"I don't think guys (were) nervous. A little excited," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "You really can't say we started slow, but Chicago's defense just got out there and made some plays – (Brian) Urlacher's picks, a couple of interceptions – but you expect that out of those guys. They went to the Super Bowl last year."
The Vikings fell behind Chicago 13-3 in the first half on Monday night and uncharacteristically fell far behind their giveaway-takeaway ratio. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson threw three interceptions and was credited with a fumble, all but one of those turnovers coming in the first half. The Bears, on the other hand, didn't turn the ball over until a deep pass on their final possession was intercepted by safety Darren Sharper.
So how much of that first-half deficit against the Bears can be credited to jitters from the heat of the national television audience?
"I think every team gets hyped. Monday Night Football is the game of the week, basically. I would say everybody was hyped," said guard Anthony Herrera. "We knew we'd have to win the game, we knew it was Monday night. A lot of guys out there, (it was) their first start on Monday night. Yeah, we were amped up."
Herrera has almost become the poster child for getting too excited. Even when he was starting for Mike Tice's team in 2005, the fiery former head coach talked often about Herrera needing to calm down – and that wasn't just during nationally televised games. Now, two years later, Herrera has earned his way back into Brad Childress' starting lineup after he has decreased the number of plays he "cowboys," a term the current coaching staff uses in reference to him getting away from the technique he's taught.
Herrera may have been excited, but he said he took his usual approach to the game, telling himself to slow down and take deep breaths.
"You can be amped up and do great or you can be amped up and go out there and have it work against you. In my case, I think it worked good for me," he said.
Penalties weren't a byproduct for the Vikings. They committed only four of them compared to the Bears' 11.
"I think we obviously had the excitement, but I don't think anybody got too amped or nervous," said linebacker Ben Leber.
After going 13 games without a prime-time matchup, the Vikings will get their second consecutive game on national television as NBC broadcasts the Minnesota-Washington matchup as its Sunday night game. The game was originally scheduled for a noon start, but NBC used its "flex scheduling" ability to make it a nationally televised affair at 7:15 p.m. Central with playoff implications for both teams. The Vikings are 8-6 after five straight wins and the Redskins have won their last two games to move to 7-7.
Still, players view Monday night as the premier game of the week, as their peers aren't traveling following afternoon games and it being the only game of the day.
"I still think Monday night is the big night. Even though the Sunday late game is still prime time, sometimes your peers are traveling. At least Monday night you know that there are no other teams playing. You are the sole focus for people who want to play football," Leber said.
"You've always heard about Monday Night Football. It's the only game of the day. It's what's going to get people through the week talking about it, so that's the game," Herrera said. "But Sunday night, it's the same thing. It's the last game of the day, everybody is going to be watching."
The Viking just hope they put out a better performance than they did against the Bears, where a turnover-filled first half still allowed them to come back with 17 unanswered points and a 20-13 win.
"If we're down as a team, we can put this in our tool belt and win the game because we know that we have the ability if we stay together," said fullback Tony Richardson. "I think we benefitted so much as an organization, as a team, obviously our young players, of having the experience of being on Monday night. Now we have a chance to be on prime time on Sunday night and it's going to be a big game for us and quite a challenge. But I think we are a much better team for having that experience this past Monday."
"Any time you get a night game, that means you're playing good football, especially this late because they have the flexible schedule," Winfield said.
In other words, television executives still think the Vikings provide a show that NFL fans across the country will want to watch.
"I think the attitude has changed around here a lot. Earlier in the year, we were trying to find a way to win," Winfield said. "Now, we expect to win every time we go out on the field."