The Vikings spent the week preparing for Sunday's game at Cincinnati knowing that owner Zygi Wilf expects much more than what he saw in a disappointing Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay.
A day after that loss, Wilf admitted he spent five or six hours driving the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul on Sunday night and thinking over what went wrong. One conclusion Wilf came to is that he needs to be more involved with the football side of things.
"I have to be active," said Wilf, who had been a lifelong New York Giants fan before buying the Vikings during the off-season. "No, I'm not going to call the plays. But I'm going to go ahead and make sure that the right people do the right things.
"I think it's very important that the message is out that the person on the top is watching over them, making sure everything is done right. We're going to try to strive for excellence. I'll try to figure out what it will take for us to be the champs."
Wilf's desire to become more involved was undoubtedly fueled by the ineptitude he saw from the Vikings offense in a 24-13 defeat against the Buccaneers at the Metrodome.
A solid performance Sunday against the Bengals would be the best way for coach Mike Tice and his staff to convince Wilf that everything is OK at Winter Park and that Week 1 was more aberration than reality.
In order to prove that, the Vikings will need a much better effort from quarterback Daunte Culpepper, the offensive line and a running game that generated all of 26 yards. Culpepper turned over the ball five times (three interceptions, two fumbles) and didn't get adequate protection from his line, especially the interior players.
This ineptitude will mean either the Vikings' offense will come out with a vengeance at Paul Brown Stadium or Tice, first-year offensive coordinator Steve Loney and Wilf will realize they have some real problems that need to be fixed. This won't be good news for Tice or his staff, considering all are in the final year of their contracts.
Tice remained calm this week, refusing to show any sign of panic. "I think the team feels the same way the coaching staff does," he said. "Let's get better, let's figure out what we did wrong and let's get to work on it."
Michael Bennett, who did not start in Week 1 and rushed for a minus 1-yard, will get the start ahead of Moe Williams this time. Mewelde Moore also should get some carries after not getting one in the opener. The key to playing time for Moore might be the condition of his left ankle. He sprained that ankle in the preseason and then was leg whipped in that area while playing special teams against the Bucs. Wednesday, he said the ankle felt fine.
Concerns about the offensive line extend beyond the poor performances of center Cory Withrow and rookie right guard Marcus Johnson. On the Vikings' final offensive play against the Buccaneers, left tackle Bryant McKinnie sprained his left foot. Tice expects McKinnie to be able to play Sunday but said Adam Goldberg will be ready to go if McKinnie can't. McKinnie did not practice Wednesday.
Goldberg replaced Johnson in the fourth quarter of the opener, but Tice will lose that option if Goldberg has to play left tackle.
There is almost no way the Vikings' offense can look as bad as it did against Tampa Bay and its cover-2 scheme. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, like Bucs coordinator Monte Kiffin, also is seen as a defensive mastermind and certainly will try to employ some of the tricks that Kiffin used.
"We've addressed some things internally, and none of them include personnel changes," Tice said. "We've just got to play better, and we will. It's not panic button time."
Wilf ‘Watching Over Them'
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