Quote Of The Week

Quote of the Week: Vikings Not Ready for the Spotlight

The lights at TCF Bank Stadium were too bright for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, and as it has so many times this season, the glare of the spotlight blinded Mike Zimmer’s young team to one unfortunate truth — they’re not ready to dethrone the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.

Sure, the Vikings seemed to be the favorites heading into yesterday’s 30-13 loss, but talk is just unnecessary noise.  “They’re riding a five-game winning streak, holding teams to less than 17 points per game, winning by running the football,” we said. All true, but meaningless once the first whistle blows and the game begins.

It was clear from the start that the Vikings are an improved team, but better than the Packers? Not yet. They shot themselves in the foot with untimely penalties, costly miscues in pass protection, and missed opportunities in the game’s most crucial moments. In a game they needed to win, the Vikings folded under the pressure.

Don’t look at this game as a repeat of their Week 1 performance, though. This wasn’t an unprepared team, or even an outmatched team. It was a team that let the emotions of the moment take over and throw off the chemistry that’s made this such a surprisingly successful season. Captain Munnerlyn, a new addition to Quote of the Week,  reflected on that point after the game:

[quote_box_center]”I think some guys are too excited and some guys have never been in these situations before. The only way to be in that situation is to take this stance, I’m glad they got the experience. You have to treat it like a normal game. We did a lot of uncharacteristic things trying to get up for this game when you just have to treat it like a normal game and let the game come to you.  I don’t feel like we did that today.”[/quote_box_center]

The hype started when head coach Mike Zimmer bought the team “Beat Green Bay!” t-shirts last Monday, and the train continued to roll with every new “story line” created around yesterday’s matchup. Unfortunately, it’s time to pump the brakes in Minnesota and reflect. Where are the Vikings when on Mike Zimmer’s “winning scale?”:

1. First you learn how to compete.

2. Then you learn how to win.

3. Then you learn how to handle winning.

4. And then you learn how to be a champion.

Before Week 11, and after their convincing victory over the Raiders, I would’ve told you the Vikings were easily at number three on the list. They’d won five games in a row and seemed to be the trendy pick among NFL analysts and writers. I bought into the hype, or as Mike Zimmer would say, I “took the cheese” like a mouse caught in a trap.

It’s easy to ignore a team’s biggest issues when they’re on the right side of the win-loss column. But those issues, from a leaky offensive line to an inability to play from behind, continue to haunt the Vikings. Look back to their two other losses — Minnesota fell behind early and couldn’t score enough points to make up the deficit.

The story played out again in Week 11, and again, Teddy Bridgewater paid the price. He was sacked six times by a defense that hadn’t recorded a sack in three previous games, and despite his best efforts (296 yards and a touchdown), wasn’t able to carry his team to victory. Adrian Peterson couldn’t get going either, and his 45 yards on 13 carries did little to affect the outcome. His sixth fumble – second lost — of the year, however, ruined the Vikings’ attempt at a furious comeback late in the game.

The scariest part of Sunday’s game was the undisciplined play of a team that’s built it’s success on a foundation of clean, sound football. Entering Sunday, the Vikings were the least penalized team in the league. But against the Packers, they were flagged eight times for a back-breaking 110 yards. It was an uncharacteristic

Like Munnerlyn said, Minnesota needs to win games when the lights are shining brightest. It’s easy to win when no one’s watching, but the playoff teams, the division champions, and the contenders win no matter how big the stage. They have six games to learn how to “handle winning” before they can ever consider becoming champions.

Circle Week 17 on your calendars, we may be in for a good one.

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Austin Belisle

Austin Belisle is the West Coast's biggest Vikings fan, a football diehard cheering on the purple and yellow from sunny California. After graduating from San Jose State University in 2014, he began working full-time in corporate marketing and blogging on various sports websites. Austin's passion for the Vikings led him to Vikings Territory, where he hopes to share his lifelong enthusiasm for the team with readers on a daily basis. You can follow him on Twitter @austincbelisle

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5 Comments

  1. The biggest problem to me is that I’m not sure how they should fix the offensive line. I think they can look for an upgrade at the left guard spot. It’ll help to get Sully and Loadholt back next year but for now I think they have to keep running the ball well. We’re probably not Super Bowl contenders at this point but I still want to be a threat in the playoffs

  2. Take away the 50 yard interference and Newman giving up on pass protection while Rodgers scrambled and then hit the guy in the corner of the endzone and the game was basically tied….. Our defense lost the game. GB should have never run the ball like that. Lacey is no Todd Gurley and we held him… Hell we’ve stopped them all since the San Francisco game. Not stopping the run and then letting Rodgers scramble killed us and they knew it was coming. Three teams beat them by stopping Rodgers from scrambling and shutting down the running game. Why the hell did we lose discipline??? Disappointing in the extreme. Zim is none too happy either.

  3. I don’t disagree with Captain’s statement, but to me it insinuates that it’s the young players making the mistakes that are keeping the team from winning these games. That isn’t the case. It wasn’t Diggs that dropped (or has been dropping) the quick 8 yard out route on 2nd and 4 on our opening drive that would have put us in scoring position…that was Wallace with our opening drive killer. It wasn’t Waynes mauling a receiver he had perfect coverage on anyway on 3rd and forever, that was 37 year old Terrance Newman. A few plays later it was Joseph giving the officials the chance to call a weak roughing the passer penalty to extend that same Packer drive that leads to a TD. It’s Peterson fumbling the ball away after Teddy leads them down the field in the 4th Qtr and then Wallace again on the next drive who didn’t appear to be running full speed until he kicked it into another gear when he saw the ball in the air on what could have been a long TD that missed his hands by inches. On a team full of youth, many times it’s been the guys in their 5th plus year making the critical errors. That’s what was the most disappointing thing to me from this past game.

  4. This team is still entirely on stage two of the the four learns. Last year I thought we learned how to compete, and this year we still are too. We played the Broncos tight this year, and going back to last season we beat a few teams by great effort and players competing every play (Panthers & Jets). BUT we also competed hard against the Dolphins and came up short because we didn’t know how to win. We did the same against Detroit when we gave away a 14-0 lead.
    This year we have learned how to compete in every game (besides the first and this game) while also pushing through to create some wins for ourselves. Just because we won 5 games in a row against mediocre competition during the middle of the afternoon, while everyone else is still watching their team, does not mean we know how to win. It sure as hell doesn’t mean we know how to handle winning either. Let’s put a winning season together first and beat some quality teams in prime time before we crown ourselves onto the third stage.
    A team like Carolina is a team that is learning how to handle winning. The Minnesota Vikings are still learning how to win and compete and quite frankly I’m okay with it. I think it’s good we got shlacked this game because now our team/fans will realize how much work and how long it truly takes to push through and learn how to become a champion. The silver lining in all this is that most of the NFL can’t get past the second stage or even the first! With Zimmer and Teddy leading the way I have full faith we can fight through the second stage and graduate to the third by the end of the year.
    The future is still bright for the Vikings we all just need to take a step back and look at it in a realistic way.
    The Zimmer way.

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