The Vikings' 18-15 loss to Indianapolis in their home opener dropped them to 0-2 and leaves them two games behind the Green Bay Packers. Sunday's game against Carolina has taken on significance that almost no one could have imagined only a few weeks back.
The Vikings, who lost their opener at Green Bay, made some of the league's most talked about additions during the offseason, including signing free-agent receiver Bernard Berrian and trading for Kansas City Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen.
But for the most part, this Vikings club looks similar to the teams Brad Childress guided during his first two seasons. The Vikings have a strong ground game but remain, for the most part, woefully inadequate when it comes to the passing game.
This is largely because Tarvaris Jackson continues to struggle in his second season as this team's starter. Jackson has a 50.8 completion percentage with one touchdown, one interception and a 64.8 passer rating in two games.
A defense that was ranked No. 1 in the NFL last season against the run had an outstanding game versus Indianapolis, holding the Colts to 25 yards on 19 carries. But the Vikings' pass defense ranked last in the NFL in 2007, and when Colts quarterback Peyton Manning needed the big play through the air Sunday, he was able to get it.
All of this left the Vikings locker room a less-than-happy place. A few players stood up and spoke their minds as Childress attempted to hold things together.
"We're all in this together," Childress said when asked about his postgame message. "The last time I checked, they're not going to crown anybody king after one game or after two games. That's why we press on. Even though it's a marathon, these games are one-play sprints. One play after another play after another play. Quarter by quarter."
Childress made it clear Sunday that he is having no thoughts about switching to veteran quarterback Gus Frerotte and said Jackson will be under center against the Panthers.
The Vikings had better hope Jackson can begin to find the rhythm they thought he had during offseason practices and training camp. Jackson appeared to be an improved player at that time but then suffered a knee injury in the second preseason game and did not play in a game until the loss to Green Bay.
One key will be getting Berrian involved in the game plan. After catching three passes against the Packers, he did not have a reception versus the Colts.
"We definitely are a better team than this," wide receiver Bobby Wade said. "But the record says different. There is no secret about it. We are still an 0-2 team, no matter how good you think we are and we just have to find a way to win. I think every individual in this locker room knows that we can still turn this thing around."