Vikings searching for consistency

The Vikings started the season with a good road win, but they haven’t strung good performances together. Players and coaches are taking responsibility for the erratic nature of the first five games.

The Minnesota Vikings’ season is only five games old and already it has taken more twists and turns than an amusement park ride.

They started the season on a high, an upset win on the road to prove that they can win away from home, and then the trouble started. It began with the public relations nightmare that started with Adrian Peterson’s indictment on a charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child, and continued with the team’s ensuing reaction to that charge – first deactivating him for the New England Patriots game, deciding to have him rejoin the team, then changing course again and putting him on the exempt-commissioner’s permission list. It was a whirlwind five days of indecision and distraction.

On the field, their performances have reflected that erratic start to the season.

“We’re not consistent, and not playing consistent gets you six, seven, eight wins, which gets you nothing in this league,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “So we have to do a better job of making sure that every person is doing their job every single play and trying to strive for perfection, and if we’re not doing that we’re cutting ourselves short.”

But despite a 2-3 record, the Vikings are far from out of it. In fact, they are just one game out of first place in the NFC North after getting routed by the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night. Thanks to losses by the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears on Sunday, the Packers and Lions are tied atop the division at 3-2 and the Bears joined the Vikings at 2-3.

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said the team would have preferred to get right back to work after that blowout loss to the Packers. Instead, the Vikings had meetings on Friday after the embarrassing loss on national television and don’t return to practice until Tuesday.

“Everybody is down because you don’t want to go on a little break like that. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to let this one go and move on to Detroit,” Munnerlyn said.

“We couldn’t get off the field and (the Packers) did what they wanted to do. And it was Thursday Night Football and the whole world was watching and we didn’t play well.”

Players and coaches pointed to the numerous mistakes in that game. Third-string quarterback Christian Ponder called his performance “embarrassing” after throwing two interceptions that contributed to a 28-0 halftime deficit and player after player talked about trying to do too much and making things worse.

“Desperation becomes a factor, but we have to learn how to get the desperation out of our minds and go back and rely on your technique,” defensive end Everson Griffen said.
Several players pointed to their own mistakes and said they need to do better individually.

Compiled as a team, the numerous mistakes became insurmountable on the road, where the Vikings have repeatedly struggled over the last several years.

They had hoped to put an end to the trend after winning in St. Louis to start the season, but the blowout at Green Bay was preceded by a 20-9 loss at New Orleans, the game in which the Vikings lost starting quarterback Matt Cassel and starting guard Brandon Fusco for the season. Tight end Kyle Rudolph (sports hernia) and linebacker Chad Greenway (broken bones in his ribs and hand) also left that Sept. 21 game early with injuries and haven’t been back since.

Those left on the field are taking ownership of the blunders.

“Really and truly it boils downs to mistakes. We’re not making the plays that we need to make. We’re not getting off on third down – there’s a whole checklist of deals that’s going on,” Robison said. “The bottom line is guys have to be in the right place at the right time. It all boils down to just do your job. We don’t need to sit here and worry about statistics. We don’t need to sit here and worry about who’s getting sacks, who is getting interceptions. None of that stuff matters if we’re not doing our job. Every person has to do their job and do it to the best of their ability.”

Head coach Mike Zimmer, who termed the loss to the Packers “disheartening,” said he didn’t see a lack of effort. But he added that the coaches would take the weekend to look evaluate the schemes and play-calling in all three phases of the game.

“We’re going to start looking at some of the things we do, offensively and defensively and the special teams, evaluate what’s good and what’s bad,” he said. “We’ll kind of try to do a quick self-scout.”

They likely would have done that even if they weren’t blown out at Green Bay, but they need to find a steadying rhythm in the next four games before their Nov. 9 bye week.

Just four days after looking so solid in a home win against the Atlanta Falcons that featured Teddy Bridgewater’s first NFL start, they looked so bad at Lambeau Field with Ponder at quarterback and without Peterson, Rudolph, Fusco, Cassel and Greenway.

Still, Zimmer tried to keep things in perspective the day after the Lambeau loss, even if he was clearly disgusted with the performance. When they return to work Tuesday, they will still be very much in the thick of the NFC North mix, with a chance to even their record with the Lions coming to TCF Bank Stadium.

“We are only 2-3. It’s not like we’re 0-5,” Zimmer said on Friday. “It feels like it today, but trust me, the sun will come up again.”

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