Souhan: New standards raise Vikings' credibility -- winning streak doesn't hurt, either

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 8, 2012 - 11:55 AM
hide

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph tossed the ball to a fan in the stands after he caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass against the Titans on Sunday.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

It wasn't long ago that you could question the soundness of Adrian Peterson's knee, Percy Harvin's mood, Leslie Frazier's schemes and Christian Ponder's résumé.

It wasn't long ago that whipping even an outfit as inept as the Titans would have been considered beyond the capabilities of a team that had lost 23 games the previous two seasons.

It wasn't long ago that the NFC North seemed an unfair placement for a young roster and a unproven coach who may have been one more lousy season away from Googling "moving vans."

It wasn't long ago, but five games into a season that was supposed to feature baby wipes and teething rings, the long list of perceived Vikings weaknesses now looks like it was printed on parchment.

Sunday, the Vikings did what good teams are supposed to do: steamrolled an overmatched opponent at home. The surprise is not that the Vikings won; the surprise was contained in the way they so easily embraced and embodied their new standards.

Their 30-7 victory over the stumblebum Titans gave the Vikings more victories in five weeks of the 2012 season than they managed in all of 2011, and the aura of a team that isn't just mumbling platitudes when it talks about titles.

"We've always had the same expectations," tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "Our goal is to win this division. We feel like we've got the talent to do that. That's been our goal since we first met on April 23."

Unprompted, Frazier and several players mentioned that date, the first day they were allowed to work as a team during the offseason. Of course, every team can brag about its spring workouts and promise championships. What's different about the Vikings at this juncture is that they are rapidly improving while their division rivals are growing warts.

The Vikings have lost one game -- at Indianapolis, which just beat the Packers there. The same Titans who spent most of the game being outgained by Percy Harvin beat the Lions, the NFL's version of never-ending Minnesota road construction. The Bears might be the best team in the division, but only when Jay Cutler's mood ring is glowing blue.

Winning three games in a row earns the Vikings nothing, but winning three the way they did, by standing up physically to the 49ers, beating Detroit on the road and manhandling Tennessee, makes what had appeared to be a daunting schedule look much more manageable.

"What stinks is, we should be 5-0," Ponder said. "We had that close game against Indianapolis."

The Vikings look improved not only from last year's disaster; they look improved in the past three weeks.

Their season-opening victory over Jacksonville was shaky, but Ponder's ability to lead them to a comeback victory might prove to be the same kind of seasonal fulcrum as Brett Favre's winning touchdown pass against San Francisco in 2009. Their loss in Indianapolis set off alarms in the locker room.

"We were really disappointed after the first two games because we didn't feel like we played our best ball," said defensive end Brian Robison. "We really felt like we should have been 2-0. We came in, we talked it out, we said some things that needed to be said, we turned it around, and we're playing good ball."

So much has fallen into place. Peterson is the latest product of the Eric Sugarman Limb Regeneration Laboratory and the best running back in the game. Harvin, who briefly pouted this offseason, has become the most unique great player in the league. Frazier stuck with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and demoted defensive coordinator Fred Pagac, and both moves worked.

I've heard Frazier promise to deliver a championship in his hometown in Mississippi and in a community center in north Minneapolis; in informal chats by the practice fields in Eden Prairie and during packed news conferences. It all sounds like salesmanship until the team starts to deliver.

"We want to win the NFC North and we want to bring a championship to Minnesota," Frazier said. "Our goals have not changed one bit."

Their credibility, though, has improved quite a bit.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Carolina 6:00 PM
Columbus
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Detroit
Montreal 7:30 PM
Chicago
Arizona 8:00 PM
Edmonton
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Is Paul Molitor the best choice to manage Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close