The Vikings have lost three games in a row and are starting to feel the heat to win while their to-do list of things to improve upon remains large.
A losing streak that reached three games with Sunday's defeat against visiting Green Bay has left the Vikings with a 4-5 record and a real threat that the final month of the season could become meaningless in a hurry.
With that prospect hanging over their heads, Minnesota will face crucial games this Sunday in Miami and Nov. 26 against Arizona at the Metrodome.
"All the talking and all the rah-rah is all fine and dandy, but if you're not putting it on the field, it doesn't really mean anything," tight end Jermaine Wiggins
said. "I think we're at that point now where we have to do what we have to do and just get the job done regardless week in and week out. We can't hold no punches, we just have to let everything fly."
That was something the Vikings weren't able to do in their 23-17 loss to the Packers.
"I'm not going to make any excuses for us not being able to get the job done," coach Brad Childress said. "We need to be better on offense. We made a couple of big plays. There were other plays that we left out there.
"We need to protect the quarterback better, and we need to move on. Make those corrections and get ready for the Miami Dolphins
with seven games to go. Right now I think there are 11 teams right about within a win or two of where we're at, so we need to make our move."
In order for that to happen, the Vikings need to gain more consistency on offense, the offensive line needs to do a better job of protecting quarterback Brad Johnson
(sacked four times and pressured five times against Green Bay), the play-calling needs to improve and the pass defense must improve on its No. 26 ranking in the NFL.
Safety Dwight Smith
is aware of all these things but still holds out hope.
"It's kind of like digging a hole for yourself," he said. "You don't want it to seem like (the Miami game) is a must win, but I think that is the approach we have to take. Not because we're 4-5, but because we've lost three games in a row. That's the most important thing. You want to get this taste of losing out of your mouth. Get your win, then you can build towards getting more."
LG Steve Hutchinson on the Vikings' problems: "You just have to come in and cut out the stupid stuff. We're shooting ourselves in the foot a lot of times. ... We just need to take care of our assignments and play smarter as an offense."
WR Bethel Johnson, signed by the Vikings during the bye week, thinks too much is being made of how difficult it is to adjust to the team's West Coast offense. "It's not as complicated as everybody is trying to make it be," he said. "You can make it complicated by not studying your plays. It's fairly easy when you study the things you have to do. It's not hard at all."
The Vikings' offensive line struggled against the Packers on Sunday, and LT Bryant McKinnie had a particularly rough game. But coach Brad Childress defended McKinnie on Monday. "I don't know that you pile it all on his feet," Childress said. "Were some of them his? Sure, there were. Were they all his? No, they weren't. ... I know when it comes off of that side, you feel like the culpability is the last guy outside. Not all his, but certainly not all everybody else's either. I'm not disappointed with him. I think they all can play at a better level than they are playing right now."
FB Tony Richardson suffered a fracture in his right forearm Sunday against Green Bay. Richardson entered the game with a fracture in his right thumb. Coach Brad Childress said Richardson will not need surgery, but the fullback's arm is in a splint. It's likely Richardson will miss a game.
LB Jason Glenn will miss the remainder of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in the fourth quarter Sunday. Glenn suffered the injury on punt coverage. An immediate roster move wasn't made to fill Glenn's spot.
LB Napoleon Harris will begin practicing this week after missing two games because of a fractured left wrist. Dontarrious Thomas has been starting in Harris' place.
WR Marcus Robinson will attempt to practice after missing three games because of a lower back injury. Robinson has missed four games this season and still leads the team with three touchdown catches.
WR Troy Williamson had only one pass directed his way Sunday after dropping two passes the previous week against San Francisco. Williamson did not catch the ball Sunday.