Vikings wary of post-bye ‘rust’

The Vikings showed progress on offense and defense prior to the bye, but the challenge will be to continue that going forward.

There is a sense of growing confidence throughout the Minnesota Vikings’ locker room. They are riding a two-game winning streak, were able to rest and get healthy during their bye week, and they are getting their Pro Bowl tight end in Kyle Rudolph back and possibly getting their all-star running back in Adrian Peterson at some point, too.

During their first practice back from the bye week, the energy and excitement that players had was evident. They were running from station to station, shouting at the top of their lungs, and Josh Robinson was even doing flips.

Even though it is a long shot for the Minnesota Vikings – who are currently 4-5 – to make the playoffs, the players feel as though they have a chance to be right where they want to be at the end of the season.

“I think the last two games we’ve shown what kind of team we can be when we play well and we execute well,” said Vikings defensive end Brian Robison. “So that’s what we have to keep doing. We just have to keep doing that and try to get better every single game. If we do that, we put ourselves in prime position to be where we want to be at the end of the season.”

The defense has been showing major progress throughout the season. Nine games in, they are ranked as the ninth-best overall defense, only allowing 326.3 yards per game.

The offense, on the other hand, is a different story. There have been games where they have struggled mightily – gaining only 212 yards and not reaching the end zone against the Lions in Week 6. In the past three weeks, not including the bye, the offense has been progressing and putting the team in position to win.

“I feel really good about the offense,” said wide receiver Jarius Wright. “I feel like we put two really good games together, definitely good enough to win, and I feel like we are on the (upswing) right now.”

Even with the improvements the team has made, it is important to remember that the Vikings have yet to beat a team with a winning record. If that trend were to continue, the Vikings would end the season at 8-8, an improvement from last year but surely not where they want to be.

Their next matchup against the Bears will be against another team with a losing record, and one that has just allowed 50-plus points in their last two games, but the Vikings are expecting a big effort from the Bears.

“I’m expecting them to come out and try to start fast and definitely be ready to play us,” said Wright. “It’s kind of a big rivalry game. Like you said, they haven’t played well the last two games so I expect them to come out and give us all they got.”

A fast start for the Bears could cause problems for the Vikings. In the past couple years, the Vikings have struggled coming off a bye. Head coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t put much stock in post-bye trends, saying it’s more about the opponent at the time rather than coming off the bye.

“I think sometimes you have to shake the rust off and get ready to go,” Robison said. “I think Zimmer said it best last week. Sometimes teams come off their bye week after taking time off and they kind of forget things, they get rusty.”

If the Vikings hope to make a run and get into the playoffs they will have to win the majority of their remaining games, and get help from other teams in front of them. The winning will have to start this Sunday at Solider Field against their division rival the Chicago Bears.

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