Brad Childress (Ann Heisenfelt/AP)
The temptation is for the 5-0 Vikings to look ahead or look at a three-game stretch of tough opponents before their bye. Instead, the veterans insist there is always intense focus on the next opponent and not enough time to look ahead.
Vikings coach Brad Childress has an interesting balancing act to conduct with his team. The Vikings are 5-0 and have put themselves in an excellent early position in the NFC North. But Childress does need to guard against overconfidence.
Fortunately for Childress, he feels he has a veteran club that can largely police itself.
“They are really pretty good about taking that in,” he said Monday, a day after the Vikings 38-10 victory at St. Louis. “It’s a fine line between being cocky and having a swagger and being beaten down and not thinking you’re any good. You’re always balancing that.
“I want them to think they are a good football team. Can we be a better football team? We absolutely can. And when we go in here at 1 o’clock (on Monday to look at film) we kind of look back through this last one and make those corrections and then embrace what we’ve got to do this week.”
Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said the Vikings have to guard against the accolades that come the way of undefeated teams.
“We're getting a lot of pat on the backs right now, being 5-0. But, 5-0 can turn into 5-11, and we're going to play a lot of good teams coming up, so we can't get content,” Shiancoe said.
While Childress would never admit to looking ahead, the reality is the Vikings are going to be facing a three-game stretch that should help define their season. Minnesota will play host to Baltimore on Sunday before traveling to Pittsburgh and Green Bay before their bye week.
“You can’t look at it (as) these next three weeks or these next four games. You’ve got to look at it (as the) Baltimore Ravens and take it one game at a time because I’ve been on a team where we started out 8-0,” said offensive lineman Artis Hicks. “Every week we approached it as, this is what we have this week. Once you get out a little ways and you get to the bye week and you turn back and look at what you’ve done, the body of work that you’ve done as a whole, that’s a little different. But when you’re in it, and you’re in the moment, that’s what you have to do – you have to be in the moment, play in the moment, practice in the moment, stay in the game week. You start looking out there, man, the season gets long.”
The Vikings’ impending three-game stretch against talented teams comes after they opened the season with victories against Detroit, Cleveland, San Francisco, Green Bay and St. Louis. Only the 49ers are above .500 among those five teams.
“I really don’t look at it as a stretch of games,” Childress said when asked about the upcoming three opponents. “I look at it as one-game apiece. ... This is a good Baltimore team that is a physical outfit that can run the football, is multiple on defense, is strong in the front. Has a good quarterback, has a good running game, has a good kicking game. It will be nose to nose and toes to toes.”
Quarterback Brett Favre on getting a victory a day after he turned 40: “I hope there is many more to come. I’d be lying if I sat here and told you that (I thought) I’d still be playing at 40 and not miss a game to this point. God has been good to me, and I’m thankful for the opportunity. I just hope I can lead this team to bigger and better things.”
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said nickel back Benny Sapp has definitely improved this season after being thrust into the job last November.
“That first year was up and down,” Frazier said. “A good play here, bad play there. But now his consistency is there due to his experience in our system and understanding what we want from him. He’s a guy who was a guesser, but he’s settled down.”
Linebacker Ben Leber on the Vikings opening the season with five victories, including three against teams that are a combined 2-13: “I think it’s just a testament to the guys in this locker room. We’re not playing down to anybody’s level and we’re always striving to get better no matter who we are playing. We always come out with good intensity, good energy and playing smart and playing hard. That’s going to overcome a lot of things.”
RT Phil Loadholt did not play against St. Louis because of an injured left ankle but said he is hoping to return Sunday against Baltimore. Hicks played well with Loadholt on the sideline and got a positive review from coach Brad Childress.
RB Chester Taylor leads the Vikings with 21 receptions for 187 yards. That is two more catches than wide receiver Bernard Berrian has on the season. Taylor, the backup to Adrian Peterson but a key part of the Vikings’ third-down offense, was third on the team last season with 45 receptions.
WR Darius Reynaud was expected to rejoin the Vikings on Monday after missing a week to tend to a family issue. Reynaud also has been battling a hamstring injury so it’s doubtful he would have played Sunday against St. Louis if he had been with the team.
WR Jaymar Johnson has taken over the punt-return duties with Reynaud out the past two games. Johnson has averaged 18 yards on three turns after Reynaud averaged 17.3 yards on seven returns.