Vikings know it's ‘win or go home'

The Vikings know they must continue to win or likely face an early offseason, and they are also aware that they put themselves in this position. At least that should keep their focus squarely on the Rams.

The NFL is known for its sayings and clichés when it comes to describing the game. They range from "we're taking it one game at a time" to "they're coming into our house" to dozens in between.

With the reality having set in that the Vikings need to win their remaining three games to have a realistic chance of making the playoffs, it would seem that the new motto is "the playoffs start now and every game is a must-win."

The playoffs for the Vikings actually started last week when they faced virtual elimination with a loss to Chicago. The team stepped up and locked down the win it needed to keep playing and the hype machine is ramping up.

"If we don't win Sunday, it's done for us," defensive end Brian Robison said. "There isn't any panic in this room, but there is definitely a sense of urgency. We've put ourselves in this position to have to win out, but that's what playoff teams have to do – win or go home."

While there is a scenario in which the Vikings could make the playoffs at 9-7, it would require a lot of negative things to happen in the next three weeks to the teams currently sitting in front of them, but the Vikings aren't looking at the mathematics of that equation. Instead, they're focused on what they can get done.

"You can't worry about what other teams are going to do," Erin Henderson said. "Do we want to see the teams in front us lose? Sure we do. But all we can control is what we do to improve our record and, as it stands right now, we have to win out in order to make the playoffs. That's how we're looking at it."

One of the things that separate the NFL for the other major sports is the time in between games. If a baseball team gets crushed, they can come out the next day and right the wrong. The same is pretty much true for basketball and, when they play, hockey. But in football there is a week in between games to assess what has happened and what is coming. There's a lot of time for talking and for analysis of what a team needs to do in order to be successful. The Vikings are at that point now where the manta of running the table has been engrained in all of them. That won't change between now and game time Sunday. If anything, it will only get more intense if the Vikings come out of the Edward Jones Dome with a win.

"We can't look past St. Louis and think about Houston or Green Bay," defensive lineman Everson Griffen said. "There's no need to. We know what we have to do – we have to win all of them from here on through and that starts with St. Louis. We have a team good enough to run the table and get where we want to be. The playoffs have already started for us and we have to just keep doing what we're doing and the wins will come."

SATURDAY NOTES

  • Perceptions of good and bad can often change over time. When the replacements refs jobbed the Packers out of a win in Seattle, Vikings fans rejoiced at the decision – even though most knew it was bogus. However, three months later, it may well be that call that puts Seattle in the playoffs and Vikings fans won't be quite as giddy about that possibility.

  • It must be December in New England. In their final injury report heading into Sunday's game with the 49ers, the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick listed 19 different players as questionable on their injury report, including players that will no doubt play and others (like TE Rob Gronkowski) who has already been ruled out.

  • Sunday will mark the matchup between a pair of rookie kickers that are likely to draw comparisons for years to come. Greg Zuerlein and Blair Walsh were the rare kickers that actually get drafted and both have proved their value by booming long field goals and kickoffs and seeming to be fixtures on their respective rosters for years to come.

  • The NFL fine police opted not to fine Griffen for his hit on Jay Cutler after reviewing the play. One can only imagine the extenuating circumstance – Cutler being simultaneously pulled down by Jared Allen, Cutler ducking his head prior to contact and Griffen being pushed in the back – all contributed to the decision not to impose a fine.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.


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