Seattle may see a different Vikings squad than one it routed
MINNEAPOLIS - Two midseason games earned the Minnesota Vikings a reputation as a team not ready to beat the big boys: a 30-13 loss to Green Bay on Nov. 22 and a 38-7 loss to Seattle on Dec. 6. Since then, coach Mike Zimmer says, his team has lear...
MINNEAPOLIS – Two midseason games earned the Minnesota Vikings a reputation as a team not ready to beat the big boys: a 30-13 loss to Green Bay on Nov. 22 and a 38-7 loss to Seattle on Dec. 6. Since then, coach Mike Zimmer says, his team has learned something important.
“I think they figured out how they have to play,” he said.
The evidence bears him out. Since losing to the Seahawks, the Vikings are 3-1. Furthermore, they won their first NFC North title in six years by beating the Packers 20-13 on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
With that nemesis slain, the Vikings (11-5) take aim at the Seahawks (10-6) with even bigger stakes on the line next Sunday, a noon kickoff in an NFC wild-card playoff game, Minnesota’s first since losing the NFC Championship game in New Orleans in 2010.
The Vikings insist they will be a different team than the one that meekly succumbed to the Seahawks a month ago.
“I think you can tell just (by) how we’re playing,” Zimmer said. “If you watched us play, without getting too specific, if you went back and watched the Arizona, Chicago, Giants (games) and last night, it just looks different to me.”
Minnesota finished the regular season with victories over the Bears, Giants and Packers, and lost 23-20 to NFC West champion Arizona (13-3) on Dec. 13. That’s because, Zimmer believes, the Vikings seem to have realized how hard, and well, they have to play to win.
“We have to be a team that plays like that,” the coach said. “We haven’t earned anything, really; we have to go out and take it.”
Next up, defending NFC champion Seattle, which has won five straight on the road, including last weekend’s 36-6 victory at Arizona, the top seed in the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks beat Minnesota just as badly in the teams’ first meeting, a 38-7 victory that was somehow worse than the score indicated. The Vikings’ lone TD was a third-quarter kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson, scored when the Seahawks were up 35-0, and they were outgained 433-125.
“They played (all)-out and we didn’t,” receiver Adam Thielen said. “We need to come out and make sure we play our best football and put our best foot forward.”
Zimmer said the video will be examined when the team returns to practice on Wednesday.
“When we’re getting ready to play them again, they’ve got to watch it – with me,” the coach said.
One thing they won’t see is Marshawn Lynch, the bruising tailback who has been sidelined by an abdominal injury since November. Back from surgery, he was working out at the Seahawks’ facility on Monday and could play against the Vikings.
“Beast Mode,” as the 5-foot-11, 215-pound tailback is known, has played only seven games this season, running for 417 yards and three touchdowns on 111 carries. But he has played in 10 postseason games, rushing for more than 100 yards in six of them.
Even if he doesn’t play, the Seahawks haven’t exactly missed him. Thomas Rawls ran for 101 yards and a TD on 19 carries against the Vikings, and Christine Michael, picked up off waivers on Dec. 16, ran for 102 yards on 17 carries against Arizona on Sunday, his third game with the Seahawks this season.
If the Vikings don’t play better than they did on Dec. 6, it won’t matter who’s running the ball.
“Yeah, I mean, there were plays left on the field, guys not doing their jobs, not playing to the best of their ability,” said Thielen, who is questionable for Sunday because of a shoulder injury. “Coach always says, ‘It’s not about the plays, it’s about the players.’ Whatever play is called, we have to make it happen. We have to go in there with that mind-set.”
The Vikings were without four defensive starters in that game: tackle Linval Joseph, linebacker Anthony Barr and safeties Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Smith. Joseph sat out of the Packers game because of a nagging foot injury, but the other three are back and healthy.
“It makes a big difference,” said cornerback Xavier Rhodes, whose performance against the Packers might have been his best since joining Minnesota last season. “We just looked at the film and saw that we made a lot of mental errors. We basically hurt ourselves. Those guys took advantage of it and put points on the board.”
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