Vikings' European vacation comes with must-win scenario

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 28, 2013 - 11:38 PM

The long flight to London at 0-3 hurt enough. Exiting at 0-4 likely would drag out the pain: 12 games without playoff hopes.

 

– Leslie Frazier survived a soap opera season in 2010 in which the ceiling literally collapsed so, as Vikings coach, he’s well-versed in dealing with distractions and unusual circumstances.

He received a refresher course this week.

Roughly 24 hours after an excruciating loss in a game that most predicted as a gimme, Frazier and his players boarded a Virgin Atlantic jet for an eight-hour trek across the Atlantic for an international showcase that, in Frazier’s words, allowed the Vikings to serve as “ambassadors for our game.”

They brought with them a bundle of frustration over their 0-3 start, a quarterback with a fractured rib near his heart and the blunt reality that a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday will pretty much signal cheerio, as the locals say, to their season.

Their trip to London will feel worse than the Griswolds’ excursion if they fly home still winless.

“After our [31-27 loss to the Browns], the urgency level increased,” Frazier said. “It didn’t have to take us being on a plane trip to London for that to happen. We understand where we are in our season. We know the importance of getting our first win.”

Only three teams since 1990 have emerged from the Vikings’ current predicament and made the playoffs. They realize they can’t drill down much further and expect to remain relevant.

“Must win?” Adrian Peterson said, repeating a question from a British reporter. “I wouldn’t go that deep, but in our minds it’s definitely a must win, going into the bye and being 0-3. That’s the focus right now.”

Peterson made that declaration in a greenhouse that doubled as a press tent as a woman swam in a pool nearby at the team’s headquarters this week. The Vikings spent most of the week at an upscale golf and spa resort called The Grove about an hour outside London. They relocated into the city after Friday’s practice.

The Vikings taught football to school kids the day they arrived, made an appearance at the Tower of London on Friday night and entertained a few unique questions from the British press, including one from a man who wondered if Peterson is interested in auditioning for a James Bond movie.

“I might have to take some acting classes and see what I can do,” Peterson said. “You never know.”

Some relaxation

The timing of the trip created an odd perspective for Frazier, who tried to balance the urgency of being 0-3 with myriad problems to fix with the understanding that this is a cultural experience that his players should embrace and enjoy — all while dealing with Christian Ponder’s rib injury, which ultimately opened the door for Matt Cassel to make his Vikings debut as the starter Sunday.

One answer was repeated so many times this week that it became the team’s unofficial slogan: “This is a business trip, not a vacation.”

“You don’t want to be Scrooge,” Frazier said. “This is a great place to be. There’s so much history here. I know our players would love to get out and experience London. But at the same time, we have a game to prepare for.”

Secluded in the English countryside, the players treated their getaway as training camp Part II. They hung out together in the hotel lobby after practice. Some played a few holes of golf at night, others played bocce ball. “I went 3-0,” linebacker Chad Greenway noted.

Frazier and several players expressed hope that the retreat could serve a valuable purpose at a time when their season is on the precipice. Maybe bring everyone closer together. It all sounds good, but at least one veteran believes the team simply needs to play better more than sit around and sing “Kumbaya.”

“We bonded enough in training camp,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “I really love my teammates, but I really enjoy going home and being with my wife and daughter and being away from people. It’s not high school and it’s not college. We get paid to win football games and that’s the bottom line. So we can all bond later, I guess.”

Sense of urgency

Greenway acknowledged that all the talk about team bonding likely would not be a “question for the week” if the defense hadn’t allowed game-winning touchdowns on the final drive the past two games. Allen poured more cold water on a reporter’s optimistic tone regarding those narrow loses.

“There are no moral victories in football, no attaboys, great job, we almost got them,” he said. “That’s for Pop Warner. We’re an 0-3 football team. That’s what we are.”

An 0-3 team with a new quarterback. Conspiracy theories this week over the timing and severity of Ponder’s injury were put to rest — or at least tempered — with news that he suffered a fractured rib in the second quarter against the Browns.

Left unknown is whether he’ll get his job back. That decision likely will be based on how Cassel performs in relief. If he plays well and the Vikings win, Cassel presumably will remain the starter.

“I’m hoping that he shines,” Frazier said. “I don’t foresee a quarterback controversy. But we want him to play lights out. We want him to have the best game of his NFL career on Sunday.”

The Vikings need that and more. As poorly as Ponder has performed, he’s not solely to blame for the 0-3 start.

The Vikings rank near the bottom of the NFL in pass defense, total defense and scoring defense. Special-teams miscues cost them dearly in the losses to Chicago and Cleveland. Despite all that’s gone wrong, the Vikings put themselves in position to win the past two weeks, but they wilted at the worst possible time.

“To lose them in the style that we’ve lost them, at the end of the games, that’s the thing that really can be frustrating,” General Manager Rick Spielman said in a rare in-season interview this week. “I think we have the right players to get those situations corrected. And there’s a sense of urgency.”

Wide receiver Jerome Simpson put it even more succinctly.

“It’s kind of hard going to the playoffs at 0-4,” he said.

That also would make a long flight home feel even longer.





 

  • related content

  • Video: Access Vikings: NFL Extravaganza on Regent Street in London

    Sunday September 29, 2013

    Vikings players rally their fans at a purple pep rally on Saturday in London.

  • Craig: Would London be a good home for an NFL team?

    Saturday September 28, 2013

    Commissioner favors it far more than athletes who have endured the logistics.

  • Souhan: Felton looks to puncture holes for Vikings' Peterson

    Wednesday October 2, 2013

    The fullback is back from suspension, ready to clear the way.

  • The Call: Vikings vs. Steelers

    Saturday September 28, 2013

    30STEELERS27VIKINGSOne man’s prediction: At 0-3, both teams should be beyond desperate. Matt Cassel’s first start at QB in place of...

  • Bursts of purple colored Regent Street in London when members of the Vikings took the stage for an NFL Block Party on Saturday.

  • The Vikings attended an event at the Tower of London on Friday, one of the assignments that made this week an extra challenge.

  • Quarterback Christian Ponder, left, was already a hot topic, and then it was revealed that a rib injury meant Matt Cassel would replace him.

  • Public-relations duties called as late as Saturday for Vikings players. Jared Allen grabbed a microphone at the NFL Block Party.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota - LP: J. Burton 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: A. Miller 3
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 7 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: B. Colon 2
Miami - WP: J. Cosart 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Boston - LP: A. Webster 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Odorizzi 7
Cleveland - WP: J. Tomlin 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: S. Downs 2
Detroit - WP: K. Ryan 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: C. Bassitt 4
Texas - LP: P. Klein 0 FINAL
Houston - WP: S. Feldman 2
Colorado - WP: T. Matzek 2 FINAL
Arizona - LP: V. Nuno 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wada 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 13
Los Angeles - LP: J. Wright 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Stauffer 2
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 1 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: J. Peavy 3
Oakland - LP: J. Samardzija 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: Y. Herrera 2
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 3 FINAL
Seattle - LP: R. Elias 1
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 FINAL
(3) Oregon 62
(25) Washington 17 FINAL
Hawaii 16
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
FC Dallas 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Real Salt Lake 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Portland 3 FINAL
Vancouver FC 0
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Chicago 70 FINAL
Indiana 77
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close