The Vikings lost the first game in a series of back-to-back road games and a stretch where four of five that are on the road. They'll have to improve their road fortunes if they plan on winning the division.
Following their loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday, the Vikings pointed to the fact that they still remain in the thick of the NFC North race. Green Bay had just cruised past Chicago, leaving all three teams with 5-5 records and six games remaining.
But the reality is that if the Vikings want to earn their first division title since 2000, they are going to have to find a way to win a few road games.
This hasn't been an easy task for Brad Childress' team this season. The Vikings are 1-4 away from the Metrodome and 0-4 when playing outside. The one victory came in a Monday night game against New Orleans at the Superdome in early October.
The lack of success outside isn't good news given that the Vikings will visit the Jacksonville Jaguars
on Sunday. The Vikings' game at Tampa Bay began a stretch in which Minnesota will play four of five on the road.
Childress, for one, isn't buying into any talk that his players might have lost confidence when they leave the state of Minnesota.
"The road is the road," he said. "You have to have a road mentality as you get on the plane and go and know that it is obviously going to be a noisy environment. ... You know places like the Louisiana Superdome are hard places to play because it is noisy down there. You talk about the environment. I don't think it becomes a mind-set thing. It's not, ‘Oh boy, here we go again. We are playing outdoors on the road. We are 0-4.' I don't think that ever enters into a professional athlete's mind."
The Vikings can take some consolation in the fact the Bears and Packers also are under .500 away from home. Both teams are 2-3.
"It's tough to win on the road," Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte
said. "The advantages of playing at home are huge. With your fans, the crowd, the other team not being able to hear the cadence. All those kind of things. You're not traveling, you're not playing on a plane, you're not staying in a new hotel or somewhere different."
The Vikings' final two road games will be against Detroit on Dec. 7 and Arizona on Dec. 14. The woeful Lions play indoors at Ford Field, and the Cardinals stadium has a retractable roof.
QB Gus Frerotte completed 14 of 20 passes for 138 yards with a touchdown but was sacked five times in the Vikings' 19-13 loss at Tampa Bay. It marked the first time in four games Frerotte did not throw an interception. He had thrown eight picks in the previous three games. The veteran is now 5-3 as the Vikings starter this season.
RB Adrian Peterson was held to fewer than 100 yards rushing for only the fourth time this season. This came after Peterson had four consecutive games with more than 100 yards, including a season-high 192 yards rushing on 30 attempts the previous week against Green Bay. Peterson finished with 85 yards on 19 carries against the Buccaneers but was handed the ball only six times and gained 14 yards in the second half. This was in large part because the Vikings ran only 20 offensive plays in the half.
RB Chester Taylor carried the ball only five times for 11 yards and caught two passes for 15 yards against Tampa Bay, but he also fumbled after an 11-yard reception late in the fourth quarter. The Buccaneers recovered to seal the victory. Taylor continues to be used extensively in a third-down role and has been mostly successful handling that job. The lost fumble was his first of the season.
TE Visanthe Shiancoe had two catches for 41 yards against the Buccaneers and now has 23 receptions on the season. Shiancoe now is only four receptions shy of the total he had last season in 16 games with the Vikings.
WR Bernard Berrian, a game after being shut out for only the second time this season, caught a team-leading three passes against the Buccaneers. However, those receptions went for a total of 46 yards. That 15.3-yard average was well short of the 20.7-yard average Berrian carried into the Vikings game in Tampa Bay. Berrian has not had a touchdown catch in the past two games after going four consecutive games with a scoring reception.
WR Bobby Wade caught his first touchdown of the season in the loss to the Bucs, despite suffering a right knee injury in the opening quarter that forced him to sit out for a short period. Wade continues to lead the Vikings with 38 receptions on the season, playing both the slot and outside positions.
WR Sidney Rice caught two passes for 22 yards against the Buccaneers, but neither went for a touchdown. That was notable because three of Rice's five receptions entering Sunday had gone for touchdowns. His longest reception went for 17 yards.
DE Jared Allen continues to play despite having a third-degree sprain of the AC joint in his right shoulder. Allen admitted he was in extreme pain after the Tampa Bay game and had his arm in a sling as he got ready to leave the stadium. Allen also reportedly was headed to New York on Tuesday to meet with the NFL about his recent hits on quarterbacks Matt Schaub of Houston and Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay.
LB Chad Greenway was credited with a team-high 16 tackles in the loss to the Bucs. He also had his fourth sack of the season after not having any in 16 games last season.
LB Napoleon Harris continues to start in the middle for the Vikings but comes out in passing situations.
CB Benny Sapp took over the nickel role that had been played by Charles Gordon, who is out for the season because of a leg injury. Sapp did not see as much action as Gordon had been getting Sunday, as the Vikings stayed in their base package more frequently. Sapp briefly left the game after being shaken up blocking on a kickoff return.