Vikings ready for ‘race to the finish'

The Vikings know their standing – a three-way tie for the division and needing some road wins along the way. But they aren't becoming discouraged.

The Vikings wasted an opportunity to take sole possession of first place in the NFC North on Sunday by losing at Tampa Bay. But that loss did little to dampen Minnesota's playoff hopes or enthusiasm.

The Vikings (5-5) remain tied atop the NFC North with Chicago and Green Bay and will attempt to stay in that spot, or create a bit of separation, when they make another trip to Florida on Sunday to play the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"It's a new season," Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte said. "Everybody is 0-0 right now, and we're all tied and we all have six games to go. We've got to make the most of our opportunities. (The Jacksonville game) is a huge game for us. We have to go down, and we have to give it our best."

The Vikings also will have to win on the road, something that hasn't been easy for them this season. Minnesota is 1-4 away from the Metrodome and has yet to win outdoors. The Jaguars (4-6), of course, play outside but are only 1-4 at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium this year.

One consolation for the Vikings is that they have been able to hang close in road losses to Green Bay (24-19), Tennessee (30-17), Chicago (48-41) and Tampa Bay (19-13).

"They're all close," said Frerotte, whose team had a two-game winning streak end last Sunday. "There haven't been many games that we've lost or that we've gotten blown out. We have to stay in it, we have to limit the mistakes, and we have to make the most of our opportunities. Every good team does that.

"You look at the Titans. They are 10-0. They've just got to be resilient and that's what they are. They make the plays when they have to. We have to be able to do that, and with these six games coming up, that's a step that we need to make as an offense."

A victory at Jacksonville would put the Vikings a game over .500 a week before they face the Bears in a Sunday night game at the Metrodome. The Vikings lost to Chicago earlier this season, and a victory would be crucial for tie-breaker purposes.

"Everybody knows the situation we are in - obviously every member of our football team," coach Brad Childress said. "(We have) six weeks to go and (we are) all tied up in our division. So it will be a race to the finish, and you expect that in the NFL every week."

The Vikings will be looking to rebound after a disappointing second-half performance against the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay dominated in every aspect in the final 30 minutes and overcome a 13-6 deficit.

The Bucs had an astounding time of possession advantage in the fourth quarter, holding the ball for 12 minutes, 34 seconds. The Vikings ran a total of 20 plays in the entire second half and only seven in that last quarter.

Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson touched the ball six times in the final half after having 13 rushing attempts and one reception in the first two quarters. That certainly isn't a formula that is going to result in the Vikings' first division title since 2000.

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams is among the Vikings who knows the NFC North is there for the taking.

"Sooner or later we've got to realize that first place is out there for us and we have to jump on it and quit shooting ourselves in the foot so much," Williams said. "We can't keep making those excuses about being so close because it is frustrating. We've got to get off our butts and do something."

SERIES HISTORY: 4th regular-season meeting. The Vikings lead the series, 2-1, with all the games having been played at the Metrodome. The Vikings beat the Jaguars 50-10 in 1998 and 27-16 in 2004 and lost 33-3 in 2001.


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