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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Vikings shouldn’t fall flat this time against Packers

By Judd Zulgad

The Vikings had defeated the Oakland Raiders by 16 points on Nov. 15 to earn their fifth consecutive victory, when this real estate was used to make a case for why Mike Zimmer’s team had an excellent chance to beat Green Bay the following week at TCF Bank Stadium.

It seemed like a logical step for a team that was sitting at 7-2 and about to face a Packers club that had dropped three in a row after winning its first six.

Zimmer went so far as to put T-shirts that read, “Beat Green Bay” in the players’ locker. The Packers had gone 9-1 against the Vikings since 2010 and hadn’t lost to Minnesota since the regular-season finale in 2012, and yet there was a widespread feeling that this time things would be different.

That feeling turned out to be extremely flawed. The Vikings laid an enormous egg in that Nov. 22 game by losing to their division rival by 17 points (30-13).

The number one takeaway was the stage had been too big for the Vikings. Playing before what amounted to a national television audience, Minnesota played a sloppy game and looked intimidated by the Packers.

It was exactly what Zimmer didn’t want to see.

A month and 12 days later, the Vikings will get another chance against the Packers and this time the stakes will be higher, the stage bigger and the environment hostile.

The Vikings and Packers will meet in prime time Sunday at Lambeau Field in a game that will decide who wins the NFC North. Both teams are 10-5 and have clinched postseason berths, and while the Vikings are coming off a one-sided victory over the Giants, Green Bay is recovering from a 30-point loss in Arizona.

It might be a mistake given what happened in the first meeting, but the feeling here has not changed from late November. The Vikings have an excellent chance to win this game and end their losing streak against the Packers.

Yes, the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, but he appears to have found a group of wide receivers even he can’t make look good, and his offensive line was in such shambles against the Cardinals that the veteran quarterback was lifted for his own protection after being sacked eight times.

“I’m going to talk to (my team) about the things we didn’t do good in the last ballgame and the things we have to improve on in order to win,” Zimmer said Monday. “I don’t know that this is a big motivational kind of week. It’s more about preparation and doing things right and performing under pressure.”

That’s the most important thing for the Vikings: performing under pressure. Zimmer is going to put his defense in a position to succeed, but the players are the ones who have to execute on the prime-time stage. The same goes for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the offense.

The Packers will do everything they can to stop running back Adrian Peterson, but that means Bridgewater is going to have every chance to succeed.

This feels very much like an opportunity for the Vikings to grab the torch from the Packers and prove they belong on the same field. As long as Rodgers continues to play, the Packers will have the better quarterback, but that doesn’t mean the Vikings can’t beat Green Bay and in many areas Minnesota is now more talented.

Sunday’s game largely is going to come down to what goes on between the ears for the Vikings.

If the Vikings are to win, their mentality will have to be like it was in early December when they lost an extremely competitive game by three-points in prime time against an excellent Cardinals team in Arizona and not like it was in home losses to the Packers and Seahawks a few weeks before.

“I think that we’ve learned the kind of mentality that we have to have these last four weeks,” Zimmer said. “I think after we got beat by Seattle (38-7 on Dec. 6) maybe and the Green Bay game, I think the mentality of our team has changed a little bit and for the better in my opinion.

“I keep talking to them about it. ‘This is the type of mentality that we have to have going forward.’ And really the Arizona game, I think we had the right mentality. Going forward from that game on, we’ve played with the mentality that I like to play with.”

If the Vikings continue to play with that mentality on Sunday, there’s a good chance they will be NFC North champions for the first time since 2009.

The post Zulgad: Vikings shouldn’t fall flat this time against Packers appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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