The Minnesota Vikings are playing what is arguably their biggest game of the 2015 regular season. They are heading to Green Bay to take on the Packers on national television in a game where the winner will walk away with the NFC North division title.
The last time the Vikings played the Packers things didn’t go their way as the Packers won pretty decisively on the road, 30-13. The Vikings did not look like themselves in that game, but have seemingly gotten back to playing the style of football that they want to as they have won their last two games by a combined score of 87-34.
They know that they are going to have to keep treating this week’s game just like any other game of the season if they hope to take the division crown from the Packers, but that is easier said than done.
“You want to stick to your routine, like I said, you don’t want to do anything that’s out of character because then you become someone you’re not,” said linebacker Anthony Barr. “You want to stay true to who you are.
“Take it step by step, day by day. Don’t try to look too far ahead. Sunday’s a long ways away. You’ve got to worry about getting better out here today, try to make as few mistakes (as possible) in practice and carry that over into the game.”
Barr is only in his second year in the NFL and hasn’t played in a game of this magnitude before, and many of the Vikings defenders are in the same situation as him.
The Vikings have not been to the playoffs since 2012, so a lot of the young defenders are leaning on the experience of players such as nine-year veteran defensive end Brian Robison and 10-year veteran linebacker Chad Greenway.
The veterans have been telling the young players to treat this game like any other game because they don’t want to try to do too much and get in their own way. At the same time, they don’t want to play it down too much and not do what they need to do.
“I think everybody just needs to keep it simple,” Robison said. “I mean, I always call it the K.I.S.S. method – just keep it simple, stupid. That’s the way I see you’ve got to do it. Just go in and treat it like a regular game.”
Robison knows from experience that when the Packers have beat the Vikings in the past, it is usually because the defense does not play the way it normally does. They currently have the No. 6 scoring defense in the NFL and that is with them allowing 30 points to the Packers in their first meeting and 38 to the Seattle Seahawks just two weeks after that.
They are allowing only 19.3 points per game, so when they are playing the way they want to play, it’s difficult to score on them. The trick for them is to simply play the way they know how to play and not make this game anymore than it already is.
“When you look at the times they’ve beat us, they’ve been able to run the ball, we’ve had penalties and we didn’t get turnovers,” Robison said of their losses against the Packers. “So that’s what it’s going to come down to. We’ve got to stop Eddie Lacy and (James) Starks, we got to get after Aaron Rodgers – make him throw us some turnovers – and keep the penalties to a minimum. If we do that, we’ve found out we can be pretty good.”