|5 in a row: Vikings creep closer to playoff spot|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 18 December 2007 14:20|
The Minnesota Vikings don't care if this comes across as dull because their commitment - overstated or not - to such a focused approach is working.
Five straight victories have pushed the Vikings (8-6) close to a playoff appearance that was so improbable a few weeks ago. They're currently in control of the NFC's last wild-card spot.
Playoffs? That's right. Playoffs.
``I didn't understand that last word,'' coach Brad Childress deadpanned in response to a related question after Monday night's win over Chicago. ``I wouldn't know that.''
Beating the fading defending conference champion Bears had as much to do with the injury-depleted and offense-starved opponent as it did with Minnesota's own performance.
Yes, but it counted the same.
``It's really been a day-at-a-time philosophy,'' Childress said. ``I know that's trite, but that's really how we've looked at it.''
That began in earnest following the 34-0 defeat at Green Bay on Nov. 11, when the Vikings fell to 3-6. The ensuing victories have been equally pretty and ugly, several of them at least partial functions of a slumping foe. That's how you go places in the NFL, though, by taking care of the teams that are clearly supposed to be beaten.
``We realize that we're a better football team than what showed up in Lambeau a month ago or so,'' guard Steve Hutchinson said after Monday's game. ``Our motto from there on out was, 'Don't worry about the record. Don't worry about the rest of the season.'''
Cornerback Antoine Winfield, who left Monday's game in the second quarter after he came down wrong on his left shoulder after breaking up a pass, was diagnosed with a strained pectoral muscle after an MRI test on Tuesday. Wide receiver Sidney Rice has a sprained ankle.
Though their status this week is uncertain, the prognosis was a bit of a relief.
``I don't have any preconceived notions, because both of them will drive hard to get back to be able to play at the end,'' Childress said.
Players had their regular day off Tuesday and were unavailable for comment. There is less time to recover before Sunday night's game with Washington. It's a big one, too, with the Redskins and Saints trailing the Vikings by one game in the NFC race.
Minnesota can clinch a playoff spot with a win and a loss or a tie by New Orleans, which hosts Philadelphia, but a defeat against Washington would put the Vikings in a difficult spot entering the final weekend. This is precisely why Childress has preached this one-at-a-time mentality.
``Coach is always talking about hunting somebody and being hunted,'' wide receiver Bobby Wade said. ``As of right now, we are the team being hunted. We have got to take that kind of approach and really focus.''
As Childress pointed out, Minnesota and Chicago had the same record at eight points over their first 11 games: 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 2-3, 2-4, 3-5, 4-6, and 5-6. Since then, the Vikings have not lost, while the Bears have not won.
One big difference is the play of their quarterbacks. Tarvaris Jackson threw three interceptions on Monday, and two of them were ill-advised throws caused by shaky footwork and a strong rush. Those were the kind of mistakes he made all the time in the first half of the season.
Jackson has looked like a totally different player over the last month, though. His poise and ability to complete important passes has been right there with Adrian Peterson and the turnover-causing, run-stuffing defense as reasons for Minnesota's success during the streak. Jackson is 8-2 as a starter.
Kyle Orton, on the other hand, was not close to what the Bears needed to win. The Vikings were in his face a lot, and the secondary was flying all over the field to make tackles. They didn't give up a play longer than 19 yards.
``We are a very resilient group, and I think this shows the true character of the team,'' defensive end Kenechi Udeze said.