Childress' motivation was to raise the signal stealing issue again, he won't be able to fall back on that if his team drops another game this week. Minnesota is not out of the hunt for the playoffs, but they need to turn things around in a hurry.
At 2-4, the Vikings are just two games behind the (4-3) NFC North division leading Packers and Bears. Minnesota’s game against the Patriots may not be the end of their season if they lose, but Childress understands that falling three games back nearly halfway through the season would put the Vikings in desperation mode.
"We have 10 games left. I'm not calling anything a crisis point," Childress stated. "We've got to work ourselves out of this. I believe we've got the players and the coaches to work ourselves out of this."
There’s little doubt, the last thing Childress wants is to be put in dire straits by a team he obviously disdains. His comments are just one more story line for Sunday’s matchup, perhaps overshadowing the return of Randy Moss to the team he was traded from after Week 4.
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