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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Will the Vikings’ tough road pay dividends in win-and-in situation?

By Matthew Coller

Since the very beginning of training camp, the Minnesota Vikings have faced different types of adversity.

One day before camp opened, offensive line coach Tony Sparano passed away, leaving the team devastated at the loss of their coach, who was instrumental in 2017’s success. Early in the year, the O-line also suffered the loss of guard Nick Easton for the year and starting center Pat Elflein took until Week 4 to start his first game.

In Week 2, the Vikings saw a rookie kicker cost them a win in Green Bay that could have been Kirk Cousins’ welcome-to-Minnesota moment and then unexplainably lost the next week to the bumbling Buffalo Bills. That same week, Pro Bowl captain Everson Griffen left the team to deal with mental health issues and did not return for five weeks.

In Week 4, Mike Zimmer’s team suffered a 38-31 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, which forced an on-the-fly overhaul of the team’s defensive scheme. And then after offensively inept losses to the Bears, Patriots and Seahawks, the Zimmer made a change at offensive coordinator, firing John DeFilippo and putting Kevin Stefanski in charge. Stefanski had never called plays before the Vikings’ win over the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago.

Along the way there have been injuries to Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Sheldon Richardson, Linval Joseph and Stefon Diggs that have caused at least one game to be missed and a season-ending groin issue for Andrew Sendejo.

But the Vikings are still on the edge of making the playoffs with a win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday at US Bank Stadium.

“We’ve been pretty resilient,” Zimmer said on Monday. “We’ve had a lot of things happen to us this year that have not been great. A few weeks ago against Miami they punched us two plays in a row and we decided we were going to punch back. This last week we started out slow and we decided we were going to be resilient again and punch them back a little bit.”

The Vikings will have a chance to punch back at the Bears, who defeated them 25-20 in a game in which they missed a multitude of opportunities to take advantage of Chicago miscues and gave up a pick-six to ice the game in the fourth quarter.

Last season the team galvanized around the fact they had lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford in Week 1, which normally would be a death wish to a team’s season, but instead the Vikings found their way to a 13-3 season and miracle finish against the New Orleans Saints in the divisional playoff game.

This season hasn’t felt the same because the Vikings haven’t been the Little Engine That Could. Instead they have been under the microscope because of increased expectations following the Cousins signing. At one point Zimmer went to his players and asked whether his message had gotten stale. It hasn’t appeared that way considering there were opportunities to melt down against both Miami and Detroit.

“You have this mentality that we’re going to fight through this little bit of struggle we’re having right now and get back to work and good things are going to happen if we keep fighting,” Zimmer said.

This week, in a win-and-in situation at US Bank Stadium, it will be much more difficult than the last two weeks to overcome any issues on either side of the ball. Chicago ranks No. 1 in the NFC in points allowed and fourth in the NFC in points scored.

“We got a lot of guys that have a lot of pride and character, so I think they will be ready for the challenge — and it will be a great challenge…but I feel good about it,” Zimmer said.

The post Will the Vikings’ tough road pay dividends in win-and-in situation? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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