For the first month and a half of the 2016 season, the Minnesota Vikings were viewed as one of the NFL’s most dominant teams. As the last undefeated team through five games, the Vikings were garnering a lot of attention.
But, following a decisive loss at Philadelphia where the Vikings offense struggled to move the ball, the team has been getting some bad press over the last few days.
Defensive end Brian Robison addressed some of those issues, saying that the Vikings team that was seen Sunday won’t be the same team that was humbled in Philadelphia.
For their part, the players are reading or listening to the negativity being thrown their way and they’re not letting one loss in six games have any impact on their seventh game of the season Monday night at Chicago.
“Everybody’s going to think this is the end of the world because we lost one game,” Robison said. “We don’t really care what people are saying about us. We’re going to go business as usual. We’re going to practice hard and do everything we need to do to put us in a position to be successful on Monday.”
Despite the disparity in their records, strange things have happened to the Vikings when they play at Soldier Field. Prior to winning 23-20 last season, Minnesota had lost seven straight visits to Chicago.
That dubious fact isn’t lost on veterans like Robison. They’re not taking for granted that the Bears are struggling at 1-6. The Vikings have been road favorites before and come up empty in Chitown.
“Chicago is a very hostile environment,” Robison said. “You’ve got to take their crowd out of it early. We’ve obviously had our struggles there the last 10 years or so. We’ve got to make sure we’re on our P’s & Q’s this week and make sure we go in there and try to bounce back.”
From the defensive standpoint, Robison is surprised that Chicago has struggled as badly as it has this season. When he was breaking down game tape, he was extremely impressed with the Bears’ running game. A strong running game is typically a recipe for success, but Chicago has struggled despite being able to ground, pound and control the clock offensively.
“When you look at a lot of their run-game clips, you don’t understand how they haven’t won more games,” Robison said. “I don’t think their record is indicative of the kind of team they are. They’ve lost some close games. They’ve had the lead in the fourth quarter in three of their seven games. They’re going to make some plays and we’ve got to go out there and do what we’ve got to do. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if we’re 5-1 and they’re 1-6. It’s about who wins on Monday.”
The Vikings are going to be a facing a Bears team that is at full strength for the first time in a month. Jeremy Langford started the season as the primary back in Chicago’s backfield, but went down to injury and opened the door for rookie Jordan Howard.
Howard has responded with a pair of 100-yard rushing games as the lead back and, while they have different running styles, Robison believes the Vikings will see a heavy dose of both until they can prove that they can slow down the rushing attack.
“When you look at Langford, he is quicker and he can slice and dice through the holes,” Robison said. “When you look at Howard, he’s a pretty big back who is powerful. They bring different elements, even though they are very similar in a lot of ways. They got two backs that can make plays for them and their offensive line does a lot of good things when in the run game as far as their run schemes to get guys out of their gaps.”
Suffice it to say, anything bad that the media has said about the Vikings has been secondary to what they’ve been hearing from head coach Mike Zimmer. While the players can ignore media stories and social media trolls, they can’t escape the wrath of their head coach.
Zimmer made the ultimate player slur after Sunday’s game, calling the team “soft” – known in NFL circles as the “S-word.” Robison didn’t like hearing it, but it was accurate in the context of that game and he would expect nothing less from his fiery head coach.
“We expect it,” Robison said. “Zim doesn’t say anything to his players and doesn’t say anything to (the media) that he doesn’t mean. Sometimes it may not be the things that you want to hear, but it’s true. That’s what we always expect out of him. He’s always going to tell us the truth and this week is no different.”
Bouncing back from their first setback of 2016 won’t come easy. The Bears are desperate for a win and will have a fired-up crowd behind them with the sports-world media in Chicago for the World Series and the Vikings-Bears game being shown in the prime time glare of the national spotlight.
The Vikings have a history of bouncing back quickly from bad losses during the Zimmer era and Robison expects to see the same Monday. Just as teams can’t rest on their laurels when times are good, they have to keep their focus on the next game to help erase the memory of struggles when things are going bad.
“You’ve got to put those losses behind you and get back to work,” Robison said. “This week is no different. We can’t sit here and dwell on what happened Sunday. Guess what? It’s over and done with. It’s behind us. We’ve got to work like we’ve done every single week, do some good things this week putting it on the practice field and making sure we’re in the right positions and people understand where we need to be – all 11 guys on the same page. If we do that, that’s kind of been the formula for success for us.”