EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The benefit for the Minnesota Vikings, at least initially, of playing on a short week as part of Thursday Night Football this week was an extra bit of rest before they travel to face the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 4.
Minnesota hoped to have the extended break to heal, rest and prepare for a crucial second half of the schedule, loaded with tough games, road games and NFC North games. Now, after losing, 36-17, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday, the Vikings have an extra three days to stew after their most disappointing effort of the season.
Coach Leslie Frazier, who stood up postgame Thursday night and took the blame for not having his team ready on the short week, was trying to figure out the best way to not let Thursday’s frustration linger for 10 days.
“That’s what I’ve been wrestling with, last night after the game and this morning as well; because it’s one game,” Frazier said. “And it was a tough loss, but it is only one game. And you can’t allow that to carry over to other games. Because I know we can play better and there are some things we have to correct. But if you don’t move on from that game, you’re right, it can linger and it can have negative effects on future games. So we’ve got to get everybody back so it shouldn’t affect us.”
Minnesota’s once-promising season will be determined by how the Vikings respond to the loss. They’ve lost two of the past three games after starting 4-1. The first loss of the season, Week 2 at Indianapolis, served as a wake-up call and Minnesota started playing strong all-around football in three straight wins.
The mistakes have been plenty in the past three games, though.
Thursday against Tampa Bay, which entered the game 2-4, was a mix of poor tackling and giving up big plays on defense, and an offense that has been out of sync for much of the past four weeks. The Vikings committed three turnovers, while not forcing a takeaway. They had five penalties for 32 yards, again coming at sometimes critical points and on specials teams.
Minnesota allowed a season-high 416 yards of total offense to the Buccaneers, and 36 points, the second-highest total of the season, for a defense that ranked in the top-10 in each category entering Thursday.
“I mean, there are so many things that didn’t go right,” Frazier said. “So it’s a number of things that we’ll have to address as we get ready to go on the road and try to win a ballgame. So I don’t know if it’s one specific thing.”
Running back Adrian Peterson’s continued improvement was the one bright spot in a dismal Thursday. He ran for 123 yards on 15 carries, including a big, 64-yard touchdown run. Peterson still expressed confidence in the offense on Friday and said the players will need to relax during the time off and come back with the right mental approach. The locker room on Friday was desolate during the portion open to the media.
“Just sit back and reflect on the game,” Peterson said on how he’ll get over Thursday’s loss. “Just take the game in. There’s a lot that we can improve on. We got to come out to play. And I feel like when we come out to play as a unit, we can’t be beat. Those guys just outplayed us, they out-executed us.”
Frazier said blitz pickup and improvement in the run defense with an emphasis on better tackling will be the focus before Minnesota travels to face Seattle. The Vikings (5-3) now trail the Chicago Bears (5-1) in the NFC North, with Chicago set to host the Carolina Panthers (1-5) this weekend.
Minnesota has reached the halfway point of its season exceeding most outside expectations. Now, to fulfill their own goals, the Vikings need to prove Thursday night’s game was a fluke and they won’t go down the same path as last season when they lost seven of their last eight games on the way to a 3-13 season.
“There wasn’t really a phase where we felt like we played well enough to win,” Frazier said of Thursday’s game. “We’ve got to get back and do some things fundamentally to help us to get back on track so we can play better. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us as a team; play a lot smarter and be able to execute our assignments so we’ll have a chance to be successful. We really got away from a lot of things that have helped us to be successful in previous games. We’ve got to get back on it and learn from this ballgame and get refocused on the things that are necessary to win in our league.”