Vikings holding out hope against odds

The Vikings know the odds are stacked way against them – only one team has recovered to make the playoffs after an 0-4 start – but they are sticking together with the belief they can overcome it, according to numerous players.

The stunned disbelief that the Vikings have gone through has been sad for Vikings fans to watch. It has been like a car crash you see coming, but are powerless to stop. Take that frustration, multiply it by about 100 and you have the exasperation of the Vikings players. They have been through it on the field, not in the stands or watching it on TV.

At the quarter-pole of the 2011 season, the Vikings are one of just four teams that haven't won a game. Compounding their problem is that the only two remaining undefeated teams (Green Bay and Detroit) are in their own division. Yet, the players haven't lost faith. While the 1-3 Eagles are making daily news with internal jabs that the run defense isn't doing its job, that the offensive line isn't protecting Michael Vick, etc., there hasn't been that kind of internal dissent on the Vikings.

Like many players on the team, defensive end Brian Robison is venturing into new territory, having never been part of a losing program in high school or at the University of Texas. He said the players are feeling the sense of urgency, but aren't going to play the blame game with their teammates.

"I've never played on a team that started 0-4, so this is definitely very frustrating and something we have to get turned around quickly," Robison said. "Part of being a professional is putting it behind you and moving on to the next week. No matter what the circumstances are, you have to be excited about what the future holds."

The shock and awe of their 2011 season has been depressing. While teams like Miami and Indianapolis (without Peyton Manning) could be viewed as teams ripe to start off the season 0-4, the Vikings weren't part of it. That reality has forced them to change their attitudes and focus on playing a full 60 minutes.

"There isn't a man in this locker room that could have envisioned that we would be 0-4 at this point," kicker Ryan Longwell said. "I don't know if it makes a difference that we have dominated at times, especially in the first half of games, but I think it has shown all the guys that we have the ability to dominate teams. We just have to keep our foot on the gas and finish what we start."

Safety Jamarca Sanford echoed those words, saying that it's easy to play football, practice and go to meetings when a team is winning. It is a different story when a team is losing. The mettle of a man is tested when he faces hard times, not good times, and the Vikings are most certainly facing hard times.

"I've never been part of a 0-4 team, but I have been on teams that have been losing," Sanford said. "There's nothing like adversity. That's what makes you who you are. We know what it takes. No matter what the outsiders think, in this locker room, we're all we have. We've got to come together and turn this thing around."

There has been a lot of blame laid at the feet of quarterback Donovan McNabb and head coach Leslie Frazier, but Robison said everyone on the team shares in the blame. Failure is not an orphan. Everyone is accountable, whether it is a player like McNabb who has clearly struggled or players like Robison and Jared Allen, who have both been having statistically strong starts to the 2011 season.

"Football is a team sport," Robison said. "It doesn't lay on one person at all. It's on me and Jared as much as it is anyone else. It's the whole team, it's the 2011 Minnesota Vikings that the problems lay on."

The Vikings have fallen to the point where only one team in the 16-game era of the NFL (the 1992 San Diego Chargers) has started 0-4 and made it to the playoffs. Sanford said the team knows the odds are stacked against them, but to a man they are remaining confident that they can just as easily string victories together to help negate their awful start.

"It's still positive," Sanford said. "That's one good thing. To be 0-4, you would see a lot of teams pointing fingers. We still have the passion for the game and the attitude like we're 4-0. In reality, we're not, but we know we can turn it around. We've just got to keep working. Sitting around complaining about it is not going to solve the situation."

Jared Allen said he doesn't want to be viewed as a cliché machine, but said it literally is a "one game at a time" scenario for the Vikings – get a win Sunday against Arizona, get one the following week at Chicago, etc. He said it may sound like the time-honored quotes struggling teams have made in the past, but that the Vikings are one of the exceptions that can buck the trend.

"We're close," Allen said. "This league is crazy. This division is crazy. We start by winning one (game) and see where we end up. There are a lot of games left. I think the biggest thing is people don't fall into what the stats say or the media says about teams that start 0-4. We have 12 games left. If we win the majority of those, we can still be sitting where we want to at the end."

The Vikings understand that the hole they find themselves in is likely their grave for the 2011 season. But nobody has started shoveling the dirt in just yet. With three quarters of the season remaining, there still is a chance. They have buried their own first four games and are looking ahead with blinders on. If they are to turn things around, a short memory is required.

"The past is the past," Robison said. "We can't let history repeat itself. If we're going to come back, that has to start now."


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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Like many players on the team, defensive end Brian Robison is venturing into new territory, having never been part of a losing program in high school or at the University of Texas. He said the players are feeling the sense of urgency, but aren't going to play the blame game with their teammates. \"I've never played on a team that started 0-4, so this is definitely very frustrating and something we have to get turned around quickly,\" Robison said. \"Part of being a professional is putting it behind you and moving on to the next week. No matter what the circumstances are, you have to be excited about what the future holds.\" The shock and awe of their 2011 season has been depressing. While teams like Miami and Indianapolis (without Peyton Manning) could be viewed as teams ripe to start off the season 0-4, the Vikings weren't part of it. That reality has forced them to change their attitudes and focus on playing a full 60 minutes. \"There isn't a man in this locker room that could have envisioned that we would be 0-4 at this point,\" kicker Ryan Longwell said. \"I don't know if it makes a difference that we have dominated at times, especially in the first half of games, but I think it has shown all the guys that we have the ability to dominate teams. We just have to keep our foot on the gas and finish what we start.\" Safety Jamarca Sanford echoed those words, saying that it's easy to play football, practice and go to meetings when a team is winning. It is a different story when a team is losing. The mettle of a man is tested when he faces hard times, not good times, and the Vikings are most certainly facing hard times. \"I've never been part of a 0-4 team, but I have been on teams that have been losing,\" Sanford said. \"There's nothing like adversity. That's what makes you who you are. We know what it takes. 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