Heading into the third game of the 2015 season, the Vikings have had a game where they have played well in all three phases and one that had some fans harkening back to 41-donut for when the last time the Vikings looked quite so heinous from start to finish.
Linebacker Gerald Hodges has seen both ends of the spectrum of that equation. Like his teammates, Hodges is trying to keep moving forward and not dwell on the past. Get over it and move on – whether the memory is positive or negative.
“You have to have a fast memory in this game,” Hodges said. “You can’t get caught up in losses and you can’t get too happy over wins. I’ve learned to look at every game like you’re 0-0 and you need this one to get moving in the right direction. You can’t get caught up in the past – good or bad. We’re coming off a good game, but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t keep it going this week and get another W.”
The key difference is that both winning and losing can be contagious. When the contagion is losing, there’s an eraser on the memory. When the result is winning, it’s not as easy (or wanted) to get rid of the memory quite as fast.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like you completely forget it,” Hodges said. “You want to keep the good, positive things you did that week and carry it into the next one, but you don’t want to linger on that win. It’s not hard to program yourself to think that way, but the more you win, you’re just looking to progress, progress, progress each week.”
When Hodges came into the NFL from Penn State, he is the first to admit he figured his college skill set would transfer immediately to the NFL. He was quickly dissuaded of that notion as he soon discovered he had a long way to go.
He is a much different player now, having learned that skill can take you a long way, but he still needs some schooling up – and it’s a never-ending process.
“One of the keys for me is continually studying film and learning as much as you can about each team you face and each quarterback you’re facing,” Hodges said. “We’re facing a lot of very good quarterbacks all during the year. When I came to the Vikings, I wasn’t a student of the game. I had to learn that. Philip Rivers is a very good quarterback. He does some things that a lot of quarterbacks don’t. He’ll take chances to put a ball in a spot and, most times, he puts it right there. What I’m studying is to pick up on keys that give me diagnose where he’s going and try to make plays and get a turnover.”
Under ordinary circumstances, the Vikings linebackers would be up for one of their stiffest challenges of the year, having to deal with shifty receiving running back Danny Woodhead, athletic tight end Ladarius Green and future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates.
Woodhead will be there. Green might not be due to sustaining two concussions in 11 days. Gates definitely won’t, still two games out before returning from a league suspension.
Much of the focus of the Chargers offense likely would have been centered on Gates, who routinely runs intermediate routes to soft spots in defenses, which, more times than not, are in the vicinity of Hodges or rookie Eric Kendricks.
It would be easy to be happy about one of San Diego’s key chess pieces missing. Much of the film of the Chargers that Hodges has viewed includes an inordinate number of critical plays – third downs and red zone primarily – that Gates is the No. 1 option. He’s not playing Sunday, but Hodges wishes he was.
“I’m a competitor, so I wanted him to be out there,” Hodges said. “If we’re playing a certain team and there are key guys that help them win, I want to play against them, so when the game is over nobody can say, ‘They didn’t have so-and-so.’ As a competitor, you want to go up against the best because that’s how you get the best out of yourself.”
If there is any equity put into attitude, 18 games into the Mike Zimmer era of Minnesota football, it would seem clear the Vikings are buying into the system and looking to impress the general on the field of battle, regardless of what weapons the opposition does or doesn’t have.
- The NFL Players Association is looking into an allegation that Vikings guard Brandon Fusco continued playing after sustaining a concussion in last week’s game with Detroit. The charge has been made that the league’s sideline spotter either failed to recognize that Fusco was struggling to get back to his feet after a dizzying collision or didn’t act in response to what he saw. Sideline spotters have the authority to stop a game and pull the player if he is showing the signs of wooziness after a hit to the head.
- Today will be the first of three straight games the Vikings will play against the AFC West. After playing San Diego today, Minnesota will travel to Denver next week to play the Broncos. Following their bye week, the Vikings’ first game back will be against the Kansas City Chiefs.
- For the third straight game, the Vikings have been installed as a favorite by the sports books in Las Vegas. The Vikings are between a 1- and 2-point favorite.