By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
As he dealt with his players' off-field troubles during training camp, Minnesota Vikings Coach Brad Childress longed for the day when he would be judged simply by what his team did on the field. That moment finally arrived for Childress last night, and his NFL head coaching debut became a success when place kicker Ryan Longwell drilled a go-ahead field goal with a minute left and the Vikings held on to beat the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.
"This group had to deal with a little bit of adversity -- road game, Monday night [against] a Hall of Fame coach," Childress said. "I'm proud of what they accomplished, but there's an awful lot to work on."
The Vikings' disciplinary issues were revisited before the game when Childress placed safety Dwight Smith on the inactive list. Childress had said he would punish Smith after the player and a 24-year-old woman were cited by the Minneapolis police for indecent conduct last month in a stairwell near a downtown nightclub. Childress had not specified previously what the disciplinary measure would be. He declined to discuss the matter after the game but said he expected Smith to play next weekend.
As they savored the win, the Vikings players no longer were thinking about such discord.
"It's a special moment for this organization, especially Brad Childress," quarterback Brad Johnson said. "Hopefully, we can build on this."
Johnson was steady in beating his former team in his third visit to FedEx Field since leaving the Redskins following the 2000 season. He completed 16 of 30 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown. And he didn't lose faith in wide receiver Troy Williamson, the former first-round draft choice who had a pair of costly first-half drops. Williamson provided the key play on the Vikings' winning drive. On third and nine from the Vikings 48-yard line, he caught a throw from Johnson close to the first-down marker, broke a tackle by Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers and drew a 15-yard facemask penalty on safety Sean Taylor.
"That was probably the biggest play in his career so far," Johnson said. "He had a couple drops in there, but we're going to keep going to him. He's an explosive player. I think he's a difference-maker on this team."
Williamson's play set up the decisive 31-yard field goal by Longwell, who was signed by the Vikings as a free agent in the offseason.
"You see it's going to come down to a kick," Longwell said. "You focus on going through your routine and doing your job. With a new team and a new employer, you want to make a positive first impression."
Johnson is known as a quarterback who manages a game effectively rather than taking big risks, but he was on target with his deep throws in the first half. He connected with Williamson for a 46-yard completion on the Vikings' opening drive after the speedster beat cornerback Mike Rumph. The Vikings got in the end zone when Childress called for a handoff on third and goal from the Redskins 4-yard line, and tailback Chester Taylor followed left guard Steve Hutchinson for the touchdown.
"We took our shots," said Johnson, who threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to wideout Marcus Robinson in the third quarter. "We felt like we had to be aggressive. I thought it really opened up the field for us."