EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings are not panicking.
They are, however, prioritizing a solution to an abysmal start to the 2020 season.
Minnesota's back-to-back losses to open the campaign marks the first time the team has started 0-2 since 2013, a season before Mike Zimmer took the helm.
But it's not the first time the Vikings have lost two games in a row, and the team knows it's not impossible to right the ship.
It's safe to say there is a fine balance between alarm and urgency, and Adam Thielen communicated the Vikings mentality Monday. Thielen, who had just three catches for 31 yards on eight targets in Minnesota's 28-11 loss to Indianapolis, said it's imperative that they turn the page and get back to work.
"Just do whatever it takes to get our mojo back," Thielen said. "I know guys are excited to get back on the practice field."
He said it's difficult to review the tape following a tough loss, but the rehash also provides motivation for the team.
Thielen addressed the fact that in both games, the Vikings offense has started fairly efficiently but then stalled out after the first drive. He pointed to a lack of momentum, whether due to a negative play, a dropped ball, a penalty or a combination of elements that have put Minnesota behind the 8 ball early.
"There's always been something that has put us in some really tough positions to stay on the field," said Thielen, referring to the Vikings lopsided time-of-possession numbers. "It's tough to score points and have explosive plays when you're not on the field very much. That's what we're going to focus on this week to make sure we can do those little things, be consistent with our level of play and stay on the field. That comes down to making plays and getting open on third downs when you get those opportunities."
Due to an offseason and preseason altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins hasn't had the luxury of time with new receivers that include free agent-signee Tajaé Sharpe or first-round draft pick Justin Jefferson. And while it might be true that it's more challenging to build chemistry in-season than during OTAs, Thielen and his teammates won't be making excuses.
After all, teams across the league are in the same boat.
"Every team has had the same [number] of practices, the same amount of time to prepare for a game," Thielen said. "So is it difficult? Yes. But that's what we're dealt – we have to figure it out. We have to go get some full-speed reps in practice and get some good work against our scout team, making sure that they're making us work and making it hard on us."
The Vikings do have some new faces on the offense, but that side of the ball retained a strong veteran presence. And from Cousins and Thielen and Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook, the group is no stranger to adversity and resiliency.
Thielen noted that having so many talented and experienced players on offense makes the past two weeks' struggles that much more frustrating.
"I think that's probably the good thing moving forward, 'Hey, we have the pieces. Now let's go do it.' It's easy to say, 'We've got to fix this or that,' but you've got to go out there and prove it," Thielen said. "You've got to prove it every day in practice and in every game. If you don't, things like the last two weeks will happen."
Along with Zimmer, those older players will take the lead on helping their younger teammates stay grounded and focused. As Zimmer stressed during his own session with media, there's a lot of football left to be played this season.
Thielen shared similar sentiments, saying that it's important to talk with young players about not letting early mistakes or the disappointment of an 0-2 start snowball.
"There's going to be some trials, there's going to be some tough times and there's going to be some good times, and it's how you come out of that," Thielen said. "Are you going to own up and say, 'I can play better,' and go fix it? Or are you going to go sulk and hope people feel bad for you?
"At the end of the day in the NFL, people don't feel bad for you. You've got to figure it out, do it quickly and go get that swagger back," he continued. "I think that will be the message to this team in our own position groups … 'Hey, keep fighting. Keep working. Don't change anything you're doing. Just keep going at it, and it will click as long as you have that right mindset. And don't sulk and get down on yourself or this team or this offense.' … I'm just thankful we have great guys in this locker room, great coaches that are going to go fight for us and keep grinding for us to be successful."
As the Vikings look ahead to Week 3 and hosting the Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium, they'll look to bounce back in a big way.
According to Thielen, it's time to get back to the basics.
"Getting back to what our identity really is – smashmouth football where we come in there with some swagger and have some excitement and momentum going our way," he said.
How does that happen? As Thielen pointed out, the team "can't just speak that into existence."
"You have to do that by doing team football, complementary football, in all phases. It's not just one person," he said. "It's really everybody coming together and creating momentum together.
"That's the way you get out of a funk," Thielen added. "Do it as a team and just pick each other up."
The Voyage delivers unprecedented access to fans, who will be able to step inside the office of Head Coach Mike Zimmer and have an insider's look and listen during his talks with the team. Viewers also will hear directly from current Vikings players who will be writing outcomes of games through their play on the field.