Notebook: Learning from Prime Time

After 13 games this season with mostly a local-market audience, the Vikings are entering their second straight game with a national television audience. They won last Monday, but players are hoping they learned how to better deal with the excitement of a big game. Plus, get the final injury report and performance notes for Sunday night's game.

The Vikings enter their second consecutive week of playing a game on national television, but they say their inexperience with the bright lights before last Monday night's nationally televised game had nothing to do with their sub-par offensive performance.

"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."

NOTES

  • Winfield (pectoral), LB Dontarrious Thomas (groin) and WR Sidney Rice (ankle) are all listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week. S Tank Williams (knee) is probable and was the only one of the four listed to participate in Friday's practice.

  • For the Redskins, QB Jason Campbell (knee) and OL Mike Pucillo (back) are out. TE Todd Yoder (knee) is doubtful, S Pierson Prioleau (hamstring) is questionable, and S LaRon Landry (quad) and WR Keenan McCardell (calf) are probable.

  • The Vikings are averaging 31.8 points per game in their past five games.

  • Jackson is now 8-2 as a starter this year, winning his past six.

  • Rookie running back Adrian Peterson has been held to 81 yards on 34 carries in his last two games, but he still leads the NFL by averaging 106.5 yards per game. He leads the NFC with 1,278 yards and could become the first rookie to lead the conference since Hall of Famer Barry Sanders in 1989.

  • RB Chester Taylor has 443 rushing yards (88.6 per game) and six touchdowns in his past five games.

  • Redskins running back Clinton Portis rushed for 126 yards and one touchdown last week. When he exceeds 100 yards, his teams are 27-9. However, the Vikings rush defense leads the NFL, allowing 67.9 yards per game. It led the NFL in that category last season with a 61.6-yard average allowed per game.

  • Redskins quarterback Todd Collins led his team to a win last week in his first career start since Dec. 14, 1997.

  • Redskins DE Andre Carter has 14.5 sacks in his past 19 games.


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