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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings’ reasons to ‘believe’ tangible as they ride December stride into Lambeau

By Andrew Krammer

MINNEAPOLIS – They’re starting to believe in Minnesota.

Chad Greenway led his linebacker group, glad-handing with fans and family through the tunnel of TCF Bank Stadium. Outside, a 49-17 final score cut through the night like the Vikings knifed through the Odell Beckham-less Giants on Sunday evening.

The thorough, and somewhat predictable, beat down of New York could be the Vikings’ final game at their temporary home on the University of Minnesota’s campus. If guard Brandon Fusco and the Vikings have their way, they’ll be back in two weeks to host a playoff game as NFC North champions for the first time since 2009. Next week’s season finale at Lambeau Field will be for the division crown.

“For us right now, just win the division,” Fusco told 1500ESPN.com. “That’s been the No. 1 goal since we started the season. Win the division, we’re tired of watching Green Bay win every year. That’s the No. 1 goal.”

Coach Mike Zimmer has a new doubt to topple. “We can’t win in prime-time,” Zimmer rhetorically shrugged at the podium, minutes after the Vikings snapped a five-game losing streak in night games.

The new task is the old one, established in offseason camps by this young Vikings team – dethrone Green Bay. They’re 0-3 under Zimmer against the Packers, the reigning four-time NFC North champions who will host the Vikings on Jan. 3.

The outsiders believed when the Vikings were pegged as the preseason national darling. They believed when they were scheduled to open the season on Monday night. Outsiders believed again when the Vikings, riding a five-game win streak, had their Nov. 22 game against Green Bay shifted in front of a bigger audience to an afternoon kickoff.

Now the Vikings are starting to believe in themselves again, despite losing three of four games beginning last month with that 30-13 loss at home to the Packers. They’ve outscored opponents 87-34 in consecutive home victories, continuing shutdown success on defense while riding Teddy Bridgewater’s hot arm and unflinching demeanor.

Running back Adrian Peterson broke through on Sunday with 104 rushing yards, retaking the lead on the NFL rushing title as the Vikings put up the most points (49) in franchise history since Randy Moss was a wet-eared rookie in 1998.

Their backbone, Zimmer’s defense, is getting healthy at the right time and showed what they’re capable of at full strength by entirely dismantling Eli Manning and a Giants offense that entered averaging the sixth-most points per game in the league.

Five takeaways over the last two wins gives a fundamentally-sound defense a game-changing look.

Safety Harrison Smith’s 35-yard interception return for a touchdown served as a springboard, putting the Vikings up 16-3 in the second quarter. They never looked back.

“I think we’re playing with confidence right now,” Zimmer said. “I think our guys feel good about the things we’re doing. I think they believe. Half the battle is believing.

“When I was in Cincinnati, early stages when I was there, we played somebody. A good football team, can’t remember who it was. And they beat us that day. They said ‘Those guys have a good football team, they just have to believe.’ I talked to the defense about it and we started believing and we were a good football team. I think our guys believe that we are.”

Zimmer has pulled the strings on the humble rollercoaster for these young Vikings throughout a season in which they’ve been everything from embarrassed, in San Francisco and vs. Seattle, or on top of the world like they were on Sunday night after whomping a Giants group that had been eliminated from the playoffs by Washington’s win the night before.

Unlike a month ago, Zimmer won’t distribute T-shirts with a ‘Beat Green Bay’ moniker on the back.

These Vikings don’t need any extras this time around.

“We’re going to go into a hostile environment at Lambeau and we’ll get their best shot,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “I do think our best shot is good enough if we play well.”

The post Vikings’ reasons to ‘believe’ tangible as they ride December stride into Lambeau appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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