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Powers: Despite perfume, Vikings' road losses still stink

DENVER -- Afterward, the Vikings squirted cologne all over their 23-20 loss to the Broncos. Atomizers, spray bottles, even roll-ons were in heavy use as the Vikings tried hard to mask the odor of disappointment. No one dared use an aerosol can he...

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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) is sacked by Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) in the fourth quarter Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Vikings 23-20. Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER -- Afterward, the Vikings squirted cologne all over their 23-20 loss to the Broncos.

Atomizers, spray bottles, even roll-ons were in heavy use as the Vikings tried hard to mask the odor of disappointment. No one dared use an aerosol can here in the most militantly green city on the planet, however. They'd have been shot on sight, albeit with recyclable bullets.

"If you play like that on the road, you're going to beat a lot of teams," receiver Mike Wallace declared.

"It shows we can play with anyone," said guard Brian Fusco.

"We continued to compete, continued to fight," quarterback Teddy Bridgewater noted.

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It got to the point where the fragrance was so overpowering that I had to get away for a breath of fresh air. It may all be true, of course. The Vikings probably can take enough positive vibes from Sunday's loss to carry them through the bye week in upbeat fashion.

Yet the bigger problem is this whole business of not being able to win away from home. The open road is their enemy. The same can be said for most NFL teams, obviously. But the good ones find a way to break through.

Minnesota won just twice on the road last season and is 0-2 in 2015. In fact, the Vikings are 2-16-1 in their past 19 regular season/playoff road games. It may be getting into their heads. Almost every player qualified his postgame remarks by adding a "for a road game."

"That was a tough environment to come into," Bridgewater said. "We knew it was going to be a tough environment to come into.

We watched the video earlier this week of the Denver Broncos stadium and everything. We learned the history of the stadium, the crowd and everything. We were prepared coming in."

Note to Vikings coaches: Stop that! Why show the players film about the grandeur and majesty of the next team's home field? Instead, a designated coach should stand in front of the group and announce, "It's a dump. Don't worry about it." That would have a much more positive effect.

On Sunday, it was as if the Vikings woke up and found themselves in a toe-to-toe battle with Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Wow, cool! Manning, 39, looked rickety for much of the game. Perhaps he's exhausted from endorsing so many products. He's the new Billy Mays (remember OxiClean, Kaboom, Samurai Shark?).

At times, it looked as if he were quarterbacking for both teams -- the way we sometimes did it on the playgrounds when an older kid wanted to play. Manning would throw to his Broncos receivers. Then after a while he'd throw to one of the Vikings defenders.

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As a result, it was a surprisingly close game on enemy turf. Denver has an excellent defense, which sometimes gets lost in Manning's shadow. Meanwhile, the Vikings don't even play the same game on the road. At home, it seems to be a run-first philosophy. On the road, it seems to be a pass-first philosophy.

On the Broncos' last drive, Manning was steady and got his team to a go-ahead field goal. On the Vikings' last drive, Bridgewater got hammered and fumbled, leading to an anticlimactic finish.

"We fought, though," defensive end Everson Griffen said. "We played a really good team. Peyton Manning has great weapons, they have the No. 1 defense, and we fought for four quarters and almost came out victorious."

Maybe this really is one of those losses that should be sugar-coated. Yet the suspicion lingers that the Vikings could have won the game with a bit more poise. I guess everyone has to decide whether a close road loss against a solid team still is good enough for now.

Said Bridgewater: "If we want to be a playoff team, a contender in this league, we have to win on the road."

That's the truth. Despite Manning's obvious decline, the Broncos are 4-0. They know how to close it out wherever they play. The Vikings are 2-2.

"It's average, just as bad as it is good," said safety Harrison Smith. "Like I said, we have a lot of guys that want to win on this team. As long as we build and get better, there's a lot of football left."

Including six more games on the road.

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"My team will fight and keep competing," coach Mike Zimmer said. "We probably didn't play good enough to beat a very good football team on the road."

Zimmer's perspective was a bit less rosy than the one in the locker room. However, his analysis was dead on. What Zimmer could have added to the end of that statement was "again."

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

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