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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Vikings’ regular-season success will mean little if Super Bowl berth is missed

By Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS – Mike Zimmer doesn’t often throw out praise, but the Vikings coach made sure to mention how proud he was of his team following a 23-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“Thirteen wins is hard to get,” Zimmer said following his team’s regular-season finale.

He wasn’t kidding.

This is the Vikings’ 57th season. They have been to four Super Bowls and made 28 postseason appearances in that time. But only once before have they reached the 13-win mark. That came in 1998, when the Vikings went 15-1.

So what does that mean to Zimmer’s players? Evidently, not much.

“It doesn’t matter,” wide receiver Stefon Diggs said when asked about the victory total. “As far as the history, you respect everybody that played the game, everybody that came before us. But all those wins that we had in the past, even today, they don’t matter anymore because it all could end. … We had been there last year when we had a lot of wins in a row (five to start the season) and then we stunk it up (3-8 thereafter). We did everything that we needed to do to get here and now it’s about finishing.”

The Vikings gave themselves a much better opportunity to finish the way they want by ending the regular season with a third consecutive victory and assuring themselves of the second seed in the NFC. That will give the Vikings a first-round bye in the playoffs and assures them of a home game the following weekend.

Philadelphia has the top seed in the conference and home field throughout the NFC playoffs, but if the now Carson Wentz-less Eagles get knocked off in the divisional round, the Vikings will have an opportunity not only to play host to two playoff contests, including the NFC title game, but also become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

Vikings fans who watched their team lose in heart-breaking fashion in the 1987, 1998 and 2009 NFC Championship Games, are probably thinking all of this sounds too good to be true. The Vikings’ latest playoff woes came in 2015, when Blair Walsh’s missed field goal late in an opening-round game against Seattle sent Zimmer’s team home.

So does Zimmer believe his team is plagued by any type of playoff curse? “I don’t think there’s any curse,” he said. “I’ve got a crystal ball, and I’ve got a wood spirit hanging in my office. So there’s no damn curse.”

What Zimmer knows is he has a dominant defense – Minnesota led the NFL this season in total defense and scoring defense – and an offense that spent the season being efficient enough to help win games. He also knows recent history is on his side. Zimmer pointed out that in the last five years one of the two NFC teams that had a first-round bye represented the conference in the Super Bowl.

Zimmer’s plan is for the Vikings to practice on Tuesday and Wednesday before giving his players some time off. That will allow many of them time to get healthy. That list includes tight end Kyle Rudolph, who has continued to play, but left the stadium Sunday with a walking boot on his right foot, and center Pat Elflein, who sat out for the second time in four games because of a shoulder injury.

“(The bye) is very important,” said defensive end Brian Robison, the only remaining Vikings player from the 2009 team that also had an opening-round bye. “You play 17 weeks in the NFL. Guys are going to get banged up, they are going to be sore, guys are going to be tired.

“So to be able to get that week off is huge, but at the same time you have to make sure that your focus stays in the right place. You can’t get complacent. You can’t be satisfied with where you are at. Guys definitely have to not only physically let their bodies repair and things like that, but mentally they have to get their mind right going into that second week.”

If you believed the message that was coming from the Vikings’ locker room late Sunday afternoon, complacency won’t be an issue and relying on regular-season accomplishments isn’t about to happen.

“If you’re not a Super Bowl champion and you have the top-ranked defense than what does it mean?” said 39-year-old cornerback Terence Newman. “You played good for however long it was but you didn’t get it done. To me, you’ve got to get it done. You’ve got to go all the way. It remains to be seen what we can do from here on out, but we’ll enjoy this one tonight, go in tomorrow and get back to work.”

The post Zulgad: Vikings’ regular-season success will mean little if Super Bowl berth is missed appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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