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 The Minnesota Vikings hit their stride
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Posted - 08/11/2018 :  07:52:43  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
last year well before midseason using an eight-game winning streak to build a 13-3 record for the second seed in the NFC.This year, the second half of the season is going to be much more difficult.More Vikings coverageVikings cornerback Rhodes on track to return against LionsVikings Snap Counts: Griffen splits time with Weatherly in returnDifficult stretch ahead for Vikings, but Zimmer is ¡®encouraged¡¯Upon Further Review: Vikings vs. SaintsPHOTOS: Vikings vs. SaintsThe challenge starts with the schedule. The next five games include trips to Chicago, New England and Seattle, with two division-leading foes and one of the toughest venues to play in. Detroit and Green Bay are the home opponents during that stretch, bringing two dangerous quarterbacks to U.S. Bank Stadium.The Vikings are also 4-3-1, just behind the Bears in the NFC North and slightly ahead of the Packers, so they¡¯ve squandered their margin for error.¡°I¡¯m not disappointed,¡± coach Mike Zimmer said. ¡°It is what it is. We have eight more games to go, and that will determine what we end up doing.¡±After losing 30-20 to New Orleans on Sunday night, the Vikings were mostly upset about the way they let the game slip away. They were in control late in the second quarter with a 13-10 lead, when Adam Thielen plunged forward for extra yardage and lost the ball at the 14-yard line. The Saints turned that fumble into a touchdown, making the potential cost of that rare mistake by Thielen a whopping 14 points.¡°It¡¯s more frustrating because I think we had it going execution-wise and scheme-wise and all that,¡± Thielen said on Monday.¡°I think when it¡¯s maybe a lack of concentration or just being too relaxed or what have you that¡¯s the frustrating part. Because you know how many times that you¡¯ve done it a different way and the right way, and the one time you slip up it costs you maybe the game.¡±The other half of Minnesota¡¯s dominant receiver duo, Stefon Diggs, was responsible for the other devastating turnover. Diggs stopped his drag route short before an under-pressure Kirk Cousins dumped the ball off to the spot where he expected Diggs to be had he kept running. The interception was returned for a score to give the Saints a 27-13 advantage.Thielen and Diggs were outspoken after the game about their acceptance of blame, but Zimmer wasn¡¯t having it, and he said as much to the team.¡°Like I told them in the meeting today, the receivers need to stop saying that stuff because one person doesn¡¯t lose a game. One person doesn¡¯t win a game. We win around here as a team. We lose around here as a team,¡± Zimmer said.¡°Guys make mistakes, miscommunication, whatever you want to call it happens. I will never put any one of those one things on one player, ever.¡±Though the loss clearly hurt the Vikings in the conference and division standings, there were reasons for them to feel better about where they¡¯re headed at the halfway mark. Thielen and Diggs don¡¯t have a pattern of such gaffes, for one. They also played without six injured starters, and young subs such as right tackle Brian O¡¯Neill linebacker Eric Wilson and cornerback Holton Hill fared well in extended action.¡°I¡¯m encouraged after this ballgame. I¡¯m encouraged after the last four weeks,¡± Zimmer said. ¡°If I was ticked off, I¡¯d let them know. Trust me.¡± EAGAN, Minn. (AP) ¡ª With his first real game for the Minnesota Vikings in the books , Kirk Cousins has another initiation coming this weekend: a visit to Lambeau Field.Cousins and the Vikings play in Green Bay on Sunday, an earlier than usual contest for control of the NFC North. The only other times since 2000 that the Vikings have faced the Packers on the road in September were the season openers in 2003 and 2008.For Cousins, well, talk about diving right in.¡°It¡¯s a great opportunity to join this rivalry and hopefully put my best foot forward and get off to a great start,¡± said Cousins, who grew up in the Chicago area and then western Michigan and, thus, has been immersed in one of the NFL¡¯s most storied divisions his whole life as a football follower.This will be his first playing experience at Green Bay, too. When Washington traveled there in 2013, he was the backup to Robert Griffin III. Now he¡¯ll be the fifth Vikings quarterback to start in the last five visits to Lambeau Field.¡°You realize how important it is for this organization for our fans,¡± Cousins said Wednesday.Cousins passed for 244 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover in a smooth Minnesota debut, a 24-16 victory over San Francisco. The downside? All seven of his pass attempts in the fourth quarter, including one throwaway on the final play, were incomplete. That¡¯s uncharacteristic for a quarterback who¡¯s had a strong track record of success late in games, since he became a full-time starter in 2015. He directed two fourth-quarter comeback victories that year, four in 2016 and one in 2017.¡°Some quarterbacks have a reputation of doing them,¡± Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. ¡°Some quarterbacks make it so that they don¡¯t really have to do it in the fourth quarter, too. A lot of times it¡¯s opportunities. A lot of times it¡¯s the team around you. There are so many variables.¡±All eyes will be on Green Bay¡¯s Aaron Rodgers, whose status for Sunday will be a mystery until pregame warmups . So Cousins could fly a little lower on the radar for this one than his normal front-and-center situation after signing his $84 million, fully guaranteed contract with the Vikings this year. The circumstances were different, but Cousins already has two strong performances against the Packers on his resume.Though Washington lost that playoff game at home on Jan. 10, 2016, Cousins completed 29 of 46 passes for 329 yards one touchdown and no interceptions. The following season when Green Bay returned to FedEx Field, Cousins went 21 for 30 for 375 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a victory.¡°I¡¯ve taken a lot of steps as a player and in my confidence,¡± Cousins said, reflecting on his progress since those matchups. ¡°So I think that¡¯s true of all of us in the league. The longer we play, the more we¡¯re out there, the more we¡¯re able to be in the fire and playing through mistakes and learning, it helps us be that much better the next time we go out.¡±The Vikings are pleased to be the beneficiaries.¡°The last two years, we¡¯ve had a new quarterback by Week 2,¡± tight end Kyle Rudolph said. ¡°The last few years we¡¯ve been in a situation with a new quarterback that we didn¡¯t get many reps with during the offseason. It is nice to be out there with a guy we¡¯ve been working with since the middle of April and build a rapport with.¡±
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