The Minnesota Vikings not only find themselves 0-2, but 0-2 within the division. While this is not a desirable position, it's not time to start panicking—yet. Both games came on the road, where the Vikings have not had a winning record since 1998, the year they finished 15-1 with a 7-1 road record.
The Vikings showed some improvement in their 31-30 loss to the Bears, especially in the second half when they outscored Chicago 9-7, yielding the winning touchdown with 10 seconds left in the game.
This week the Vikings finally get to play at home, where they have a .675 winning percentage since 1998 with an 81-39 record.
For their home opener they could not have asked for a better team to face. Not only do the Cleveland Browns come to town with an 0-2 record, but this is a team that the Vikings have dominated. Minnesota has a 10-3 record against Cleveland dating back to 1965, when the two teams first met.
Still, don't expect the game to be easy.
Last week the Browns lost on the road to the Ravens, the reigning Super Bowl Champions, 14-6. They have only yielded 119 rushing yards in the first two weeks—allowing only 20 yards to the Miami Dolphins in Week 1.
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If the Vikings had pulled off the upset, the NFC North would have been a real logjam, with each team at 1-1.
Incidentally, so far the NFC North is perfect at home and winless on the road. It will be interesting to see how things shake out in Week 3 with all of the Vikings' NFC North counterparts playing on the road—the Packers at Cincinnati, the Lions at Washington and the Bears at Pittsburgh.
A win against the Browns could really tighten things up in the NFC North if the home versus road trend continues.
This week the Vikings welcomed back defensive tackle Kevin Williams. He made an impact in the game by intercepting a tipped ball in the end zone, thwarting a certain scoring drive and giving the Vikings the ball back.
Here's the Vikings' last injury report leading up the games against the Bears.
Head coach Leslie Frazier indicated in his press conference on Monday, via the Vikings' website, that tight end Rhett Ellison suffered a hyper-extended knee and may be questionable for practice on Wednesday.
Center John Sullivan, who suffered a knee injury against the Lions, played the entire game and suffered a contusion to his calf. He should be ready for practice on Wednesday.
What Must Improve
The biggest thing the Vikings need to improve upon is scoring touchdowns. Against the Bears on Sunday the Vikings offense had four scoring drives—with three of them resulting in second-half field goals.
The only second-half drive that did not result in a score came on the Vikings' first possession. Adrian Peterson fumbled on the team's fifth play of the drive, one play after Frazier decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 on the Vikings' 43-yard line.
Christian Ponder scrambled on an attempted pass play, picking up two yards and the first down to extend the drive. The Vikings defense picked up Peterson and the offense. It stopped the Bears on their ensuing drive, forcing them into a three-and-out and a punt.
The Vikings got very close to the goal line in the second half. All three scoring drives in the second half stalled inside the 10-yard line, giving kicker Blair Walsh three chip shots to score the nine points.
If the offense had converted just one of those field goals into a touchdown, the Vikings win the game.
Along with the need to score touchdowns, the Vikings also need to increase their time of possession. Against the Lions they only had the ball for 23:41 in the game. In the Bears game they improved a little bit but still finished on the short end of the clock, with 29:26 minutes of possession.
In the first half the Vikings had five drives that averaged 5.6 plays and consumed about 10:24—excluding Cordarrelle Patterson's kickoff return for a touchdown that took 13 seconds.
They dramatically improved in the second half. Their four drives averaged 9.8 plays—including two drives that lasted 13 plays. They held the ball for a little more than 18 minutes in the second half and limited the Bears to one scoring drive.
Finally, another area the Vikings need to improve upon is turnovers.
Against the Bears they won the turnover battle with four takeaways while turning the ball over three times. Still, on the season they are minus-one in turnovers.
The most costly turnover on Sunday came in the second quarter with the score tied at 14. Ponder threw his fourth interception of the season when cornerback Tim Jennings stepped in front of Jerome Simpson on an out pass and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown.
If the trends continue, and the Vikings can win both the turnover battle and the time of possession in the game against the Browns, they will have a very good chance of ending this two-game losing streak.
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