EAGAN, Minn. — A season ago, there were 11 teams around the league (including the Vikings) that started in an 0-2 hole.
None of them made the playoffs.
Minnesota has an 0-1 record as it enters a Week 2 road matchup against Arizona. And while Sunday's loss to the Bengals counts for just one game, the Vikings know the onus is on them to ramp up the intensity and production this week.
"It's one loss. It means no different than a loss in Week 16, Week 17, Week 8. It doesn't matter," Thielen said. "If anything, it kind of kicks you in the butt and says, 'Better get your butt going,' and 'Better focus a little bit more,' and 'Be a little bit more attentive to detail,' and 'You better be a little bit more prepared for that following week.'
"Because it just shows you it doesn't matter who you're playing, you have to play well to win in this league," Thielen added.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook echoed Thielen's comments on Minnesota's mindset heading into Week 2:
"There's no sense of panic coming from us. There's 16 more tries to do this thing," Cook said. "Everybody is going to have opinions of how things are going to go from Week 1 and how it should go. But all that matters is the guys in the locker room and how we attack things from now on."
The only team in Vikings history to start 0-2 and make the postseason was the 2008 squad, which rallied to go 10-6 and win the NFC North.
The odds might be stacked against the Vikings if they lose Sunday against a Cardinals team that looked dynamic in a Week 1 win.
The best way to avoid such a start and calm the naysayers? Eliminate the penalties, win the turnover battle and find a way to get to .500 in the early part of the season.
"We're excited to get back out there and get back to work," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said, "and try to be the team that I believe we can be."
Here is what Eric Smith, Lindsey Young and Craig Peters of Vikings.com will be watching in Sunday's season opener:
Let Dalvin do his thing | By @Eric_L_Smith
Perhaps the most telling quote of the week came Monday from Zimmer, who was commenting on the fact his team attempted 49 passes in Week 1.
"You put yourself in a bad situation where you have to throw the ball, and that's not how we're built," Zimmer said.
It's no secret the Vikings want to be a run-first offense, with the run game setting up play-action passes from Kirk Cousins.
The Vikings struggled to run the ball in Week 1, with Cook tallying just 61 yards on 20 carries. And while penalties and long-yardage situations certainly hampered those efforts, they don't tell the whole story.
Cook had 11 total carries on first-and-10 (downs that weren't affected by penalties), and logged just 20 yards on those attempts, with six going for one yard or less.
The Vikings certainly need to get Cook going in the run game, which would provide a dual effect by giving Minnesota's offense balance and keeping Arizona's high-flying offense on the sideline.
The Vikings, as Zimmer noted, must play to how they are built. That means a steady dose of Cook, even if he is the focal point for a Cardinals defense that limited two-time NFL rushing champ Derrick Henry to 58 yards on 17 carries last week.
"Just being consistent — don't let it rattle you. As a runner, when you've been running the ball for so long, those things don't bother you," Cook said. "You find the crease and just do what you do. Just being consistent. Just keep it going. Like I said, it's nothing new for me. I know it's nothing new for my offensive line.
"We've just got to clean a lot of things up, knowing who we're getting on, knowing who we're going to in the defensive fronts and stuff like that," Cook added. "We should be good."
Prepping for Jones & Watt | By*@LindseyMNSports*
The Vikings offense will likely have its hands full Sunday when facing a stout Cardinals pass rush led by edge rushers J.J. Watt (101 career sacks) and Chandler Jones (102 career sacks).
Jones alone recorded an impressive 5.0 sacks against the Titans in Week 1; and while Watt didn't notch a sack, he did add a quarterback hit and tackle for loss.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Klint Kubiak emphasized there's been "a lot of production" from Jones.
"We're going to have our work cut out for us," Kubiak said. "We've got to have a plan, we've got to have a protection plan and got to be able to run the football a little too to help out so you're not always in drop-back situations."
Vikings tackle Brian O'Neill recognizes the task facing him and the rest of the offensive line.
"We're going to know where 55 is lined up on the field at all times. He's a heck of a player. I have a ton of respect for him. In my eyes, he's one of the elite guys in the league and has been doing it for a long time, so I have nothing but respect for him," O'Neill said. "And 99, J.J. has been around, been there and done that for years. Nothing but respect for both of them.
"They've got some big inside guys – Isaiah Simmons – they've got guys all over the place, so we're not taking them lightly," O'Neill added. "We understand the challenge ahead, and we're embracing it, and we're going to go put our best foot forward."
Collective effort needed for containment | By @pcraigers
It is fitting to mention Arizona QB Kyler Murray's ability to extend plays and improvise on the 60*th* anniversary of Fran Tarkenton coming off the bench to dart away from Bears defenders in the Vikings inaugural game, a 37-13 win over Chicago on Sept. 17, 1961.
According to Nex Gen Stats, Murray traveled 43.5 yards before firing a pass that gained 18 in Week 1.
The Vikings are without Anthony Barr again, as well as Everson Griffen, who suffered a concussion during a car accident this week while swerving to avoid a deer. Linebackers Eric Kendricks and Nick Vigil spent time on the injury report this week. That's already a somewhat short-handed unit against an offense that featured jetpacks last week.
Limiting Murray, whose weapons include DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green, will be a collective effort.
"We can't just assume somebody's got him down, because he can get out of a lot of different things," Co-Defensive Coordinator Adam Zimmer said. "He's extremely fast; we have to take great angles to the football. … He likes to get out of the pocket, so when he does, we have to do a great job of staying on the receivers and chase him down when we have the opportunity."
The Vikings will try to give multiple looks for Murray to process, ranging from spying him to mixing up coverages.
"Sometimes it's the whole defense, sometimes you're not specifically spying him, but you're in zone coverage and everybody's responsible for him," Adam Zimmer added.
Notable Number: 154
Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson will make his return to the desert this weekend.
He spent the previous 10 seasons of his career with Arizona, notching eight Pro Bowls, three All-Pro honors and becoming one of three cornerbacks included on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 2010s All-Decade Team that was announced in April 2020.
Peterson spent 154 games in red for the Cardinals, a mark that ranks 15th all-time in team history and is the third-most among Arizona cornerbacks.
"As far as my welcome back, I really don't know [what to expect]," Peterson said this week. "It may be easier said than done, but I'm really treating this like another game on the schedule. I'm not expecting anything, but if it comes, I would definitely welcome it."