Notebook: Vikings taking 'must-win' mentality into Soldier Field
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' numerous fundamental errors and mental mistakes against the Detroit Lions on opening weekend set the tone for this Sunday's game at the Chicago Bears.
It's a must win.
Or at least the game will be approached that way, even though the season just started.
"This game is very important for us, not just to keep from starting 0-2, but every win is vital, especially on the road and a division team," receiver Jarius Wright said. "We feel like we must win."
Only 22 teams have bounced back from an 0-2 start to reach the playoffs since 1990. The Vikings had one of those teams in 2008, when they opened the gate with losses at the Green Bay Packers and against the Indianapolis Colts, but finished 10-6 and won the division.
However, the Vikings lost by a four-point average in each of those games in 2008 -- not by the 469-yard shellacking handed down by the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
"This is a very important game this week," defensive end Brian Robison said. "I know Coach [Leslie] Frazier probably don't want me to say it, but in my mind, it's a must-win game this week."
In one of the tougher divisions in football, the Vikings would be in a tough spot down two games. Safety Jamarca Sanford had the same sense of urgency as his teammates, but hedged his bet, adding the only real 'must-win' games are in, or leading up to, the playoffs.
"I wouldn't just say a 'must-win' but it just puts you in a bad position to go down 0-2 in your division," Sanford said. "We're going to approach it like a must win, but really it's not a must win. But we want to win. We're going to prepare that way and go to Chicago and get a victory."
'So far so good'
Veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams hasn't played since Aug. 25 and hadn't practiced until Wednesday, but Frazier said he's still on track to play Sunday at the Bears.
"Yeah, so far so good," Frazier said. "If everything goes fine [on Friday], looking forward to him playing on Sunday."
Williams, 33, suffered a hyperextension and severe bone contusion to his right knee after San Francisco guard Joe Looney threw an unexpected low block when the veteran wasn't looking.
For the first time since 2011, the Vikings' defensive line was without it's anchor in the middle. A rotation of defensive tackles Letroy Guion, Fred Evans and rookie Sharrif Floyd along the interior gave up 117 rushing yards on Sunday -- the most to the Detroit Lions since 2009.
"I think he will be ready," Defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "Just having the experience of a guy out there that's seen it before. Not only that, Kevin is still a good football player. His leadership and when the guys look at another guy like that in the huddle, it gives them confidence that, 'hey, we're going to get the job done.' I can't measure [the value of] Kevin being back."
The Chicago Bears list Devin Hester as 'KR/PR,' a designation as their kickoff and punt returner, not as a receiver or cornerback, where he'd held down a roster spot in previous years.
So are the Minnesota Vikings going to have rookie punter Jeff Locke kick to him?
"There's a fine line in terms of how much coaching you do and how much direction you want to use," Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. "I don't know what the Detroit [Lions] punter was told, but he struggled a bit [last Sunday], probably trying to punt to the corner and punted it out of bounds at 22 yards, 29 yards."
"That's what can happen with a lot of young punters. If you tell them, 'hey I want it out of bounds, that's Devin Hester,' next thing you know it goes 22 yards. You don't want that either."
Locke averaged less than four seconds of hangtime on five punts in his NFL debut agains the Lions, struggling mightily with his distance as well. Now, Locke is in the process of correcting his mistakes before facing one of the league's more dynamic returners on Sunday.
"Not my best performance," Locke said. "It's a relatively simple thing. Just my steps, need to work on those a little more and get more consistent there."
•Linebacker Desmond Bishop suited up, but did not play in the season-opening loss to the Lions. Bishop said he still doesn't have any indication of when he'll play. "Hopefully I do get in, if not, I respect the coach's decision," Bishop said. "Yeah, of course, as a competitor, of course I want to be out there. I waited a long time, missed all of last season. So, I'm kind of scratching at the bit to get in. But, I'm just patient."
•Bears kicker Robbie Gould was five-for-five on touchbacks last week, but Priefer said, depending on the situation, he'd like to see receiver Cordarrelle Patterson take a few chances if he catches one deep in the end zone: "It depends who your returner is back there," Priefer said. "I think Devin [Hester] is going to bring every one of them that he can out. I like to think we would too, depending on the game situation."
•Safety Harrison Smith said the Vikings confidence is not shaken, despite getting beat handedly on both sides of the football: "Once you lose your confidence, you might as well stop playing," Smith said .