Everson Griffen said that after looking at film of the Vikings’ game against Carolina, he believes the team will be able to right the ship because the loss came down to small, correctable mistakes.
“It was a lot of uncharacteristic things that were on us,” Griffen said. “It’s little things that we can fix. We’re still 10-3, and we’re still facing a good Cincinnati team that if we go out there and beat, we control our own destiny. We just have to eliminate the mental errors and go out and play playoff-style football.
“We weren’t detail-oriented [against Carolina]. We didn’t come out with the same enthusiasm, the same strike with eyes everywhere. We have to go back to basics and play our ball.”
The Vikings allowed 345 yards and 31 points against the Panthers, the second-highest total all season, trailing only their Week 10 victory at Washington. The 216 rushing yards were the most allowed on the season by nearly double. The next-highest mark was 115 against both the Bears and Browns.
“We didn’t play so well,” Griffen said. “We could always play better. There is always room for improvement, no matter what.”
And while it’s easy to look at the Bengals’ 33-7 loss to the Bears at home last weekend and see an easy victory for the Vikings on Sunday, the game won’t be that simple.
Remember that Cincinnati nearly beat Pittsburgh two weeks ago, losing 23-20. But if the Bengals remain without linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who has not practiced this week because of a concussion, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, also out with a concussion, that will open up the defense more than usual. Last week against the Bears, the Bengals were missing six starters, including five on defense.
Griffen knows the defense is going to have to not repeat the mistakes made against the Panthers in the final three games of the regular season.
“We’re a very composed team. I don’t think we’re going to let this get to us at all,” he said. “We’re going to go back to work and have that sense of urgency, refocus and do our job, clean up the little details of the game because that’s what matters most. That’s what beat us. Those little details. A guy getting over the gap, striking your guy, filling the hole, tackling, you know all the little things. That is the details of the game. That is it.”
Turning the page
When asked how you get your mind right and turn your play around after a tough loss, Griffen said: “It starts at the beginning of the week on Wednesday when we have walk-through and we have practice and just having that sense of urgency of getting lined up, executing the call, run to the ball, and just be on the details of the game. Don’t go on the field without really having a sense of urgency.”
Did coach Mike Zimmer have any specific words for the team?
“ ‘You have to do better,’ ” Griffen said.
Zimmer will be facing his former team for the first time, but that didn’t cause much concern for Griffen.
“[Zimmer] wants to win games,” he said. “We’re all about winning games here. It’s not about who we’re facing. We all have friends around the league. We all see familiar faces. This is about winning games and getting to where we want to go. That’s about beating the Bengals and being able to control our own destiny.”
And even with a rough game against Carolina, the Vikings remain one of the best defenses in the NFL, rated third overall in total defense (293.4 yards) and third in average points-against (18.1).
Zimmer’s old friends
It was Zimmer’s performance as defensive coordinator in Cincinnati over six seasons that got him the Vikings job.
“Yeah, there is a lot of good people there. [Head coach] Marvin Lewis is a great friend of mine and a lot of the coaches are still there, a lot of the players, especially the defensive players, are still there,” he said. “But you know this game is about us and trying to get a win.
“We need to get a win this week. They have five Pro Bowlers on their team, they have some outstanding talent. We’re going to need to play good, and we’re going to need our fans to help us.”
How good is the Bengals defense?
“It starts with Geno Atkins, a big-time pass rusher,” Zimmer said. “He has been to the Pro Bowl really every year. Carlos Dunlap is another great pass rusher. Vontaze Burfict is an unbelievable middle linebacker. George Aioka, Sean Williams, Dre Kirkpatrick, a lot of really good football players in that group. Vinny Ray. They’ll be a tough test for us.”
• The Green Bay Post-Gazette reported Thursday that Aaron Rodgers went through a full practice with pads, and it looks as if he will play Sunday. That makes next week’s matchup at Lambeau for the Vikings much more interesting.
• The Gophers’ 2018 basketball recruiting class features three local standouts in Daniel Oturu with Cretin-Derham Hall, Gabe Kalscheur from DeLaSalle and Jarvis Thomas Omersa from Orono. Oturu is averaging 15.2 points and 11.2 rebounds through four games. Kalscheur is averaging 22.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists through three games. And Omersa is averaging 18.5 points and 13.8 rebounds in four games.
• Matthew Hurt, whom ESPN ranks as the No. 5 basketball recruit in the country for 2019, is off to a hot start for Rochester John Marshall. Hurt, whose brother Michael is on the Gophers’ squad, is averaging 44 points through three contests, all wins. Hurt recently visited Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Minnesota.
• Nuni Omot, the Mahtomedi hoops standout, is having a stellar season for Baylor. Omot is a senior forward and is averaging 10.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
• Gophers hockey recruit Blake McLaughlin from Grand Rapids is tied for fourth in the USHL in scoring with eight goals and 13 assists for Chicago; Goalie Jared Moe, a recent Gophers recruit, is 7-4-0 with a 1.92 goals-against average, the third lowest in the USHL, with Waterloo.
• Former Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison is having a solid season with the New York Giants, as the renowned blocker is also catching some passes. He has 15 receptions for 112 yards and two scores, a career high.
• You have to wonder if Blair Walsh is going to last in Seattle. The former Vikings kicker has been great on extra points, going 30-for-31, but he is tied for 26th in the league in field goal percentage (20-for-27).
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. firstname.lastname@example.org