The Vikings' season of turmoil and disappointment looked finished at halftime of last Sunday's game against Green Bay. Trailing 17-0, the Vikings were booed off the Metrodome field and appeared destined to for a 1-5 start.
And then everything changed ...
Perhaps inspired by embattled coach Mike Tice's halftime speech or maybe just embarrassed enough by a combination of off-the-field issues and on-the-field ineptitude, the Vikings rallied for 23 second-half points en route a 23-20 victory.
As kicker Paul Edinger's team-record 56-yard field goal went through the uprights, the Vikings were given a second lease on life in the NFC North.
On Sunday, we'll find out how Tice's team handles this bit of prosperity. It won't be an easy task for the Vikings, who at 2-4 are amazingly only one game behind division co-leaders Chicago (3-3) and Detroit (3-3).
The Vikings will make their first-ever regular-season trip to Carolina, a much better team than Green Bay. The Panthers (4-2) are tied for second place in the highly competitive NFC South and will be well-rested coming off a bye. It's the second consecutive week the Vikings will face a team that had a bye.
Tice's biggest concern will be getting his team to believe it can win a game away from the Metrodome. At home, the Viking are 2-1, losing the season-opener to Tampa Bay (24-13) and then rebounding with victories over New Orleans (33-16) and the Packers.
Away from home is a different story.
The Vikings have been dreadful on the road, getting routed by Cincinnati (37-8), Atlanta (30-10) and Chicago (28-3). There only two touchdowns have been late scores that came when the games were out of hand.
Getting this type of failure turnaround quickly won't be easy for Tice. Since taking over in 2001, his teams have never had much success on the road and it has been especially tough in outdoor stadiums.
Tice is 9-18 on the road since taking over for the final game of the 2002 season after Dennis Green was fired. Overall, the Vikings have lost 31 of their past 40 contests as visitors, dating to the middle of the 2000 season. Minnesota has a 3-20 record outdoors in that time.
One of the Vikings' biggest problems is an inability to keep cool after something goes wrong on the road. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper and Co., seem to get rattled far too easily at the first sign of trouble.
But if the Vikings are too stay within striking distance of the NFC North lead — and they are being every chance to do so — they must prove that not only was last Sunday no fluke but that this team can win in a tough environment.
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