It has been the bane of the Vikings' existence for the first month of the 2011 season, but, as much as the team loved their 28-point explosion in the first quarter of Sunday's 34-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals, for many of them, it was how they played after that point that meant the most.
"Getting off to the great start was big, but the thing we've been focusing on is finishing," Kevin Williams said. "We've been in that position three other times. The main thing was not only holding them off at the end, but putting on the finishing touches."
Linebacker E.J. Henderson agreed, saying that the Vikings have been hurting themselves by not playing at a high level for a full 60 minutes and that their strong play in the second half after allowing an early second-half touchdown meant as much or more than the blazing-fast start.
"I definitely think the most important part for us was the finish – even more so than the fast start," Henderson said. "We used to getting off to a fast start, to finish has been what's missing. To have our playmakers on both sides of the ball coming big at the end was a great way to start the second quarter of the season."
Chris Cook said the defense was feeling the pressure of not performing well in the second half of games when they were told to protect a big lead. For the first time, the team responded the way they expected – and it was a point that had been hammered home in the days leading up to Sunday's win.
"We talked about intensity all week," Cook said. "We talked about taking the games one quarter at a time and finishing them out. We had to finish today. We've put ourselves in position to win every game this year, but just didn't finish off teams when we had them down. I feel like the defense, that a lot of it was on us to keep them out of the end zone and preserve this one. We had been letting our offense down because we've always felt that if our offense scores 17 points we should win every game. We stepped up as a unit, kept up our intensity and got a ‘W'."
Both the offense and defense did its part. The Vikings were able to sustain drives, even though they came away with just six second-half points. They were able to effectively run the clock on offense and make negative-yardage plays on defense, making the finish all the more important moving forward.
"It was huge," Percy Harvin said. "Every game this year we have gotten off to a hot start, with the exception of last week. We just wanted to come in here and maintain it. We had a big enough lead where it didn't really affect us too much, but our second-half offense still needs to be better."
It took a lot longer than anyone in the Vikings locker room – or the state of Minnesota for that matter – expected to notch the first win of the season, but, as Jared Allen put it, it was about time it finally happened.
"This is the kind of game we have been looking for all year," Jared Allen said. "We could be playing the ‘woulda, shoulda' game, because we believe we should be 4-1 or 5-0 at this point. We're not, but today we were able to put it all together and need to keep building on it."
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.
Vikings relieved to finally finish
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