As much as we think they might, NFL players typically don’t sulk or cower in corners sucking their thumbs for days after a humiliating loss. Not even when they lose 38-7 at home four days before having to play a 10-2 Cardinals team in Arizona.
“If it wasn’t a challenge, half of us wouldn’t even be here right now,” Vikings defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd said Monday as the Vikings turned quickly from Sunday’s loss to Seattle. “More of these guys like the fight than we do going into an easy game. If it was easy, the pizza man would be doing it.”
Somewhere, a pizza man just became motivated by all his doubters. Meanwhile, the Vikings seemed ready to flush their worst game of the season and move on as 8-4 co-leaders of the NFC North. (If it helps, somewhere in New England the Patriots were still explaining a home loss to the Eagles).
“We’ve got no choice,” Floyd said. “Thursday game. Getting ready for Arizona.”
Floyd was asked if he’s glad the Vikings play on Thursday. Never mind that whole body-healing process that could sideline four defensive starters against an offense that ranks No. 1 in yards (419.5) and points scored (31.8).
Are you ready for some football?!!
Actually, probably not.
“I’m not glad it’s a short week,” Floyd said. “I’d rather play these boys on Sunday. But what can you do? So we’re going to get ready.”
The Vikings played Sunday’s entire game without two defensive starters: nose tackle Linval Joseph (foot) and strong safety Andrew Sendejo (knee). Two more starters — linebacker Anthony Barr (groin) and free safety Harrison Smith (hamstring) — missed all but Seattle’s first series and part of the second series. There’s little to suggest Joseph, Barr and Smith will be able to make the quick turnaround for a Thursday nighter.
Monday, the Vikings practiced without seven players, including all four safeties on their 53-man roster. Not practicing were Barr, Joseph and linebacker Brandon Watts (ribs); and safeties Smith, Sendejo, Antone Exum (who fractured a rib and suffered a shoulder injury Sunday) and Robert Blanton (knee).
The urge is to write the Vikings off after Sunday’s game. After all:
• The No. 1-ranked running game mustered only 31 yards. Adrian Peterson questioned his season-low eight carries in a disjointed, 125-yard attack that was limited by two third-down conversions and only 48 snaps.
• Teddy Bridgewater’s worst pass of the season was intercepted, ending the competitive part of the game before halftime. Bridgewater had a clean pocket, a harmless four-man rush and an NFL window through which to hit Stefon Diggs. But he overthrew the ball so badly that safety Earl Thomas was able to settled under it five yards behind Diggs.
• The undermanned defense gave up 173 yards rushing and caused Russell Wilson to throw only six incompletions with three touchdowns, no turnovers and a 146.0 passer rating.
The Vikings probably aren’t a Super Bowl team. But don’t let Sunday’s debacle quash all hope.
For starters, getting to and winning a Super Bowl doesn’t require sustained greatness. Good teams that get hot and healthy at the right time have gone to Super Bowls and even won them.
In December 2006, the Colts’ run defense gave up 375 yards and four touchdowns Jacksonville. Two months later, Indianapolis won the Super Bowl.
In 2005, the Steelers were 7-5 and looking at four elimination games. They won eight straight, including the Super Bowl as the AFC’s sixth seed. Five years later, the Packers won the Super Bowl as the NFC’s sixth seed.
In 2011, the Giants lost four in a row and were 6-6 when they gave up 49 points at New Orleans. They went 9-7 and won the Super Bowl.
In 2008, Arizona lost 35-14 at home to the Vikings. They lost 47-7 at New England and 56-35 at the Jets. They won the NFC.
In 2007, the Giants started 0-2 with a 35-13 loss to the Packers. They won the Super Bowl.
NFL players get used to the wild swings, knowing that it happens to every team. “You have to be able to move on, move ahead and understand that there’s another team coming to do what everybody else wants to do: Take advantage of us,” Floyd said.
Coaches don’t struggle to move on either. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer slept in his office Sunday night and was up working at 4:30 Monday morning.
“It’s a week-to-week deal,” Zimmer said. “Things change in one week. Last week, everyone thought we were great when we beat Atlanta; this week, everybody thinks” the Vikings stink.
“Let’s just move forward and go on. I know one thing: Five teams have a better record than us in the NFL. So that ain’t bad.”
Mark Craig firstname.lastname@example.org