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Emerging Mentality Could Help Vikings as Stakes Rise

As much as the Vikings wanted to defeat the Packers last month, they were more determined to not let a 30-13 loss spill over the following week.

The Vikings are 3-2 since, having outscored their past two opponents 87-34 and scoring five touchdowns against Chicago and five more against the New York Giants.

The offense performed pristinely against the Bears as Teddy Bridgewater became the first Vikings QB to throw four touchdowns and rush for another since Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton in Minnesota's first game (Sept. 17, 1961).

The defense dominated the Giants, scoring on a pick six by Harrison Smith, allowing just three points deep into the third quarter and routinely setting up the offense with short fields.

Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune recaps what's led the Vikings to a winner-takes-the-division matchup with the Packers at Lambeau Field and a mentality that could help Minnesota win the NFC North for the first time since 2009.

*After that humbling Nov. 22 loss at TCF Bank Stadium, an uncharacteristically reckless performance, Zimmer stressed to his Vikings players that they would get another meaningful crack at the division-leading Packers if they took care of business down the stretch. *

*They dropped back-to-back games to the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals earlier this month. But Zimmer said the manner in which they regrouped after getting blown out by the Seahawks to play the Cardinals so closely while shorthanded on a short week made his young team believe that they were capable of making a run. *

"I think that we've learned the kind of mentality that we have to have these last four weeks," Zimmer said. "Really, the Arizona game, I think we had the right mentality. Going forward from that game on, we've played with the mentality that I like to play with."

Veterans helping surge

Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press noted that play of veterans Kyle Rudolph, Brian Robison and Matt Kalil has helped the Vikings earn their first postseason berth since 2012.

*Rudolph has re-emerged as a go-to target for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with 26 receptions over the past six games. He scored Minnesota's first touchdown Sunday night, hauling in a 28-yard pass in a 49-17 victory over the New York Giants at TCF Stadium. *

"He's running better routes. I think he's running with confidence," Zimmer said. "For whatever reason, he wasn't getting the ball a lot earlier. I think Teddy believes in him, that's part of it."

*Defensive end Brian Robison has four sacks in his past four games. His strip-sack of Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler and fumble recovery Dec.20 turned momentum in the Vikings' 38-17 win. *

Zimmer said Kalil has "had a much better year."

"He's still got things he's got to work on," Zimmer said. "I think his mentality is always pretty good. He hardly ever misses a practice and never misses plays. That part is always good. I just want him to be more consistent all the time."

Modern iron

Speaking of Kalil, the left tackle missed a few snaps for the first time in his career Sunday against the Giants. Tim Yotter of Viking Update highlighted the significance of Kalil's determination that included playing through injuries in 2014.

*After about 4,000 snaps at left tackle, the modern-day ironman of the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line finally relented on Sunday night. *

*Kalil left in the fourth quarter of the Vikings' 49-17 win with a shin injury that is believed to simply be a bruise. *

"They just told me his X-rays were negative," Zimmer said after the game.

Kalil said after the game he will "be good" for Sunday night's game against the Green Bay Packers, a game that will decide the NFC North champion and which team gets the No. 3 seed in the NFC and thereby earns a home game in the first round of the playoffs.

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