The Vikings felt like they had chances to win both of their first two games, but they find themselves at 0-2 and talking about finishing off opponents and staying together in the locker room.
It might seem like a stretch to call a Week 3 game a must-win, but there is no denying the importance of the Vikings' game this Sunday against Carolina at the Metrodome.
A Minnesota team that had tremendous expectations entering the season thanks to the addition of Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen
and wide receiver Bernard Berrian
has lost its first two games to Green Bay and Indianapolis.
The Vikings had their chances to win both, but the struggles of an offense led by second-year starter Tarvaris Jackson
has left the quarterback and coach Brad Childress feeling some early-season heat. It won't get easier against the 2-0 Panthers.
Childress remained optimistic a day after the Vikings blew a 15-0 lead in the third quarter of their home opener and lost to the Colts on a late field goal by Adam Vinatieri
. After the game, the raised voices of players could be heard coming from the locker room before the media was allowed to enter.
"Are the guys frustrated? Are they angry? Are they upset? I'm sure all of the above," Childress said. "But the great thing about this is their attitude in the locker room. They want to be better and probably the toughest thing, the hardest thing, to teach a team is to be able to step on somebody's neck and finish them when they are down and don't give a sucker an even break.
"It's not something that comes innately, that's something that you've got to learn and learn how to enjoy yourself when you get in the locker room. Make sure you understand what it takes to finish somebody off. So we're getting there, not there yet, but we're getting there."
The Vikings need to get there quickly or risk seeing their expectations go down the drain. Since 1990, only three teams have made the playoffs after starting 0-3, according to STATS, Inc. They were the 1992 San Diego Chargers, 1995 Detroit Lions and 1998 Buffalo Bills.
"The 0-2 start is not where we want to be and it's not what anybody visualized," linebacker Ben Leber
said. "I certainly didn't visualize it. It's really tough to take. It's really hard. I know it stings a little bit today but we have to move on."
QB Tarvaris Jackson is expected to start Sunday against Carolina, although coach Brad Childress seemed to leave the door slightly open on Monday for a possible move to veteran Gus Frerotte. There was plenty of talk during the offseason about Jackson's improvement, but so far he has a substandard 50.8 completion percentage and a 64.8 passer rating. Odds are Jackson will get at least one more game to prove himself.
RB Adrian Peterson, who ran for 160 yards on 29 carries in the Vikings' loss to Indianapolis, set a franchise record for 100-yard rushing performances in the first two seasons with eight. Peterson has 48 carries for 263 yards and a touchdown in the first two games.
RB Chester Taylor has only nine rushing attempts for 37 yards in the first two games and it has become fairly clear that getting him enough touches is going to be difficult. Taylor is a guy who rushed for 1,216 yards in 2006 with the Vikings — the season before Peterson arrived. One thing the Vikings are doing is using Taylor on kickoff returns, something he last did during his final season with Baltimore in 2005.
FB Thomas Tapeh, signed to a five-year, $6 million deal as a free agent during the offseason, was replaced by Naufahu Tahi on Sunday because of what Tapeh called a "mismatch" with the Colts defense. Tapeh said he played mostly special teams.
TE Visanthe Shiancoe continues to be a disappointment in his second season with the Vikings. In the first game against Green Bay, Shiancoe dropped one ball. In the second game, he dropped a sure nine-yard touchdown throw from Jackson. That was the fourth touchdown Shiancoe has failed to hang onto since leaving the New York Giants to sign a free-agent deal in Minnesota.
WR Bernard Berrian, whom the Vikings signed to a six-year free-agent contract this offseason that included $16 million guaranteed, was the intended receiver on four passes against the Colts but did not have a reception. It's clear that the big toe on Berrian's right foot that bothered him for much of training camp is still causing him problems.
WR Sidney Rice, who starts along with Bernard Berrian, suffered a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the second quarter against the Colts. Rice is hoping he can play against the Panthers.
S Madieu Williams, who has been out since early in training camp because of a neck injury, isn't practicing yet but he also is no longer wearing the big brace he had on his neck for a few weeks. The Vikings are hoping Williams can return in Week 4 at Tennessee.
CB Cedric Griffin tied for the team lead with six tackles against the Colts, but he also was victimized on a 58-yard pass to WR Anthony Gonzalez that led to an Indianapolis touchdown in the third quarter.
DE Jared Allen was shut out in his first regular-season game as a member of the Vikings but he rebounded against the Colts to record a sack, a tackle for a loss and two quarterback hurries.