Vikings, Bears vie for control of NFC North race Print
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Friday, 28 November 2008 10:11
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 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -The Minnesota Vikings under coach Brad Childress have been defined so far by a decent defense, unreliable offense and an overall record with more defeats than victories.
Perhaps the prevailing image, though, of the Childress-in-charge years in Minnesota has been the placid public demeanor. And the refusal to acknowledge much disappointment or excitement about developments relating to his team.
As the Vikings approach the final stretch of the season, the players are being urged by the boss as much as ever to maintain that old one-game-at-a-time approach.
Beating the Bears at home on Sunday night would give them the inside track for the rest of the NFC North race, but - supporting Childress' message - a brief lapse could quickly push them back into third place. The coach likened the scenario, metaphorically, to text messaging while driving and suddenly looking up to see a narrowly missed collision or worse.
' Childress said. ``You always have to be able to reach back, be able to listen to that little man that's sitting on your shoulder talking about, 'If we, if we, if we,' or 'I'm in a contract year,' or 'What kind of potatoes are we having tomorrow?' Everybody does that. Everybody.''
With a loss to the Bears already on the books, Minnesota is essentially in a must-win situation despite a tie for first with Chicago at 6-5. Green Bay isn't out of it at 5-6, and competition for the two wild-card slots currently favors teams from the stacked East and South divisions.
So as cliched and trite as it might sound, success for the Vikings - translated as their first playoff berth in four years - hinges largely on an ability to avoid looking ahead to December visits to Detroit and Arizona and home games against Atlanta and the Giants.
``We've shown in the past the ability to put stretches together, and now would be the perfect time to do that,'' safety Darren Sharper said. ``We're still taking it one game at a time. This game right here is a huge game. A rivalry game. An NFC North opponent, and we're doing it at home. We're excited about it, and our total focus is on this week.''
inst Jacksonville, New Orleans and Green Bay before finishing the season at struggling Houston. The Packers host Carolina on Sunday, Houston the following week and dismal Detroit on Dec. 28. They go to Jacksonville and Chicago.
Those are more reasons why this nationally televised rivalry game at the Metrodome is so important for the Vikings.
``It's probably going to be the most wired you've ever seen me,'' tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. ``I just like it out there. Everybody's fighting, everybody's scratching, elbowing, some people are kneeing, twisting people's ankles under the pile. Some people are gut-checking under the pile. Just that tenacity out there, man, I just love it. It gets me wired a little bit.''
The Bears beat the Vikings 48-41 at Soldier Field last month, benefiting from two touchdowns off special teams mistakes by the visitors and a sharp performance in the pocket by quarterback Kyle Orton.
Adrian Peterson helped keep Minnesota in it, though, and in three career games against Chicago the sensational second-year running back has collected 423 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. He's averaging 6.8 yards per carry against this proud, veteran defense.
up to his body he's three yards away from you. He's not where you thought he was going to be. You put that along with the strength and his running ability, the guy is just definitely a step above.''
With Orton back from an ankle injury that interrupted his breakthrough year, and a 37-3 loss to the Packers behind them following a 27-3 victory over St. Louis last week, the Bears believe they're back in form. Their once-fearsome front seven, after playing well below standard throughout the first part of the season, racked up five sacks, four interceptions and held the Rams to 14 yards rushing on 19 attempts.
Coach Lovie Smith sounded like he's been listening to Childress. Or maybe it's because just about every football coach, or in all of sports for that matter, follows the same philosophy.
``I see the winner being one game ahead in the win column,'' Smith said. ``I don't see any more than that right now. It is an important game for us. Still, we have a lot of football left to go. It's amazing how things can change from week to week. So for us, that's all we're looking at ... a division opponent on the road and ... a chance to sweep the Vikings.''
 

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