Perhaps the internal clock of Minnesota Vikings’ players was thrown off by the time change on their West Coast trip, or maybe – and more likely – they realize the significance of the Sunday’s upcoming game against the Green Bay Packers.
Whatever the reason, the Vikings turned the page of their reality thriller quicker this week. The 24-hour rule was more like the 2.4-hour rule. The 30-14 win against the Oakland Raiders was nice and all, but the Vikings have a divisional opponent, the Green Bay Packers, that has dominated the series the last five years with 1-9-1 record and can now be put further in the background if the Vikings win on Sunday.
“We’re not dwelling on what happened yesterday and we’re not dwelling on the fact that we won on the road and won on the West Coast and all those other things,” defensive end Brian Robison said Monday. “I think we were even talking on the bus yesterday, and a lot of teams in the past would have been happy with a win yesterday, and we’re already starting to talk about Green Bay yesterday. We’ve done that numerous weeks. It’s pretty much been the same thing with this team week in and week out – we won a ballgame, so what? It’s onto the next week.”
It’s the sort of focus head coach Mike Zimmer not only embraces but consistently encourages. He downplays wins and plays up any doubters to his players, trying to forward the thinking that “nobody believes in us,” even if plenty now do.
The Vikings are 0-4-1 against the Packers in the last five games. They lost 42-10 in their first meeting last year at Lambeau Field, but narrowed the margin of defeat to three points in November last year at TCF Bank Stadium. But moral victories aren’t part of Zimmer’s process. The Vikings are past that stage of his budding program.
“We really don’t care what people think or say. We just have to go out on Sunday and just execute and do our job,” nose tackle Linval Joseph said.
“Every game is a huge game. Last week was a huge week, and the week before that. So nothing’s going to change. We’ve got to come in here and we’ve got to prepare and come up with a good game plan and come out with a win.”
The Vikings might be catching the Packers at a good time. For a short time earlier this year, they were the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl. But, lately, struggles have ensued. Green Bay has lost its last three games, including Sunday’s first loss to the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field since 1991.
“This is a very important week. Every week is an important week. But right now they’ve lost three in a row and we know we’re going to get their best shot, just like they’re going to get our best shot,” Joseph said. “We just need to come in and just evaluate this team and do our best to come out on top.”
This time, it’s the surging Vikings riding the momentum entering the border rivalry. Minnesota has won five straight games and has a one-game lead over the Packers in the NFC North.
Perhaps losing receiver Jordy Nelson to injury before the season started is finally affecting the Packers offense. Their passing offense is now 22nd in the league and their total offense 21st.
“We haven’t really got onto them too much yet, but I think the thing you see with them is I think they have weapons on the edges and they haven’t been getting to them as much the last few weeks,” Robison said. “But obviously they still have a lot of weapons over there and it really doesn’t matter what they’ve done the last three weeks. It’s about what they’re going to do on Sunday and we’ve got to be prepared for that.”
Lately, Zimmer has given his players Monday off following a win. This week was different, even if he downplayed that move. Zimmer simply said he wanted to talk to his players on Monday before giving them the normal and required Tuesday off, but he declined to say what his message was.
More than likely, it was along the lines of his postgame message to the team: Keep grinding away and keep focused because leading the division in the middle of November “means nothing.”
“That’s the thing I love about this team. It doesn’t seem to be anything that needs to be enforced. It’s just kind of understood,” Robison said. “(Sunday) a lot of teams would be super excited to get a win on the road and heading back home and being 7-2 and we’re not satisfied with that. We understand we’ve got another task at hand this week and we’ve already moved on.”