Guard Anthony Herrera said the veteran leadership group has been stressing the importance of preparation for the first playoff game and not looking ahead. Players are putting in extra work and take more precautions with their health.
One of the mantras for the Vikings all season has been not to look beyond the game at hand, but rather to simply focus on the game in front of them. As the Vikings strung wins together to get off to a 6-0 start and later a 10-1 opening to the season, they refused to look beyond the opponent that week. The same was true as they struggled to a 1-3 record in December. The team never lost focus, and never wasted time looking back or looking too far ahead.
As they prepare for their first playoff game, that preparation and mental outlook has come full circle. In a "one-and-done" system, veteran guard Anthony Herrera
said players don't want to be in a position of saying, "I could have done this differently or could have done that differently." It's time to leave it all up to execution, which he said won't be a problem on Sunday.
"I think we've got a veteran leadership group up in here," Herrera said. "Everyone knows this is the playoffs and you can't leave anything to chance. Everything you can take care of you do to the max. Everybody is doing extra work, watching extra film, getting in the cold tub, getting in the hot box and doing everything we need to do so Sunday we just leave it on the field."
For the Vikings offense, the key, according to Herrera, will be finishing drives. Teams that score more field goals than touchdowns rarely win, and in the playoffs that is even more magnified.
"In the game of football, you want to score sevens," Herrera said. "Threes are never good enough. You'll take them, but the main goal is to score sevens. If you look back last year at the Indianapolis game, we scored a whole lot of field goals, but they still came back to beat us. If we turned those field goals into sevens, there is no way we lose that game. It's extremely important that we take care of our business in the red zone."
The Vikings and Cowboys have been two of the healthiest teams in the league this season. The Vikings have placed on player on injured reserve – linebacker E.J. Henderson. The Cowboys have two rookie linebackers on injured reserve this season.
No Vikings missed practice Wednesday, but six players were limited – Steve Hutchinson (shoulder), Pat Williams (elbow), Antoine Winfield (foot), Visanthe Shiancoe (quadricep), Chris Kluwe (back) and Jimmy Kennedy (thumb).
Kennedy continued to wear a protective cast on his injured thumb during practice Wednesday.
For the Cowboys, running back Marion Barber (knee) was the only player who missed practice, but he is expected to play Sunday. The team had announced on Tuesday that Barber would be given the Wednesday practice off to give his swollen knee more of a chance to heal.
The other four players listed on the Dallas injury report – LB DeMarcus Ware (wrist/back), OT Marc Colombo (ankle) and safeties Gerald Sensabaugh (thumb) and Patrick Watkins (knee) – all fully participated in practice Wednesday.
Vikings corner Antoine Winfield said the bye week helped improve his injured foot and the Vikings plan to incorporate him more into the lineup this week.
Former Vikings head coach Mike Tice is among the short list of candidates being considered by the Bears for their offensive coordinator position or the offensive line coach. But, in his role as assistant head coach/offense, the Bears may have to offer him the offensive coordinator position to pry him away from Jacksonville and fellow former Viking Jack Del Rio.
Despite the national media being all aboard the Cowboys bandwagon, the Vikings remain a three-point favorite for Sunday's game – the standard points given the home team in a typical matchup.