EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —
“I know everyone else is surprised that we’re 4-1. What stinks is what we should be 5-0,” Ponder said, referring to the 23-20 loss at Indianapolis on Sept. 16.
That defeat was sobering, so much that soft-spoken veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield delivered an impassioned, pointed challenge to the entire team the day after about the overall effort and attitude. Frazier expressed a similar concern during the week leading up to the Colts game.
That’s the type of reaction a team expected to make the playoffs and push for the Super Bowl might have, but too early in the season for a purportedly rebuilding squad to take one loss so seriously. But that’s evidence of the way the Vikings have felt about themselves all along, even after finishing a franchise-worst 3-13 last year. Frazier has repeatedly mentioned the benefit of an entire offseason, unlike the year before when the lockout wiped that out, to this team’s chemistry.
“Everything you’re seeing now is a byproduct of what happened this offseason with our players. They are to be congratulated for showing up and allowing our coaches to work with them and really put them through the paces ... so we could get this thing turned around and headed in the right direction. That’s how you change the culture,” Frazier said.
Following the attention-getting upset of NFC favorite San Francisco and the character-building road win over Detroit, the Vikings faced another hurdle on Sunday in the Titans. This was the time for an improving team to show it’s mature enough to decisively beat a struggling opponent, and that’s what they did.
Afterward, the Vikings went out of their way to express caution about enjoying the strong start too much, even after all they’ve endured over the last two years. Despite their self-assurance, they’ve been so far acting like a team that’s been in front before, even though so few of the current players (16 of 53) were around in 2009 when Brett Favre and that bunch reached the NFC championship game.