With Childress’ vote of confidence to remain the starter, Johnson has a good opportunity to restore the coach’s faith in him on Sunday with the Vikings facing one of the NFL’s worst defenses as they visit the San Francisco 49ers.
Childress removed the typically efficient Johnson in the fourth quarter on Monday after he threw a season-high three interceptions in Minnesota’s 31-7 home loss to the New England Patriots.
“The big thing is you’ve got to take care of the football,” Childress said. “That’s just non-negotiable. Anybody that touches the football needs to do a great job of taking care of it. That’s what we’re all fighting over.”
Johnson, who had only thrown eight interceptions over his previous 16 games, finished 20-of-33 for 185 yards. Backup Brooks Bollinger went 6-of-9 for 79 yards, but also threw an interception in his Minnesota debut.
Mewelde Moore’s 71-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the third quarter accounted for the Vikings’ only score. Minnesota (4-3), which totaled 57 points in winning its previous two games, set season lows in points and total yards (284).
“It’s probably one of the most embarrassing games I’ve been a part of,” Johnson said.
On Tuesday, Childress stood by his comment after the game that Johnson would continue to be the starter, and the 14-year veteran appears to have a good chance to show his coach it was the right decision.
San Francisco’s defense ranks next-to-last in the league, allowing 367.7 yards per game, and has managed only two sacks over its past four games. Minnesota quarterbacks were sacked four times in each of the last two weeks.
The 49ers (2-5) have allowed an NFL-high 235 points—no other team has given up 200—and they surrendered more than 40 in three of four games in October.
“I keep saying it, we’re better than what we’re showing, but until we do it, I really have no ground to stand on,” San Francisco linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said. “Collectively as a group, we’ve got to get better. We’ve made too many mistakes and it’s a little bit of everything.”
Minnesota’s defense, meanwhile, is looking to bounce back after allowing season highs in points and passing yards (345) on Monday night.
“You can’t sulk your head too much, because we have a long season,” Vikings strong safety Darren Sharper said. “We haven’t reached the halfway point yet. We have a long way to go.”
Injuries to the defense certainly won’t help. Monday’s game saw middle linebacker Napoleon Harris dislocate his wrist, defensive tackle Kevin Williams sprain his ankle and defensive tackle Pat Williams play through knee swelling. It’s uncertain if any of them will be able to play this week.
Any of those players being unavailable would only benefit struggling 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who has committed three turnovers and been sacked seven times over the past two games. He was 16-of-26 for 146 yards—the third time in four games he’s been held below 170—in last Sunday’s 41-10 loss to Chicago.
One bright spot was Frank Gore rushing for 111 yards for his third 100-yard game of the season. He’s facing a Vikings defense which allows 72.9 rushing yards per game, second-fewest in the NFL.
The teams last met in 2003, when Minnesota won 35-7 in the Metrodome. The Vikings have lost their last seven visits to San Francisco, including three postseason matchups, since winning there in a divisional playoff game in 1988.