Vikings preaching patience, not panic, entering crucial game against Lions
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Kyle Vanden Bosch knows what it's like to play on a team with Super Bowl hopes that starts 0-2.
And then 0-3. And 0-4, and 0-5 ...
"People kept asking, 'Well, what's it going to take to fix this thing?'" said Vanden Bosch, the longtime Tennessee Titans end who now plays for the Detroit Lions.
"And it's not a big transformation -- all you need is a win. A win fixes a lot of things."
The Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions both are waiting for their first this season, entering Sunday's matchup at the Metrodome with four losses by a combined 17 points
In a way, though, they couldn't be in much different positions.
The Lions are the perennial doormat, rendering their defeats -- 19-14 in the opener at Chicago and 35-32 at home last week against Philadelphia -- promising near-misses for a franchise that still has a lot of rebuilding to do.
From an expectations standpoint, the Vikings more closely resemble last year's Titans, who had won the AFC South Division title in 2008 with a 13-3 record but opened 2009 with six straight losses.
Those Titans had spent big money to bring back an aging quarterback (Kerry Collins) on the strength of a renaissance season. They boasted one of the game's elite backs (Chris Johnson) and a top-seven defense anchored by Vanden Bosch that largely had carried them to consecutive playoff berths.
Yet it took seven games, almost two months and a humiliating 59-0 rout at New England to jolt life into the Titans, who proceeded to win seven of their next eight.
"When you lose a game, and when you lose close games like we've lost the last two weeks, the mistakes are magnified and it seems like things are going a lot worse than they are," Vanden Bosch said. "But we're one play away from winning the Chicago game. We're one play away from winning against Philly. When you get a win, you kind of gloss over those mistakes and you focus more on the positives and you feel better on Wednesday at practice, you feel better at Thursday on practice, and you just have that confidence."
That was the refrain on Wednesday at the Vikings' Winter Park headquarters -- a few plays here or there, and those ugly defeats at New Orleans (14-9) and at home against Miami (14-10) turn into gritty wins. One victory, and the losses will be out of mind.
The Vikings' failed pursuit of suspended San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson suggests a level of desperation regarding one position group, but that vibe hasn't manifested itself in the locker room, at least not to outsiders.
"Two games is two games," end Jared Allen said. "If you only lost two games a year, you'd be pretty damn good, so I don't think it's (reason) to panic."
Losing a third might be -- especially at home, against a Lions team that's finished at the bottom of the division four years running, and with a rough four-game stretch awaiting on the other side of their bye.
Two years ago, the Vikings rebounded from an 0-2 start to win the NFC North Division. That turnaround started with a 20-10 win over Carolina in Week 3.
Vanden Bosch and his 2009 Titans teammates can attest to the perils of digging the hole to 0-3 and beyond. They lost their weak hold on playoff contention in a Christmas night loss to San Diego and needed to win their season finale just to finish 8-8.
"The last two don't have anything to do with this one," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "It's that way every single week. Very specifically, all you can do is look at the Detroit Lions. We have no business going back behind or getting ahead of ourselves. It's got to be wall-to-wall Lions for us right now."