The Minnesota Vikings are unbeaten, but a little beat up.
The evidence starts in the training room, with Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield‘s sprained right foot and wide receiver Percy Harvin‘s aggravated left shoulder injury.
The clues continue in Monday’s video review, when players watched their second-half struggles in a narrow victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
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“There’s a bunch of things that we’ll clean up,” coach Brad Childress said. “It’s pretty widespread, but our guys are prideful enough where they’ll come back and use that as a pretty good force.”
The Ravens, despite their 3-3 record, might be the toughest of six teams Minnesota has faced. The Vikings, though, squandered two large leads: 27-10 midway through the third quarter and 30-17 with 6 minutes remaining in the game.
After falling behind by a point, they went back in front 33-31 and held on while Baltimore’s Steven Hauschka missed a 44-yard field goal at the end.
“You get disgusted if you lose that game,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, right? Again, you look at that fourth quarter and you’re like, ‘There’s no way that this is the same team that was playing the first three quarters.’ I think we got a little wakeup call right there, you know? That team was never down and out, so you’ve got to keep playing.”
Humbling, for sure.
“It wasn’t a meltdown because we didn’t lose, but it was pretty close,” Allen said.
Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson were about as good as they could be, but three separate second-half possessions inside the 20 yielded only field goals – a combination of conservative play calls and a stingy Ravens defense.
The most glaring weakness revealed by Baltimore, though, was tackling down the stretch. Joe Flacco passed for 196 yards in the fourth quarter alone, much on throws underneath the coverage. The worst play was a short pass by Flacco to running back Ray Rice, who sliced through the secondary for 63 yards to set up a touchdown that cut the lead to 30-24.
“Things started to fall apart, with the missed tackles and the calls coming in late,” cornerback Karl Paymah said. “It was a combination of mistakes, left and right.”
The Ravens effectively used a hurry-up offense, and Winfield’s absence loomed large. For all the solid veteran players the Vikings have on defense and all the pressure they apply with their pass rush, they’ve given up a concerning amount of yards through the air in their close games.
“All I know is we are 6-0,” Favre said, “and I am pretty proud of that. I know it’s a long ways to go, but it’s a good start.”
Though right tackle Phil Loadholt returned from a one-game absence because of a sprained left ankle, the Vikings suffered injuries to some other important players. Peterson hurt his left ankle, but he came back in the game.
As for his day-after status?
“He’s just got overall body soreness,” Childress said, “as well you would imagine.”
Winfield was wearing a walking boot in the locker room on Monday. Childress refused to rule him out, or in, for Sunday’s game against the Steelers.
“People heal so differently, it’s hard to know,” the coach said, declining to speculate on who would replace Winfield in the lineup if he’s unable to play.
Harvin left the Metrodome with his arm in a sling. Childress said he wasn’t any more concerned about Harvin’s condition than he was a week ago.
“He’s sore,” Childress said. “Going through the treatment process. I asked him if they hit harder in this league than in the SEC. He said the SEC hits harder.”
The first-round draft pick from Florida was being facetious with that comment, but the next two games at Pittsburgh and at Green Bay aren’t to laugh at.
“You don’t want to go into any game with a high, feeling like you’re invincible,” Paymah said. “It’s a good feeling and all, but you definitely need stuff to work on.”