The Vikings are pleased with their 3-1 start but are being cautious about what it means.
Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway shrugged, conscious of the dangers that come with rushing too far ahead. It was only 45 minutes after the Vikings had downed Detroit 20-13 on Sunday. And Greenway stood in the visiting locker room at Ford Field with his team's 3-1 start producing a contagious euphoria.
He was asked what it felt like to match last season's win total in just four weeks of action. But as one of the veteran leaders, Greenway knew to keep the excitement tempered and the drive percolating.
"Let's hope we don't lose 12 in a row, right?" he joked. "In all seriousness, though, we have to keep our foot on the gas pedal."
It's not that Greenway wants to poop the party. He is as thrilled as anyone that the Vikings, with a pair of convincing victories over San Francisco and Detroit, have obliterated much of the outsider pessimism that existed in the preseason.
But Greenway also knows the Vikings must retain a machete-sharp focus to sustain the momentum they have built through a surprising September.
"You're coming off a 3-13 season, it's fairly easy to look better than you were," Greenway said. "But I think as we all know, this thing can change in a hurry if you don't keep on doing what you're doing."
Think about it. Last year at this time, the Vikings were winless, annoyed and explaining themselves dizzy after a series of close losses.
Now? They are happily identifying reasons for an eye-catching turnaround.
Coach Leslie Frazier rewinds back to April -- the 23rd to be exact -- when the Vikings began their offseason conditioning program with strong attendance and a heavy buy-in. This was before organized team activities, before any minicamps, long before training camp.
The obvious hunger within the Winter Park walls convinced Frazier that a big 2012 jump could be made.
"When you're trying to flip the script and trying to get things changed and changing the culture a little bit, you need everybody participating," Frazier said. "Otherwise you're just talking to a small percentage of the team."
Back and forth
Yet while Frazier credits the players for investing throughout the offseason, the players reciprocate the love.
"We take on the identity of our coach," Percy Harvin said Monday. "His big thing is he wants to emphasize the small things. He says if you take care of the small things, the big things will happen ... Right now everybody's locked in, trying to get their assignments down to the T."
Simple as it may sound, Sunday's win in Detroit, like the one over the 49ers that preceded it, was made possible because the coaching staff devised a winning game plan and convinced the players to fully trust it.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer delivered the Xs and Os that sent Harvin on his way to a 105-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff.
Defensive coordinator Alan Williams schemed and succeeded in containing Lions receiver Calvin Johnson (five catches, 54 yards).
The superstars excelled -- Harvin scored a touchdown, Adrian Peterson rushed for 102 yards, Jared Allen had a sack.
And the supporting cast raised its game, too -- from the offensive line's determined effort to the constant alertness shown by safeties Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford to the four combined sacks delivered by Everson Griffen and Letroy Guion.
So when a 20-13 win resulted, Frazier quickly reflected back to Friday's practice, one he said was "as good as any practice I've ever been around in my career in the NFL."
"Our guys," Frazier said, "they were on it."
For which several veterans, including Greenway and Kevin Williams, had a simple explanation.
"We didn't have such a good Thursday practice, for one," Williams said. "So we definitely wanted to come out strong. A lot of the older guys were like, 'Let's go out, let's lock it in today and have a better Friday than we did on Thursday.'
"Evidently it met the approval of Coach. And we got it done on Sunday."
At present, the confidence and enthusiasm are building rapidly. That tends to happen when a team, dismissed by many as irrelevant heading into the year, finally puts together a winning streak.
Greenway points out this is only one small step on the climb. But he also had little hesitation lauding the effort being put forth.
"You have to say to yourself, 'If we want this, we have to dial in," he said. "We have to be willing to put the work in and to have the focus necessary to go do this.' And our young guys here have shown so much savvy and a feel for where we're at and what we're doing."
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