In a season that was previewed with high expectations and now has started with two losses, explanations and answers are sought out in every corner.
Is Brett Favre out of sync with his receiving corps? Is the offensive line to blame? Why did the defense give up touchdowns on the opposition's opening drives in each of the losses? Is the play-calling to blame?
But what about the players' effort?
"You can't just show up," Kevin Williams told Viking Update after Sunday's 14-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins. "Nobody cares how many (elite) guys you've got – who's at quarterback, who's on the defensive line, who's at running back. It don't friggin' matter. You've got to play the game. When we realize that, we'll be a lot better. We can't just show up and think we're going to win games."
Since then, several players have been asked if complacency or lack of effort was a contributing factor in the team's two losses to start the season.
"I'm not sure that, but I know you can't just show up to any game and feel like you're just going to win," Vikings tackle Bryant McKinnie said. "You've got to go out there and put in a lot of work. It's very hard to win in this league. We're realizing that and you can't make mistakes because teams capitalize on that and they end up winning. We've just got to eliminate a lot of our turnovers as well."
The NFL adage goes that turnovers are the great equalizer in this league, and the statistics from the Vikings' loss on Sunday would certainly bear that out. After throwing seven interceptions during the entire 2009 season, Favre threw three interceptions in the 14-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins and had the ball stripped out of his hand in the end zone, a fumble that was recovered for the game-deciding touchdown.
Linebacker Ben Leber also said turnovers were a big contributing factor in the Vikings' loss Sunday. Whether Leber agreed with Williams' comment or not, all the players understand that winning is what matters and explanations will be sought if a team loaded with Pro Bowlers isn't winning.
"I'm not going to fault (Williams) for saying it. He could be right, he could be wrong. I don't know," Leber said. "Certain guys have a different feel for the team and the vibe right now. The bottom line is we're just not playing good enough to win. We need to stay focused and keep our head down and know that if we do things right, things are going to turn out for us."
Vikings coach Brad Childress is well aware of the different factors that can cripple a team and actually addressed the complacency issue before last Sunday's loss.
"We talked about it last week. Every year, every week, every game, it's its own deal," Childress said. "For anybody to show up in this league and think that they're going to throw their hat in the ring and somebody's going to lay down, that's why they play the games. I don't see that from our team and I didn't specifically see (Williams') comment, but I think he's probably talking about in general. You've got play when you show up on Sunday."
After a few days to think about it, Williams was approached again on Wednesday from inquiring minds who wanted to know if complacency was a legitimate issue from an 0-2 team.
"I don't know what the deal is. We just haven't been clicking on all cylinders and we've just got to hone those things up and try to get going," he said, saying that there haven't been any team meetings, as can happen at times in losing locker rooms.
"Guys know what's going on. We need to step it up. You've got to play the game. You can't just show up because you've got good talent and win games. Hopefully everyone gets that and we step up and get this win Sunday."
Childress admitted the NFC Championship loss stuck with him for quite a while. However, with losses during the season he sticks to the NFL mantra of digesting a loss for 24 hours and moving on to the next opponent.
McKinnie was quick to point out that players shouldn't still be feeling the lingering effects of their overtime loss in New Orleans on Jan. 24 … eight months ago.
"That was back in January. We need to pick it up and keep moving," McKinnie said. "Hopefully we can get a win and go into the bye week with a win and come back, refocused and motivated."
Leber agreed that a win Sunday could quickly turn around the Vikings' fortunes.
"Sure, there's momentum to be found all the time in this league. You get that one win, you go into the bye week and feel good about ourselves, come back refreshed and hopefully get another win and start rolling from there," Leber said. "It can happen like that. But you have to be cautious because it can happen in the other direction as well. We have to go out this week and prepare our butts off and play our butts off on Sunday."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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