It's no wonder Brad Childress has preached ball security throughout his tenure, referring to the football as a sack of gold and other such desired items.
Asked what the difference is between their recent five-game winning streak and losing efforts, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson didn't shy away from the blame.
"Turnovers," he answered. "The last week two weeks, we've had seven turnovers on offense. When we were winning five games, we weren't having turnovers. We've got to do a better job of taking care of the football, especially with the interceptions. That's a big deal."
The Vikings are 1-1 in the last two weeks while committing three or more turnovers, and they are 2-2 this season when they turn the ball over at least three times. But that giveaway-takeaway ratio for the Vikings has been fading the last two weeks.
They are still plus-4 in that category, but in the last two games Jackson has thrown five interceptions and the Vikings have lost two fumbles. Meanwhile, in that same two-game stretch, the Vikings defense has come up with only one interception and no fumble recoveries.
"Watching the film as I see it, it's like, Why did I do that. At the same time, you're just out there reacting and trying to play. I've got to do a better job, that's just point blank," Jackson said.
Last week against the Washington Redskins was also the first time this season that the Vikings have lost when they've scored more than 20 points, dropping their record to 8-1 in those situations this season.
"We were lacking in the big plays. We didn't have many big plays Sunday," Jackson said. "Whenever you lose both those battles, it's going to lose football games."
While they've lost only one game when they've scored more than 20 points, they've lost all six games in which they've scored less than 20 points. The Broncos have given up an average of 24.5 points per game.
Another key factor for the Vikings is explosive plays, Jackson said. In their four December games so far, the Vikings have only four passing plays of 20 yards or more and none of them have come in the last two games.
That lack of explosion in the passing game has come despite teams loading up their defensive front in an effort to stop the run, but Jackson also said that the Vikings have to find a way to open up the running game despite those uneven personnel numbers.
"They've been putting that eighth guy in the box and we're going to see that. Hopefully we can get the run game going this week with that eighth guy in the box regardless," he said. "We've just got to do what we've got to do to get guys running lanes. If passing the football first is going to open up different lanes, that's fine. If running the football is going to keep them balanced, that's fine too."
Still, many observers are quick to point to the play of Jackson when dissecting what has gone wrong offensively. Jackson took the blame on Sunday night and continued to question himself on Wednesday.
"You're thinking about what you did wrong. Even when you win, you're thinking about what you did wrong. But things go a lot smoother when you win," he said. "It was a crucial game (against Washington) and we lost it. Right now we've just got to try to move on."
Childress said one of Jackson's interceptions Sunday night – the first one to Fred Smoot – was partly to blame on the pressure the quarterback was getting. But Childress also acknowledged that the Vikings may have to start passing the ball sooner to get defenses away from stacking the line of scrimmage.
"We probably should have started throwing it a little earlier just to back them away a little bit from some of those forcing units," Childress said Sunday night. "But I didn't want to see us turn the football over like that when we were throwing it."
Jackson's performances the last two games have caused Childress to be non-committal in Jackson's future as a starter.
"His record as a starter (8-3 this season) speaks for itself. I'd like to do a little bit better job with that ball security. That ends up being that premium decision-making. By and large he's been decent decision-making," Childress said. "I always want to see us make the routine plays routinely. …
"I want to see the rest of the season obviously and I am not looking at this as our last game. The best thing I think to do is we always step back and we talk about it. Rick (Spielman, the Vikings' VP of player personnel) and I will talk about it, the coaches will talk about it, and you are always better served just to step away and look at things a little bit from a distance."
Defensively, one key stat in determining the Vikings' success has been their ability to shut down the opposition's rushing attack. While they have the league's No. 1 defense against the rush, allowing 70.5 yards rushing per game, they have lost the only three games in which opponents have rushed for more than 100 yards. The Dallas Cowboys had 128 yards in a 24-14 win, the Green Bay Packers rushed for 120 yards in a 34-0 victory, and the Redskins rushed for 106 yards in their 32-21 win – the only time this season the Vikings yielded 100 yards in the Metrodome.
So if the Vikings can hold the Broncos' ninth-rated rushing attack in check, keep turnovers to a minimum, score more than 20 points and have at least a couple of explosive plays on offense, they should be able to end the regular season on a high note.
The NFL reached an agreement with its TV broadcast partners CBS and NBC for an unprecedented three-way national simulcast of the NFL Network telecast of Saturday night's New England Patriots at New York Giants game when the Patriots will try to become the first NFL team to go 16-0 in a regular season.
"We have taken this extraordinary step because it is in the best interest of our fans," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. "What we have seen for the past year is a very strong consumer demand for NFL Network. We appreciate CBS and NBC delivering the NFL Network telecast on Saturday night to the broad audience that deserves to see this potentially historic game. Our commitment to the NFL Network is stronger than ever."
This will be the first three-network simulcast in NFL history and the first simulcast of any kind of an NFL game since Super Bowl I in 1967 when CBS and NBC both televised the first meeting of the champions of the newly merged National Football League and American Football League.
The game has relevance for Vikings fans. With six points, the Patriots will break the Vikings' NFL scoring record from 1998, when Minnesota scored 556 points. Former Vikings receiver Randy Moss will also try to break Jerry Rice's touchdown reception record of 22 in one season. Rice set the record in 1987; Moss has 21. Patriot QB Tom Brady is also one shy of Peyton Manning's NFL-record 49 touchdowns passes in a season.
Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. Saturday.
"You try to put it behind, but at the same time you won't really, really get over it until you go out here and win on Sunday," Jackson said. "You think about it and you know at the same time you've got to move on because it's a quick turnaround and you know that you've got to get ready for the Broncos starting today. If we win this game, it's still going to kind of bother you a little bit if we don't make the playoffs knowing that we could have been in the playoffs with that win next week."