A 34-0 loss to Green Bay at Lambeau Field dropped the Vikings to 3-6. It appeared that the only drama involving coach Brad Childress over the final seven weeks of his second season was going to be whether he would be staying or going.
Three weeks later, the Vikings are 6-6, tied for a wild-card position and Childress has become both Minnesota's resident psychologist and the NFC's version of Bill Belichick.
The Vikings achieved the first three-game winning streak of Childress' 28-game tenure on Sunday. It came in dynamic fashion: a 42-10 victory over Detroit that was the most complete performance Childress has witnessed from his Purple.
It was a beating, a massacre, and it came complete with a postgame mini-lecture by Prof. Childress.
"We talked last night about building habits," he said. "Twenty-one days it takes to lose a habit or create a habit, whether it is biting your nails, or smoking, or winning."
A tubby sportswriter sitting directly in front of Childress was grateful that the coach didn't put overeating on Sunday's list. A couple of weeks ago, during a Monday media session, Chilly was on one of his rambles and included "gaining 60 pounds" as a reason not to feel good about yourself.
The TS might've had hurt feelings had Chilly dropped the weight bomb again, along with nail-biting and pounding the heaters.
He didn't. This time he was focused on the good habit -- winning.
"Twenty-one days didn't start with the Oakland game," he said. "It started the Monday after the Green Bay game. Twenty-one days. Count them up -- Nov. 12 through Dec. 2.
"Psychologists tell us that all the time. And these guys really have attacked this thing from the practice field to the meeting room to the weight room to the locker room, and we can really see it manifest itself right here."
These 21 days also might be habit-changing for a large share of Minnesota's fandom. The local media has had its share of fun with Childress' secretive ways. There also has been competition to come up with the most derogatory pseudonym for his version of the West Coast offense. The nomination here has been West Crawl.
The sportswriters haven't been as nasty as the Purple Faithful, though. Ridiculing Childress has been a full-time task for e-mailers and responders to Vikings-related blogs. When the 2007 Turkey of the Year awards did not include a mention of Childress, there were numerous messages from the public condemning the oversight.
And now what?
Childress' offense Sunday was kick-ass, as he promised it would be once all the pieces started to absorb the system.
Childress' quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, was more than efficient Sunday. He showed the judgment, the quick feet and the quick release that allowed him to be an asset, as Childress promised back when young T-Jack was looking completely overmatched.
Childress' team Sunday was fired up to play offense, defense and special teams -- motivated not simply to defeat these division rivals from Detroit, but to bury them.
It was such a drubbing that Childress reached a point in the third quarter where he had this choice:
Be a kind-hearted coach such as Tim Brewster and refuse to pour it on an opponent, or be a boorish coach such as Belichick and push the faces of a well-beaten opponent into the turf and rub 'em around a little.
Childress went with Option B.
On fourth-and-3 from Detroit's 33, he put Ryan Longwell in field goal formation, then holder Chris Kluwe shoveled a pass to Jeff Dugan for a 27-yard gain. This was followed two plays later by a Chester Taylor halfback pass intended to bring the Vikings a seventh touchdown.
"Are you worried people are going to start comparing you with Coach Belichick, running two trick plays when you're up by that much?" a wisenheimer asked.
Childress said that it was important to get the fake field goal on film to slow down the rush of future opponents. And then he added, "We're 0-2 on the halfback pass, both of them purported touchdowns; one drop and I guess you could call the other a drop, too."
Whatever the reasoning, the prediction here is that, come Sunday, our guy Chilly will be on the sideline in San Francisco wearing a hooded sweatshirt with cutoff sleeves.
Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org