The Minnesota Vikings are preparing for the next biggest game of the year Sunday. Coming off a four-game stretch in which they’ve gone from first in the NFC North by a game to behind by a game and currently in the sixth playoff spot, the team is keeping its focus on the next game – a home game with the Chicago Bears.
While fans and the media seem to obsess on the future and the past – going as far to once again harken to the opening-night loss to San Francisco to the Vikings being flexed in Week 16 to a potential prime-time date with destiny at Lambeau (the second of a likely trilogy) – the team, as expected, is looking no further than Chicago and Sunday at The Interim Bank.
Some veterans of NFL wars were asked about the current condition the Vikings are in and, to a man, they effectively stole a line from Aaron Rodgers.
“We’ve got three games left,” said Terence Newman, no stranger to three-game stretch runs. “At the end of the day, we still have a chance to do what we set out to do. Nobody is in panic mode. There was a time earlier in the year we were 2-2 and people were like, ‘Hey, these guys are done’ and we put a pretty good win streak together. We still have a chance to do what we want to do. We just have to correct some of the mistakes we made. I hate to use this, but I think the way we came out and played last week lets us know that we’re able to play with good, quality football teams. We just didn’t get it done. Moving forward we know we’ve got to play with the same emotion, same attitude, same chip on our shoulder and seal the deal, not make the mistakes that we made.”
Players are resolute in doing what they’ve done all season – beat teams they’re supposed to beat. The Bears and Giants fit in that category. Ask 13 opponents and they’ll tell you.
Beat Chicago and New York at home and it doesn’t matter what Green Bay does. Good luck with that spit-and-duct tape offensive line in Arizona.
The Vikings aren’t scoreboard watching. They’re Bears-tendency watching.
“It’s not in a panic mode at all,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “We’ve just got to take care of business. We’ve just got to control what we can control and that’s go out there and win this game on Sunday. We can’t worry about the next game or the next game or who plays and who wins and who loses. We’ve just got to worry about what this team does, what the Minnesota Vikings do. It starts on Sunday. We’ve got to go out there and take care of business and it takes care of itself.”
Linebacker Chad Greenway is as familiar with Minnesota December fan malaise – the ugly cousin of Minnesota Nice – as anyone. This isn’t his first rodeo. He knows the Vikings playoff future is in their hands, whether as a division champ or a wild card.
The velvet rope no longer applies. If you want in, you get in. By any means necessary.
“The best part is we do control our own destiny right now,” Greenway said. “We didn’t go into the desert and get a win like we wanted, but we still control that. We need to start with a big win Sunday. We have to really dial it in these next three weeks.”
The Vikings would force the issue with Green Bay with a win Sunday against a Chicago team that looks like an organization about ready to start putting players on I.R. to pilfer other team’s practice squads.
The panic button isn’t ready to get hit. The two keys required for launch sequence aren’t even in the same room. While fans and the media obsess on what has happened over the last month, the Vikings are looking to Sunday.
Winning in the best deodorant.
It won’t come easy. The Bears aren’t going to lay down. Their playoff chances have mathematicians working overtime to show how it can work.
“If we just do what we’ve got to do and we win football games, then everything is taken care of,” Newman said. “We play Green Bay in our last game, so we’ll worry about them once we get to that team. But right now we’re just worried about Chicago. We’ve got to deliver this week and do what we know we can do, which is play good football. They’re playing pretty well as well, getting some things going on offense. We’ll have our hands full.”