Chad Greenway was asked how the Vikings could completely dominate one of the best football teams in the NFL in beating the San Francisco 49ers 24-13 in Week 3, and then not play close to that well the rest of season, while that same 49ers team showed how dominant it can be by trampling the Bears 32-7 last week.
The Vikings looked like a Super Bowl contender that day, but they certainly haven't since.
"We put a lot of work into it and beat [San Francisco]," said Greenway, the Vikings linebacker who leads the NFC in tackles with 100. "We played the way we were capable of playing. Nothing surprises you when you prepare well."
Asked if the Vikings are playing as well now as they did when they beat San Francisco on Sept. 23, Greenway said, "I don't think we're there yet.
"But a victory over [the Bears] would be huge. It's a tough place to win, a tough place to play, they play their best at home, just like us at the Dome. They have a great football team and a great crowd; we have to take them out of it and give ourselves a chance."
The Vikings will visit Soldier Field on Sunday, and Greenway said: "It's the toughest place we probably have to play -- we haven't had much luck on the road in division games. Hopefully it will work out for us. We just have to try to play clean ball. The biggest thing is if we can create some turnovers and play clean ball."
Greenway believes the Vikings are in a better position to beat the Bears after their big victory over the Lions two weeks ago and the subsequent bye week.
"Nobody is a rookie anymore," he said. "They have a great team. I think we're more equipped [to beat them this year], but again, they're a great team on their home field, a place we've struggled as the visiting team [the Vikings haven't won in Chicago since 2007]. I think we're going to be focused going in and give ourselves a chance."
While the victory over Detroit was gratifying, Greenway said it was also the fact that the Vikings played their most complete game since that 49ers victory.
"We stopped a couple-game skid," he said. "Any time you win, that creates confidence in the NFL, but it was how we won the game more than that we won it. But it's going to take our best effort, our best game this week."
The Vikings have six games left -- four in the division, home and away against both the Bears and the Packers.
"Obviously it's hard with these two on the road, but we've had more home games than away these first 10, so now it's who do you want to be," Greenway said. "You want to be a playoff team? You have to win on the road and win tough games. We created our own opportunities. Right now is a great position to be in, because we control our future and we just have to play tough football games down the stretch."
U kept it close somehow
Check the statistics of the Gophers' 26-10 loss to Michigan State on Saturday and you would think the home team was never in the ballgame.
The stats read as follows: The Gophers had 19 rushes for 4 yards compared to 44 rushes for 278 yards for the Spartans; the Gophers had 96 yards of offense compared to 421 for Michigan State; the Spartans' Le'Veon Bell gained 266 yards by himself.
But despite those one-sided figures, the score at halftime was 13-7 Spartans. After three quarters, Michigan State led 16-10.
Glen Mason, the former Gophers coach who did the color on the Big Ten Network telecast, wasn't surprised to see the Gophers fail to move the ball.
Michigan State, a team that after losing five conference games by a total of 13 points needed a victroy Saturday to qualify for a bowl, was the best defensive team in the Big Ten, according to Mason.
"They have good players and are very well coached," Mason said. "They make plays when they have to make plays. To hold Minnesota under 100 yards of total offense on the day, that's a great job by Michigan State.
"You need some consistency. Minnesota had a tough time today. You can win if you can throw the ball effectively, but if you only rush for 4 yards and throw for less than 100 yards then it's tough to beat a quality opponent."
Mason also wasn't surprised the Spartans had trouble in the red zone, having to kick four field goals, because they had trouble all year scoring touchdowns.
Aaron Hill's interception return for a 33-yard touchdown gave the Gophers a 7-6 lead, but offensively they couldn't do much against a Spartans team that needed to win.
Asked how he would grade the job Jerry Kill and his staff did, Mason said: "They're going to a bowl game, and if it was easy to go to a bowl game then everybody would go. It's a step in the right direction. Jerry and his staff have got to improve. They have a very young football team. I think they'll be fine."
You want my opinion? We won't know how good the Gophers will be in 2013 until the many injured players get healthy and are able to perform in the bowl game.
• Let's face facts: Had A.J. Barker been promised a scholarship after the Gophers wide receiver had his big day vs. Purdue, there wouldn't have been a heated discussion about Barker's treatment of his injury with coach Jerry Kill, and no 4,000-word letter by him about leaving the football team. The scholarship was one thing that bothered Barker all year and created the problem.
• Former Gophers basketball standout Quincy Lewis was named an assistant for the Golden Gopher Fund, which provides scholarship and program support for Gophers athletes. Lewis worked in the department as a intern under David Crum, who has left the university for a job at Colorado State as senior associate director for development.
• Gophers recruiting operator Billy Glasscock reported that he received 453 e-mails from Wednesday to Friday from coaches, recruiting services, fans and others recommending football players who should be recruited by the maroon and gold. He said he normally gets 100 a day, but with the high school season coming to a close the pace steps up.
• Jimmy Williams, who lost a $1 million lawsuit against the Gophers over his non-hiring for Tubby Smith's staff, was on the Memphis bench vs. the Gophers on Friday as a Tigers assistant under Josh Pastner.
• Two former Gophers football staffers now with Michigan State are former director of football operations Tim Allen and trainer Jeff Monroe. Brad Salem, son of former Gophers coach Joe, is also on the Spartans staff -- incidentally, his brother Tim, a former Gophers player, is on the staff at Illinois. In addition to Allen, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio worked on Glen Mason's staff at Kansas as secondary coach, and QB coach Dave Warner held that role under Mason at Kent State and Kansas.