In the NFL, they have a saying that claims a team is what it’s record says it is. When the Minnesota Vikings were 5-0, that was who they were – one of the most dominant teams in the league.
With Thursday’s 16-13 loss to the Detroit Lions, the Vikings are 6-5 and a team that has been in near free-fall since its bye week.
After the game, several players spoke to the frustration that the team has going, but realizes that the season isn’t over. The team has shown the capability over the last couple of seasons to string together wins and they’re keeping the faith that it can happen late in the season this year.
“It’s obviously frustrating on all accords,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “You just can’t make the mistakes we were making on all phases. We gave up, what did they score, 16 points? We just need to play better on defense and not let them drive the way they did. But at the end of the day, they’re a good football team. It was a great football game, one of those games you want to end up on top. Thankfully for us, everything is still in front of us. We’re going to need some help now, but everything is still in front of us. If we win, good things will happen. We know we’re in every ballgame. We’re competing our tails off, we really are in this locker room. You can’t look at either side of the ball and say – hey, we’re a good football team. We’ve just got to figure out how to win these games.”
It’s hard to believe that a team that could be so dominant the first month of the season would fall this hard, but the reality is that they have had opportunities to win games that they have lost. Detroit has been the perfect representation of that. The Vikings had a lead late in the fourth quarter of both games and allowed the Lions to march down the field late in games to score the game-winning points.
What makes it more frustrating for the Vikings is that, despite their numerous injuries this season, they still are in games at the end and show flashes of that same team that dominated in the early weeks of the season.
Why is guard Alex Boone still confident the Vikings can turn things around?
“The fact that I know what this team can do,” Boone said. “I’ve seen this team play well against good teams. You lost a heartbreaker like that and it hurts. Believe me, it hurts. When you lose two offensive linemen it really hurts. This is the type of team that can bounce back and we’ve got to prove to everybody we’re fine. You know, we’ve got to stick together. We can’t be turning on each other and, you know, I think this team will be fine.”
The inability for the offense to sustain drives late to kill off the clock and the defense’s inability to close out games in the final stages has become something that hasn’t been a trademark of the Mike Zimmer era in Minnesota.
When the Vikings are playing their style of game, they’ve been able to do both – score enough points to cover what the defense allows. For 55 minutes in their two games against the Lions, they were attaining that objective, yet came away with losses in both – something that the Vikings under Zimmer haven’t done that often.
“You go back and look at the football team that we’ve become over the last three years and we’re a team that wins close games and executes in critical situations,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “As much as a team win last week was and we executed in those critical situations, we didn’t do that this week and this was a team loss. It’s on each and every one of us. You know, no one played perfect and we’ve just got to stick together. We’ve got five games and there’s no reason everything that we want to attain isn’t still in our grasp.”
It was likely a long, quiet plane ride home for a Vikings team that didn’t have much to be thankful for, at least football-wise, on Thursday. It was another body blow for a team that was large and in charge of their own destiny, but, after dropping five of their last six games, find themselves searching for answers.
They have been dealt their blows, but aren’t on the mat for the final count, at least not yet. That’s not their style and Zimmer won’t tolerate a team that quits. They need to pick themselves up because, while things may look bleak right now, they need to fight as a group now more than ever.
“We’ve got to grow,” defensive tackle Linval Joseph said. “We have to stick together, bottom line. We’ve got to stick together. We’re 6-5; it’s not the end of the world. We have five more games and we just have to take it one week at a time.”