Pep talks and players-only meetings can be overrated, but a halftime speech by one of the Vikings' more widely recognized position coaches was mentioned enough by players that it seemed to have an effect in Sunday's come-from-behind win against the Detroit Lions.
"Eric Bieniemy came in here and kind of raised his tone of voice a little bit. He told guys, ‘You don't get these opportunities too much, so you need to go out there appreciate, relish it and go out there and play,'" safety Darren Shaper said. "He just came in there and let us know to do our job, and he made an issue of making that known to everyone. I think guys came out and played different in the second half."
The Vikings were certainly more disciplined. They trailed the Lions 10-3 at the half because of a recurring theme – penalties and turnovers.
Two of the Vikings' three fumbles were in the first half. Brad Johnson's one interception was thrown in the first half when he was hit when releasing a pass and the ball floated high across the middle of the field. And all five penalties the Vikings committed were waged in the first half.
That's when Bieniemy, the nine-veteran of the NFL and the Vikings' running backs coach, reeled off an impromptu speech that caught the players' attention at halftime.
"The guy's been playing the game for a long time. He's been to the Super Bowl, so he knows what it takes, he knows what it's all about," said wide receiver Travis Taylor, who committed the Vikings' final turnover of the game with a third-quarter fumble. "He's a very emotional guy, but this came out of nowhere and it just happened. The locker room was quiet, listening to what he had to say and took it to heart."
Besides a missed extra point in the fourth quarter, Taylor's fumble was the only major mistake for the Vikings in the second half, who rattled off 23 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and went the entire half without a penalty.
Bieniemy's words seemed to hold a bit more credibility with the players, given his resume as the University of Colorado's all-time leader in rushing yards (3,940 yards), all-purpose yards (4,351), touchdowns (42) and scoring (254), and his nine-year career with San Diego, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia.
"I think it had a big effect," receiver Marcus Robinson said of Bieniemy's speech. "A guy who played the game, a guy who guys respect and knows the game, he came out and voiced his opinions and emotions. Guys fed off that. This is an emotional game.
"He was definitely encouraging, just telling the guys, ‘We've got to pick up and go out there and produce, be accountable. You get paid to play this game that you like to play, so go out and play it.'"
Head coach Brad Childress said he wasn't surprised by Bieniemy's speech.
"E.B. is a passionate guy. He wears it right out there, and that's what you love about him," Childress said. "He's played the game before. He kind of knows what it takes and he has a great tempo of the situation. He's got a tough group to coach sometimes because those guys can be emotional guys, and so, football is a game of emotion. I don't think it hurts for people to show it when they feel it. That's one of the things I've liked about him over the course of time I've gotten the chance to work with him."
Halftime Speech May Have Helped
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