Vikings point to this year's 0-2 differences

The Vikings were 0-2 last year, but they say things are different this year. The team makeup is different, the way they lost their first two is different, and they believe they will pull out of the early-season funk. See what the players had to say Wednesday at Winter Park.

While the national media didn't have much regard for the Vikings coming into the 2011 season, the Vikings believed they could, in some ways, fly under the radar for a while.

With the Packers as the defending champion, the Bears as the defending division champion and the Lions being a team that many are pointing to as being potentially dominant in a year or two, the Vikings entered the season as "the other team" in the NFC North.

But, as the Vikings prepare for Sunday's game with the Detroit Lions, they are still "the other team" in the NFC North. After becoming the first team in NFL history to squander double-digit halftime leads to lose their first two games of the season, they find themselves looking up at all three of their division rivals and, as cliché as the questions may be to field, the Vikings find themselves in a must-win games.

"Every game is a must-win now," linebacker Erin Henderson said. "We play in a tough division. The Packers have got off to a good start. They're 2-0. Detroit is 2-0. Chicago is 1-1. You don't want to dig yourself too deep. Granted, it's still early in the season, but every game from here on out we've got to have."

The frustrations the Vikings have experienced in their second-half meltdowns prompted a players meeting headed up by veterans. When asked about some of the details of the meeting, at first DT Remi Ayodele feigned ignorance.

"What meeting?" Ayodele asked with a grin. "We know we let two slip away. Pretty much, that's what we were talking about. We've just got to play 60 minutes. We've been dominating the first two halves. Once we put it all together, we'll be fine."

The problems the Vikings have experienced in the second half of their first two games have left a lot of people – themselves included – befuddled. For some teams, such late-game woes could cause players to point fingers and let the bad times snowball. Kicker Ryan Longwell said he has seen teams that have imploded and divisions get created in the locker room. But he was quick to point out that he doesn't see that in the 2011 Vikings.

"I've been on teams like that, where you wondered what crazy thing would go wrong this week," Longwell said. "In many respects, we had a team like that last year. But this team doesn't have that kind of makeup. Having been through a couple of teams like that before, I'm not getting that kind of vibe of what's the worst thing that can happen next."

The Vikings started 0-2 last year and, in a similar situation, saved their season for a little while longer with a home win against Detroit. The Vikings find themselves in an identical situation, but when asked the difference between this 0-2 team and last year's 0-2 Vikings, Henderson said the mood of team is the biggest difference.

"The feel of the locker room," Henderson said. "There isn't a lot of other things going on outside of football, outside of Winter Park. I think we've done a good job of minimizing distractions. Last year at this time, it wasn't so much the case. We had to go through the whole thing to get [Brett] Favre to come back and decide to play another year and, once he came back, all the things that happened from there. I think everybody in [the Vikings locker room this year] is upset about being 0-2 and I think that's important. It's going to help us in the long run because everybody cares. Everybody wants to go out there and win. Everybody wants to play their best football and put their best foot forward every time we step out there and do what we have to do to come away with a victory. I don't know if we could say that for our team last year."

Another difference is that the Vikings came out flat from start to finish in their first two games of the 2010 season. This time around, they've gone to halftime with their opponent reeling and one big drive away from delivering the knockout punch. Does it make it any easier knowing that the team is capable of dominating quality opponents like the Chargers and Buccaneers for a half or does it make it more difficult to handle after getting off to those kind of fast starts and losing both games?

"It's kind of both ways," safety Husain Abdullah said. "It's just one of those things where you have play a complete game. It's the NFL. You can't just play a half and then relax. We're focused on trying to put together four quarters and play a complete game."

Of the other 0-2 teams in the league, a valid excuse can be made why the rest of them are at the bottom looking up. Miami has played better teams in New England and Houston. Indianapolis is without Peyton Manning. Kansas City has lost its top offensive and defensive players. Carolina's defense can stop anybody and St. Louis and Seattle are in the NFC West – the worst division in football.

Wide receiver Michael Jenkins, who played for the team with the best record in the NFC last season in Atlanta, said that what makes the Vikings' 0-2 start so maddening is that he believes they could (and should) just as easily be 2-0 and have people talking up this game as a battle of undefeateds rather than a battle of a 2-0 Detroit team looking to bury the 0-2 Vikings.

"It's just frustrating is all," Jenkins said of the issues plaguing the Vikings. "We have the talent in this locker room and we believe that right now we should be 2-0 and just didn't get the job done. It's just a matter of putting it together for four quarters. Once we do that, I believe we can turn this around in a hurry."

The Vikings are on the brink of digging themselves such a pronounced hole that getting out of the tailspin will be difficult if not impossible in terms of division title hopes – potentially falling three games behind two teams after three weeks. But there remains an aura of confidence that, if the Vikings keep their foot on the gas in the second half, they can turn a double-digit halftime lead into a double-digit margin of victory.

They may be down, but they're far from out, they say.

"I will be the first one, if people haven't already told you, we're all about getting this ship righted and going out there and figuring out a way to make ourselves proud, make our fans proud and our family happy to say that we're playing for the Minnesota Vikings," Henderson said.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" While the national media didn't have much regard for the Vikings coming into the 2011 season, the Vikings believed they could, in some ways, fly under the radar for a while. With the Packers as the defending champion, the Bears as the defending division champion and the Lions being a team that many are pointing to as being potentially dominant in a year or two, the Vikings entered the season as \"the other team\" in the NFC North. But, as the Vikings prepare for Sunday's game with the Detroit Lions, they are still \"the other team\" in the NFC North. After becoming the first team in NFL history to squander double-digit halftime leads to lose their first two games of the season, they find themselves looking up at all three of their division rivals and, as cliché as the questions may be to field, the Vikings find themselves in a must-win games. \"Every game is a must-win now,\" linebacker Erin Henderson said. \"We play in a tough division. The Packers have got off to a good start. They're 2-0. Detroit is 2-0. Chicago is 1-1. You don't want to dig yourself too deep. Granted, it's still early in the season, but every game from here on out we've got to have.\" The frustrations the Vikings have experienced in their second-half meltdowns prompted a players meeting headed up by veterans. When asked about some of the details of the meeting, at first DT Remi Ayodele feigned ignorance. \"What meeting?\" Ayodele asked with a grin. \"We know we let two slip away. Pretty much, that's what we were talking about. We've just got to play 60 minutes. We've been dominating the first two halves. Once we put it all together, we'll be fine.\" The problems the Vikings have experienced in the second half of their first two games have left a lot of people – themselves included – befuddled. For some teams, such late-game woes could cause players to point fingers and let the bad times snowball. Kicker Ryan Longwell said he has seen teams that have imploded and divisions get created in the locker room. But he was quick to point out that he doesn't see that in the 2011 Vikings. \"I've been on teams like that, where you wondered what crazy thing would go wrong this week,\" Longwell said. \"In many respects, we had a team like that last year. But this team doesn't have that kind of makeup. Having been through a couple of teams like that before, I'm not getting that kind of vibe of what's the worst thing that can happen next.\" The Vikings started 0-2 last year and, in a similar situation, saved their season for a little while longer with a home win against Detroit. The Vikings find themselves in an identical situation, but when asked the difference between this 0-2 team and last year's 0-2 Vikings, Henderson said the mood of team is the biggest difference. \"The feel of the locker room,\" Henderson said. \"There isn't a lot of other things going on outside of football, outside of Winter Park. I think we've done a good job of minimizing distractions. Last year at this time, it wasn't so much the case. We had to go through the whole thing to get [Brett] Favre to come back and decide to play another year and, once he came back, all the things that happened from there. I think everybody in [the Vikings locker room this year] is upset about being 0-2 and I think that's important. It's going to help us in the long run because everybody cares. Everybody wants to go out there and win. Everybody wants to play their best football and put their best foot forward every time we step out there and do what we have to do to come away with a victory. I don't know if we could say that for our team last year.\" Another difference is that the Vikings came out flat from start to finish in their first two games of the 2010 season. This time around, they've gone to halftime with their opponent reeling and one big drive away from delivering the knockout punch. Does it make it any easier knowing that the team is capable of dominating quality opponents like the Chargers and Buccaneers for a half or does it make it more difficult to handle after getting off to those kind of fast starts and losing both games? \"It's kind of both ways,\" safety Husain Abdullah said. \"It's just one of those things where you have play a complete game. It's the NFL. You can't just play a half and then relax. We're focused on trying to put together four quarters and play a complete game.\" Of the other 0-2 teams in the league, a valid excuse can be made why the rest of them are at the bottom looking up. Miami has played better teams in New England and Houston. Indianapolis is without Peyton Manning. Kansas City has lost its top offensive and defensive players. Carolina's defense can stop anybody and St. Louis and Seattle are in the NFC West – the worst division in football. Wide receiver Michael Jenkins, who played for the team with the best record in the NFC last season in Atlanta, said that what makes the Vikings' 0-2 start so maddening is that he believes they could (and should) just as easily be 2-0 and have people talking up this game as a battle of undefeateds rather than a battle of a 2-0 Detroit team looking to bury the 0-2 Vikings. \"It's just frustrating is all,\" Jenkins said of the issues plaguing the Vikings. \"We have the talent in this locker room and we believe that right now we should be 2-0 and just didn't get the job done. It's just a matter of putting it together for four quarters. Once we do that, I believe we can turn this around in a hurry.\" The Vikings are on the brink of digging themselves such a pronounced hole that getting out of the tailspin will be difficult if not impossible in terms of division title hopes – potentially falling three games behind two teams after three weeks. But there remains an aura of confidence that, if the Vikings keep their foot on the gas in the second half, they can turn a double-digit halftime lead into a double-digit margin of victory. They may be down, but they're far from out, they say. \"I will be the first one, if people haven't already told you, we're all about getting this ship righted and going out there and figuring out a way to make ourselves proud, make our fans proud and our family happy to say that we're playing for the Minnesota Vikings,\" Henderson said. 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