Zimmer hasn’t been shy about bringing up the problems the Vikings have had and has used them as motivation for the 2015 team. They can’t win on the road. They can’t win on the West Coast. They can’t beat division opponents on the road. Nobody wins in a temporary stadium. He’s used them all and found a way to come out of it with victories.
But, perhaps the most daunting streak of futility the Vikings have had as a franchise will be on display Sunday as the Vikings attempt to end their most epic failure – handing a loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Since 2010, the Vikings have played the Packers 11 times. They’ve come away with one win in that bunch – a 37-34 win in the 2012 regular-season finale at the Metrodome in which the Vikings had to overcome a four-touchdown game from Aaron Rodgers to put Minnesota in the playoffs, where they were humbled 24-10 by the same Packers team a week later.
Not only have the Vikings found it difficult to beat the Packers, they’ve struggled to keep games close. Green Bay’s 9-1-1 record against Minnesota since 2010 has included wins by blowout scores of 31-3, 45-7, 24-10, 44-31 and 42-10 – not to mention erasing a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter of a game that ended in a 26-26 tie without Rodgers in 2013.
For the most part, the rivalry between the Vikings and Packers has been like the rivalry between a hammer and a nail. One pounds the other out of habit and necessity.
The one commonality in those previous 11 games is that, in all of them, the Packers were the favorite to win – often a prohibitive favorite. This time around, even the boys in Vegas can see the handwriting on the wall. The Vikings are a minimal favorite or a pick ’em at most sports books.
Why? Because in 2015, it would seem the Vikings are the better team. Adrian Peterson is up to his old tricks. The Vikings defense has been oppressive and is making plays at all three levels. The special teams has been consistently winning the battle of field position and providing the big plays needed to win games. If you add up the check marks that give one team an edge over the other, there would seem to be more on the Vikings’ side of the ledger than there have been in years.
Of all the monkeys that have been on the backs of the Vikings, Zimmer and his 2015 squad have been able to eradicate them – or at least reverse the longstanding trend of winning games that in previous years would have been almost automatic losses.
However, no streak has been as daunting or as crippling as the Packers’ domination of Minnesota teams this decade. 1-9-1 is not a record any team wants to be associated with. It has been a foreboding dominance that has been about as lopsided as it can get.
Will the Vikings start to reverse the curse that has come to define both themselves and the Packers in recent years? There’s no time like the present for Minnesota to reclaim the top spot in the NFC North. It’s been a lifetime in NFL terms since the Vikings and Packers exchanged wins and made their border war a legitimate battle. It can be argued that, for the first time since 2009, the Vikings have a better top-to-bottom roster than Green Bay and should win games against them.
Zimmer has found a way to get rid of a lot of the stigmas that have plagued the Vikings. Tomorrow he and his players have the opportunity to erase the darkest chapter of their recent history by defeating the Packers and having Green Bay looking at their wild card options as opposed to being the annual champ of the NFC North.
Will it happen? We’ll know by dinnertime Sunday. Given the Vikings’ recent reversal of fortune in areas that have dogged them in the past, it’s clearly possible, if not probable. But until you slay the dragon, you haven’t proved anything. The Vikings have the chance to vanquish the team that has oppressed them for years.