Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Childress speaks, we listen

Posted by: under Vikings, Brad Childress, Brad Childress, Brett Favre, John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt Updated: September 14, 2009 - 3:02 PM

Earlier today Chip put an interesting item on the blog about the fact that ESPN's research showed Brett Favre threw only four passes that traveled more than 5 yards in the air in his debut as the Vikings quarterback Sunday in Cleveland.

Vikings coach Brad Childress said during his news conference today at Winter Park that those figures shouldn't be a surprise given how Cleveland played the Vikings. 

"He had those couple shots," Childress said. "He had the one up to Percy [Harvin] and I think he had the one up to [Bernard] Berrian. But there was a lot of soft shell stuff, a lot of firezone stuff where they were kind of had an umbrella type of coverage with the safeties kind of hanging around where it was going to be hard to throw it past them. So we kind of took what was there. Took the shots when we had some bump-and-run looks that we were able to utilize. That's kind of how they played their coverage. Eric [Mangini, the Browns coach] is kind of back end guy so everything that they do is mindful of the back end to the front end."

Favre was sacked four times in the game but did not throw an interception. The lack of a turnover will be key to the Vikings' potential success. Asked about Favre's play overall, Childress said: "I thought his decision making was good. I'm not sure he saw a couple of guys coming and I thought he held it a little bit in a couple of instances, which I think he'll get better and better and better and better. It's a double-edge sword. You're waiting for a guy to work open, you're not a guy that ... we want to be a thrower first but not throw first. They gave him decent protection but that clock has got to go off in your head and say, 'Hey, I got to go or the ball has got to go.'"

Another factor at work here -- and get ready to hear a lot more of this -- is that Favre still needs to get on the same page with many of his receivers, including Berrian. Berrian just returned from a hamstring injury and although he was on the field for about 50 plays Sunday it was clear he still isn't at 100 percent when it comes to going full speed.

"I say this over and over, this is a season-long evolution," Childress said of the chemistry issue. "It goes week to week. You practice it and practice it and typically you end up doing some of the same plays and then some different plays and then throw a different defense in there with different personnel. It's a week-to-week process and you just keep continuing to hammer through that week to week."

As for adjustments, or gasp audibles, by Favre, it was clear he did change some things at the line of scrimmage.

"He did a great job of getting us out of a couple of runs that had a low probability of success and actually took one to a side where we gained a bunch of yards on," Childress said of Favre's adjustments. "He did that on his own. Obviously, he's able to see an extra man, an overhang guy. He put a couple of things on the pass game that we weren't really expecting but you live and learn and he'll live and learn, too."

Childress laughed when asked about Favre changing plays.

"You guys always like to say, 'Yeah, I got shackles on them and we have an electric current and if they happen to change [the play] we do the Pavlov's dog thing," Childress said. "We hit them with the current on the way back to the huddle. He's one of those dogs that runs right through the fence. It was nothing astronomical or anything like that. It was just a couple things that everybody got on the same page with."

A few other items from Childress' news conference.

-- Childress on whether the Browns gave the Vikings what they expected: "We anticipated they were going to blitz with some of the blitzes that they gave us but pretty much they gave it to us on every down. They were trying to bring an extra guy in an extra gap. Whether it was a free safety late or a strong safety late. And then Shaun Rogers playing off the line of scrimmage, which you rarely see. Usually you see him with his hand on the ground. That was an interesting set of circumstances on that particular blitz. So, a little bit more blitz probably than you would have thought."

-- Childress on the play of center John Sullivan, who was making his first start: "I thought the great thing about Sully was ... he gave up that one sack [in the third quarter] when we left him on his own with Rogers that one specific time. But he was very clear eyed coming to the sideline, he wasn't rattled. I thought both of those young offensive linemen [right tackle Phil Loadholt was the other], they could come and tell you what they saw and then when you looked at the pictures and you see the tape, it was what they saw. So there was great clarity, there was great communication in the offensive line. I thought those two young guys played particularly well for being the first time and then Sullivan particularly for having to play against what many regard as one of the premier nose guards in the league." 

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