Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, in his second season in Mike Zimmer’s system with the Vikings, has become a force in the secondary. He will be important in slowing down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. He also happens to be one of the best locker room talkers on the team. In advance of Sunday night’s showdown for the NFC North title at Lambeau Field, Munnerlyn answered five burning questions from the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
Q The Vikings lost 30-13 to the Packers earlier this year at TCF Bank Stadium. Going in, people were saying: “The Packers are struggling. This is the Vikings’ chance.” What happened in that game?
A I think we had too many penalties, especially in the first half. If you look at the first half, we had a chance to get off the field before the two-minute [warning]. We get a pass interference. They drive it down the field, another third down, and we jump offside. Then we get an illegal contact penalty for another first down. We made a lot of mistakes and had a lot of penalties we shouldn’t have. This is a team that thrives on not having penalties. We beat ourselves in some phases, but at the same time those guys did a great job executing. They dug, dug, until they got into the end zone.
Q How much does emotion play into a game like the one coming up Sunday — and how do you use it to your advantage?
A I’m trying to keep it just as simple as possible. Keep it like a normal game. I’m not trying to get too high. I feel like last time we were too high. I’m not trying to go against my head coach, but with the “Beat Green Bay” T-shirts, when I first saw them, I was like, “Whoa. That’s not us.” It’s another game. Let’s treat it like a normal game. Let’s do what we’re capable of doing … and play Vikings-style football.
Q Do you feel like this team has gotten back to that in recent weeks?
A Yes, most definitely. I feel like we’re just treating this as a normal game. Like last week, we knew we were playing for something, but at the same time we went out there, we smiled, we had fun and flew around and made plays. And you saw that result. We’re just trying to keep that going. We’re not trying to get to tight. Like when the playoffs come around, I don’t want guys in the locker room to think, “Man, it’s the playoffs. Let’s get real tight.” Stay loose, man, and let’s go out there and do what we’re capable of doing.
Q Is it different going into this game knowing you already have a playoff spot wrapped up?
A I don’t think it changes anything. We’re going to treat it like a normal game. We want to go out there and we want to win the North. Don’t get me wrong, we do want to win it. But at the same time, we know we have to go out there and be poised, play with some intensity and execute.
Q You’ve been on some good teams. How far can this team go?
A I think we can go far, man. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and say, “We’re gonna go all the way and win the Super Bowl,” but I think this team definitely can go far. We’re just going to take it one week at a time, one play at a time and see where we go.